An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

“Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him.” This line was written by Ambrose Bierce in his short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. Death by execution has historically been ritualized, perhaps to absolve those accomplishing the execution from guilt or blame.

The sensations and emotions of the condemned are well documented up to the moment of death. The only way to truly know death is to die, however; and though there are many theories, this being one, no living person truly knows the final instant dying person. Is death instantaneous when the hangman’s noose snaps the condemned persons neck and spinal cord severing the connection from the brain to life and the physical body? Bierce speculates that Peyton Fahrquhar, the condemned man spends his final instant returning to his home and loved ones one last time prior to traveling to his final reward or forever nothingness. Peyton Fahrquhar’s fictional journey has become the subject of several movies and TV shows.

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