Some say that the monarchs are the Souls of the dead because they arrive in Michoacan each year near the Days of the Dead…
…and some say that the dead are ever near to us, but that it is easier to perceive their presence in this sacred time interval known to many cultures throughout the world as the opening of the veils between the worlds…
some say on the Days of the Dead they come to visit us…and so we build ofrendas, or offerings, to light their way home
while they laugh and say to us: ¿why do you seek the living among the dead?
We are here, closer than a thought. Laugh with us, dance with us, remember all that has been with gratitude even in the midst of sorrow
See the perfection of this mystery: love is never wasted, and it endures beyond all else.
What a comforting thought in the face of loss, that not only are our loved ones whose physical life has ended still always near us in spirit, but there is a time when we can actually mingle. Part of the tradition believes that our loved ones reside in a place called Mictlan, the land of the dead, where they wait for the time each year when they can visit those they love still in mortal form on earth. So we prepare for the visit building an altar to their lives with our earthly gifts, we welcome them with food and flowers, we celebrate what we love, and the love that is eternal. I picture us all at this time, waiting on either side of the veil between mortality and immortality, to visit once again.
La Dia de Los Muertos pulls traditions from many eras, prehistory to even the present day, mixing Celtic, Aztec, Mayan and other indigenous beliefs, Catholicism, and even a nineteenth-century political cartoonist, Jose Guadalupe Posada, who first illustrated with the dancing skeletons that soon became such a recognizable element in Mexican art even today. The resulting celebration is a deeply moving and even cathartic way to remember the love we have for those who’ve gone before us and to feel we’ve honored them, and that they can know they will never be forgotten.
A friend and business owner, and fellow animal lover, Lisa DiGioia Nutini opened the shop called “Mexico Lindo” over a decade ago, and not only for her Day of the Dead celebration but also for the colorful, detailed, whimsical, stylized Mexican art she purchases directly from the makers do I visit, never often enough. For her annual La Dia de Los Muertos celebration she always builds a huge ofrenda honoring not only those she knows but also notable public figures who’ve died in the past year. The text at the beginning is from her presentation that is part of her ofrenda from 2015, and below is as much of the main ofrenda as I could fit in one photo. I will visit this year’s display soon.
This way of facing the idea of death, to celebrate it, is a healthy way to remove our fears of death. The place called Mictlan sounds much like the Rainbow Bridge ideal we share when a friend loses an animal who is dear to them. The whole idea of building an altar and celebrating is a tangible thing that is often very satisfying when we feel the need to do something that honors our lost one that we can share with others. And the idea of welcoming a visit and recognizing eternal love is comforting at any time, as I mentioned in “Little Visits” last week.
Grieving a loss is very real, and at first it’s just as physical as it is emotional and can be as painful as a physical wound. Getting to where you can remember that love survives the physical loss and you can relive happy memories with a smile takes time and often effort. I hope that if you are grieving at this time of year during which we celebrate those who’ve gone before us, that each day brings you a little more relief, and that someday you can welcome that love back into your heart without pain.
You can read more about “Monarchs and Marigolds”, her 2015 celebration as well as celebrations throughout the years and see other artwork and merchandise on the Mexico Lindo site. She also has her program for 2016, Amor Eterno, to read as well.
Read more in Pet Loss on The Creative Cat.
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