Sunday, November 02, 2008

Los Muertos

I decided to set up a little ofrenda on my mantel tonight to commemorate Día de los Muertos. I was introduced to this tradition in practice when I stayed with my friend B at his house in San Miguel de Allende back in 2006 (see some photos here.)

The photos I put up are of my grandfather and my friends Chris and Dianne, who are really the only significant people I've lost in my life (though there are some great aunts and uncles I could include as well). Chris, of course, was sadly added to this group just last summer. Note the small glass of whiskey, which I know all three of these people I love would heartily enjoy.

Spending Día de los Muertos in Mexico made me realize what a nice tradition it is -- and in many ways, an important one that we all should probably learn from. I think connecting back with our dead loved ones is a form of respect, a recognition of the love we shared, and (maybe most importantly, at least for me) a clear reminder of our own mortality and to not take one minute of life for granted. I also like the fact that in Mexico it seems to be a fairly joyous and lighthearted holiday, a time for people to enjoy themselves as well as a time to come together and trek to cemeteries to decorate the resting places of their dead.

In a similar vein, a non-Jewish friend of mine has taken to observing the Jewish tradition of Yahrtzeit, lighting a candle and setting up a small shrine on the anniversaries of her parents' deaths.

I believe we still carry on relationships with those we love, even after they've passed... and that they carry on relationships with us. Some of my most beloved and tender dreams are those in which the three people I've commemorated in this altar have appeared. I especially remember a dream in which Dianne and I shared a beautiful and heartfelt hug, during which I was able to say to her, very sincerely, "Oh, I've missed you." That dream-hug was as real as any I've experienced in my waking hours.
“One by one we are all becoming shades. Better to pass boldly into that other world in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age... Think of all those who ever were, back to that start of time, and me transient as they flickering out as well into their grey world, like everything around me, this solid world itself which they reared and lived in is dwindling and dissolving. Snow is falling....”
     ~James Joyce, “The Dead”


Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

I've come to greatly enjoy this "holiday" that I used to see as morbid and now see how it is very life affirming -- for both lives that have flickered out but are not forgotten and to see value of my own. I've had the privilege of experiencing it twice in Oaxaca and several years just one block away from my front door. You should come to our next year and go visit the famous cannibal pork store.

Salty Miss Jill said...

What a sweet post. :)
My mom visits me in my dreams, and I love when she does.