Culture shapes our response to suffering. Facing the end of life, an individual intensifies their feelings for being alive. The feeling becomes concentrated in a symbolic understanding of life. The symbol can be held throughout the culture, or it can be personal. It can be a loved one. Feelings for this person or symbol guide one’s decisions.
Your cultural heroes can be telling. If they are invested with your feelings for being alive, they represent what you value. You may not be able to articulate your values or the meaning of life––or the afterlife––but the image of your hero symbolizes the entire thing and you grasp the symbol.