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.
I am honored that this year, as it turns out, I could be a part of her final journey with her precious Siamese rescue YeYe, who had been approaching her transition for a while. Lisa and I message frequently but I know that the annual ofrenda takes about a month to complete so I don’t expect to hear from her and look forward to her posts as she works. She tried to keep YeYe comfortable for at least one more week so she could spend time with her before she transitioned after the big event was over and we discussed comfort measures, signs of YeYe being ready to go, veterinarians and visits and arrangements, but YeYe decided she wanted to join the spirit world before that.
“You know that losing one of our animal guides means we are ready to move on, and a door will open,” I said. “Now you do have another remembrance for your ofrenda, and she can be with you there instead of you worrying about her being alone at home.”
“We had almost twenty years together, my Snow Queen Yemaya and I. She was 1 1/2 when I got her and we shared all of life. She stayed for 4 years after being diagnosed with chronic renal failure, right after we lost her sister. Sometimes I think she stayed until she was sure I would be ok, as selfish as that sounds. Every day I had to tell Ye~Ye how beautiful she looked, and today was no exception. I have so many angels by my side, in this world and others,” Lisa shared of her princess.
I decided then that this wonderful celebration of life and love could be something I could share on this Day of the Dead as we remember our beloved animal companions who’ve transitioned. 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 so much like the Rainbow Bridge ideal we share when a friend loses an animal who is dear to them, and 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.
Grieving a loss is very real, and at first it’s just as physical as it is emotional and can be just 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 on this day 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.
This year I had no recent animal companions to remember, so asked Lisa to add those who were abandoned and left without love as I did for Pet Memorial Sunday, “For the Rescues: For those we rescued with only enough time for you to pass in loving hands, and those we could not reach, we are honored your souls called to us in your moment of need and we were able to do what we humanly could to ease your suffering.”
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.
Read more in Pet Loss on The Creative Cat.
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