Dead is the condition of being unalive, and the opposite of being undead. Doctors have trouble reversing this illness as it stems from an acute case of no longer living. Dead can be literal- "Your dog is dead, because I ate it - I'm Korean its cultural thing." And it can also be figurative- "She laughed, and it made me feel dead inside." or "I laid down on the couch dead tired and had a snack, but at least the barking had been stopped."
Organisms on Earth go through a life cycle with many stages, unless their name is Luke Osborn, in which case they live forever in a state of being so ugly and having such a big head that death does not want them (or Noel Coward, Where Uglyness is not an Option). Dead being the tertiary stage, preceded by Life, and Life after Divorce, though some experts allow for the stages of "Political Death" (when politicians embrace ideas for the betterment of their fellow man) and "Career Death" (nailing the boss' daughter). Though not identical, the two can (and often do) overlap. Other commonly referred to "stages" of death are "Brain Death" (see Paris Hilton) and "MegaDeath", a stage of death in which one becomes a super-rich, revenge-seeking, hell-bent, former member of Metallica with a substance abuse problem. This may be accompanied by a disease called "The 1980's" and high speed shred guitar playing.
Doctors have noted that all life functions cease when someone is declared dead with the exception of out of body experiences, reuniting with dead pets, visions of a white light, and obligations to appear on stage at ten o' clock at the Monte Carlo casino for the next thirty years. Death is the end of a biological process as all all biological functions stop. Being dead is a strange feeling as one cannot feel it, logically speaking, and reincarnation is a very gruesome process.
Some people seek to circumnavigate the cycle, throwing the system out of balance and causing huge paperwork headaches for St. Peter. The only way to sucessfully return from the dead is to file a form #CR-18B in septuplicate with Oprah, the IRS, Abraham Lincoln, and the extradimensional entity known as The Fonz.
People Who Won't Stay Dead and then Return to Life
Throughout history individuals have sought to remain alive, or return from the dead. One of the earlier high profile individuals to do so for three days and four nights was Jesus. This act was followed by many imitators over the following centuries including Nostradamus, Zombies and/or Frankenstein, Joan of Arc, Carmine, Harry Houdini, Elvis Presley, and Keith Richards.
Often those who refuse to stay dead (and lack the proper paperwork) are hunted down by Death. This tends to put a dampener on his mood, as he tends to be a methodical professional, and dislikes the double handling element.
Controversy Surrounding Sleep vs. Dead
Differences arising from the condition known as sleep, and being dead began early on in the Garden of Eden with the death of the first human- Abel. One day God was spying on Adam and Eve, when he noticed Cain was out for a stroll. God appeared before Cain and asked him where his brother was. Cain replied- "He's sleeping in the Land of Nod". Which by all accounts was the first euphemism used for the condition of being dead, but God didn't pick up on that at that time being distracted by that crafty snake he had let loose in the garden. This led to the line between sleep and dead to be further blurred in the future- "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up" (Jesus 11:11) (From the Christian Bible also known as the "Bible of Bibles" and the "Bathroom Book of Bathroom Books.")
The Bronze Age
Socrates debated with Aristotle on the differences between being asleep and being dead. Socrates maintained that Aristotle was- "As good as dead if he didn't shut up and leave him to catch up on his sleep." The debate raged until his trial, when Athena the goddess of Athens sentenced him to be shown "what it is to be really dead". Socrates was then forced to commit suicide by drinking a clover cocktail prepared by a jury of his peers. After the hemlock phase of the trial he was declared dead.
The Dark Ages
Before the advent of capital punishment, murder was rampant and an easy way to get yourself dead. Often confusion between the stages of sleep and dead would arise during these primitive murder years. Rocks, clubs, primitive poisons, and even bigger rocks left doubt on the actual deadness of a person. "I see that their eyes are gouged out, but are they just sleeping?" People who were missing were considered sleeping until found dead. One man set out to define the state and quality of being dead once and for all- Isaac Newton. Newton (in his common Elven tongue) stated this in his first law-
"Corpus omne perseverare in statu suo quiescendi vel movendi uniformiter in directum, nisi quatenus a viribus impressis cogitur statum illum mutare."
Which literally translates as- "A corpse does not start to breathe on its own, unless acted upon by another force, and certainly it's a corpse if you find it in a bag of manure."
Those Middle Years That Lasted an Age or Two
Galileo posed his famous question- "If you're sleeping, and you are killed in a dream- Do you wake up dead in real life?" This postulate would go unanswered until the emergence of one Freddy Kruegar, hundreds of years later. Copernicus asked of Galileo- "If I'm sleeping alone, and have a wet dream, do my screams make a sound?"
The Italian Renaissance Festivals
Niccolo Machiavelli declared- "I would rather be dead, than go to one of Dante's stupid 'Inferno Rave Parties'." Around this time sleeping with the dead became all the rage. In coffins one could find a sleeping person, a dead person, or a vampire taking a little nappy-poo. Leonardo da Vinci found that hacking up dead subjects, and drawing their insides more palatable than the unpleasantness of a subject awakening to find their small intestine being measured.
The Modern Age
"You can tell the Ayatollah that tonight, Salman Rushdie sleeps with the fishes." An age where the confusion of sleeping and deadness continued full force. People were said to be- "Dead to the world" (while sleeping and still fully alive), "Having the sleep of the dead", and a true anachronism- "God is Dead". When it was well known that God had just been asleep at the wheel since the trial and execution of Joan of Arc.
The Future Age
In the age of the future, there will be no death. Human remains will be turned into liquid an injected into the unborn, thus passing on the experiences of the elderly. At least that's what "The Matrix" seemed to suggest after 3 days of nothing but Red Bull.
One Final Note
It's okay to die, we all do at some point!