Celebrating the Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos
Today is the first Day of the Dead I can honestly say I can take to heart in a personal way, having lost both mom and dad within a three month period this year, mom on April 7th , dad on July 3rd. Tears are just beneath the under layer of conversation still, however, I am in a more sedate stretch of the road as concerns mourning – the rending my garments period has currently subsided. You know what I am talking about.
This may have something to do with the fact that I have been in it and stayed in it, the grief, I mean, and also have done a lot of writing, journaling and sketching as a way to stay in the grief without letting it sweep me away. In our family, too, my teenaged children are wont to share stories, mostly humorous and loving, keeping mom and dad’s ghostly presence lively and at the dinner table.
One loving detail I have borrowed from Queen Victoria is the wearing of mourning jewelry, pictured above. (thank you, UK ebay.) It is said that when Prince Albert died, the Queen wore black for three years and dressed her court in the same manner. When I studied a bit about hospice and death, I remember being struck at certain cultural rituals that openly allow those who are mourning to communicate with society in a way that is immediately understood and respected, like wearing black, for instance. Memory fails and notes are lost, but I read of one culture in which if a mother loses a baby or child, she is fashioned a doll to carry with her for a period of time, representing what she has lost. The community then has the opportunity to respond accordingly, with respect, compassion, sensitivity and support. How many times does a person who sustained loss stand in a grocery line with tears welling up, thinking, omg people will think I am insane or unstable? (raises hand) I know I have. Lisa articulates this societal blind spot beautifully in her blog post from yesterday.
So I have taken to wearing these pins when I feel like it. For me it is a way of honoring my parents’ memory and also a way to communicate to others that there is something going on in my deeper layers of emotion, something that will not pass in a moment, something that is here to stay. I also love that these little pins have history, and have hopefully been worn by other daughters as a badge of love. It adds a wonderful dimension to my day and makes me feel connected to humanity.
Which brings me finally to the Day of the Dead. My interest in the art of Frida Kahlo certainly introduced me to this cultural practice of celebrating those who have died. Here is a link that describes a bit about the origins of the day and how it is practice, there are many resources that can be found.
As for myself, I am going to capture some of those rambunctious gerbera daisies from the garden (yes, they survived Hurricane Sandy), maybe a candle and some incense and head over to the cemetery sometime today. To do it right, I should bring a tablecloth, some food and a bottle of wine…
Images: Victorian mourning pins of pinchbeck and jet from my personal collection, detail of Katrina doll from Self Portrait with Fudge and Katrina, oil on panel, by me.
About reneetamaraWriting about death, mental illness, spirituality, art and perfume. Because beauty feeds the soul, and love is beyond what we think.
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