Monday, November 5, 2012

Dia de los Muertos

Last Friday was Dia de los Muertos.  It is a day set aside to honor the memory of those we love who have passed on before us.  Of course many churches in the US celebrate All Soul's Day, but in Mexico it is a very big event. 

People go to the cemetery, clean things up, decorate and set out foods and drink that their loved one enjoyed, they sit around and eat and drink that food and tell stories.

Instead of fearful death, decorations are garish, skeletons, gawdy and brightly dressed in finery.  As if the culture wishes to say, we are not afraid of death!  It is real!  We will all be skeletons some day!  Let's not run away from death and grief, but embrace it and the memory and story of our loved ones who have died!  They are worth the tears and the laughter and the pause in our daily life to acknowledge them!

As you may have figured out by now, we live near the border of Texas and Mexico and see a lot of Mexican influence in our culture.  Many communities honor the Dia de los Muertos with some kind of celebration.  For a while I have wished to go down to Terlingua Ghost town for their celebration.  I thought it would be good to show the kids that others take the time to carve out ritual to honor the memory of their loved ones.  I thought it might affirm that the things they learned in grief support group after the death of their dad were universal ways of coping. 

Well.  I didn't get done with work in the bakery on time to make it down south.  I was kind of disappointed because I had the feeling that it would have blessed the little girls to do something to remember their dad.

Then J. called and we invited her over for a few minutes.  She sat down to have a glass of wine with me and a chat and we spoke about the day.  Somehow, one of us mentioned the boxes the kids made in their group with Martha Furman, a counselor who led the group.  They call them their "Dad" boxes.  They spend time decorating the boxes, then put special things in the box that are important memory items.  Like photos.  A baseball because Philip loved the NY Yankees.  Philip's Japanese driver's license, remnant of our two years spent over seas.  Actor's Equity card.  Old newspaper clippings from when he was in highschool.  Scraps of paper with his handwriting, lists of stuff he needed for home renovation projects, scraps of old elementary school spelling and penmanship homework. 

J. sat and watched and listened as the girls took turns unpacking their boxes.  She was so patient as they shared stories of how they loved it when he would take them to McDonald's for burgers when I was out of town!  And how they loved it when he would take them swimming.  They showed her pictures they had of Philip and I on our wedding day, we were so young!  and of us hiking in Big Bend National Park, different kids on his shoulders during different seasons of our life. 

You might think it would be depressing to spend so much time talking about a dead loved one.  But you should have seen the pride and joy on their precious faces as they felt safe to let our friend get to know us better!  You can't know us without knowing something about Philip, who was such an involved dad and husband. 

I realized that we got to have our own Dia de los Muertos celebration that evening.  So there were no candles lit, and we didn't go buy cheeseburgers or sit in the cemetery.  But the heart of the day was honored and we were all able to give thanks for the life of my dear deceased husband and their dear deceased dad.  We miss him everyday.  But being able to honor him somehow makes us free to continue living. 

So glad for friends who care about me and my kids and are so generous with their time.  It was a gift, getting to see the girls share their memories with our new friend.


Quigg Lawrence said...

We miss you all and will never forget Philipp said...

Miss you too, Quigg! Thanks for checking in! Hope you and Annette will make it down to Texas one of these days!!!

Chris said...

So glad the kids were able to participate in dia de los muertos in their new life's place.