Hoy es el Dia de los Muertos.
Today is the Day of the Dead.
In Mexico, so they say, families picnic in cemeteries, honoring their buried grandmas and grandpas, their tios and tias (uncles and aunts, for you gringos) and beloved departed friends.
They honor that the circle of life never really ends. It just goes ’round and ’round.
Our loved ones die, yet we can consciously choose to remember them, to honor them, to call back their precious spirits and bless them.
Every year on November 1st or 2nd, during a two-day celebration down south in Mexico to honor the dead, I choose to remember the spirits of loved ones and friends who are now bone or ash, returned to earth or sprinkled upon moving waters.
In the old days (pre-twenty first century) I often opted for the way our indigenous Anishinabe honor the spirits. During sacred feasts or ceremonies, before anyone eats, someone creates a “Spirit Plate”. The ancestors are lovingly fed a bit of venison, some wild rice, a bit of fry bread, some decadent slice of blueberry pie with Cool Whip. The filler of the Spirit Plate then goes outside and ritually feeds grandma and Uncle Ben and hundreds of unnamed ancestors who once walked the earth. You do this slowly, reverentially, with full intention that you are feeding the invisible relatives who perhaps hover in the ethers, aware of our remembrance.
We feed them with our love, our respect, our honor. We feed them so as not to forget them. We feed them to keep them beautiful and alive within our hearts, our families, our communities.
When our kids were growing up, we sometimes spread a blanket in the living room on the Day of the Dead. We made a Spirit Plate. Our feast was usually–I almost hate to say it–pizza. We hoped Grandma and Grandpa wouldn’t mind a few bites of pizza. At least they might smile or roll their eyes at the “craziness of this new generation”.
We talked with the kids about their dead great-grandmas and grandpas, and perhaps a neighbor down the road. We tried to keep alive an invisible world which pulsated with mystery and the unknown.
Some say that the ancestors don’t really eat the pizza. They say the ancestors enjoy only a “whiff” of our pepperoni or tomato sauce, and that’s enough. I’m not sure. The food was usually gone by morning, so you decide. Ancestors or raccoons? I’m leaving it open to possibility.
These days I sit quietly on the couch and call to mind the dearly departed. Grandma Orton. I wait to feel her essence, her spirit, her Grandma Orton-ness. Sometimes you can feel it so strong that you know you’ve connected with their particular being. At other times, you have to settle with a mental blessing. Grandpa Orton. Grandma Sheldon. Grandpa Sheldon. Grandma Elsholz, Grandpa…and then you add other names, calling them in your heart, feeling them in your heart.
Bless you and you and you. We loved you well. May our love follow your spirit, wherever you next travel.
Thank you for what you gave to us. Thank you for sharing your gifts and teachings. Thank you for that bright shining star of spirit that you uniquely blazed for all the world to see. Thank you.
We won’t forget you.