A significant theme in A Rose for Emily is death which is symbolic of both Emily's life and the life of the old south.
After the South is defeated in the Civil War, Emily's life is symbolically over in the same way that plantation life becomes a memory. She lives, but has no life. She becomes enamored of the dead which is first depicted when she resists burying her father.
"Emily is a necrophiliac (literally, ‘‘one who loves the dead’’)."
Her attempt at grasping at life through her relationship with Homer Barron also results in death. She would rather kill him than allow him to leave her. She then lives with death by sleeping next to the corpse of Homer Barron for many years.
After Miss Emily's death, the decomposed corpse is discovered, along with a strand of gray hair found on a pillow next to the long dead Homer Barron.
Death is both a theme and a symbol in the story. Sadly, Emily's life is defined by death, symbolically, like the old south, she fades from real life, although continuing to physically exist, everything that mattered to Emily has passed away.