I always put up an altar for Day of the Dead. One year I didn’t and I forgot to honor my Aunt Jo. That night my back door slammed back and forth in the wind for the one and only time. Years before my mother died she requested a specific drink but then settled for a glass of wine. I”m not much of a drinker, but I make sure to have some wine this time of year. I emptied the bottle out for her in an elegant glass on the altar. I put Hershey Kisses out for my dad. This year, I added some food for a student who lost her father and grandmother recently. Since I was teaching about the Mexican holiday, I wanted to check in on her feelings and honor her family too.
My first and only Day of the Dead in cohousing was pretty nice. I had the kids decorate their own sugar skulls and put those on the altar. I also taught them how to make homemade tortillas (flour) and had to warm up the house of a neighbor who had a built in flat grill on their stove top. One neighbor came by and added a picture of her grandmother. I invited others and they came by to visit the altar.
Lately I’ve been thinking about love and death. Ideas of love change. Once upon a time there was a low divorce rate. According to researchers, that was before romantic love was part of marriage. You married for duty and whoever your parents or community told you to. Love for children also changed. Some couples didn’t even name their children until they reached two years of age. Infant mortality was so common. Nowadays the loss of a child is unimaginable, horrific, a parent’s worst nightmare.
My previously mentioned Aunt Jo was not the first. Her parents had a daughter named Josefina a few years before. That baby died. Aunt Jo was next and they gave her that same name. Today that seems strange and creepy. I assume it wasn’t back in the early 1900s.
I still wonder how much it hurt my great Grandmother. If anything, we all know that love never dies. And the Day of the Dead reminds us that our love ones are still with us, at least in our hearts.