Losing ones we love is painful. Grief is a process that ebbs and flows and changes like the tide. Grief and love, in fact, are two sides of the same coin. Under immense grief is immense love. Dia de los Muertos is a day for honoring and celebrating the dead and as we move full-fledged into the holiday season, it seems only fitting that we take a breath and reflect on those who won't be spending them with us this year, celebrating our time together and the lives they lived.
Traditionally the day is one of celebration, meant for the spirits of those departed to come and share in the festivities with those still on earth. I thoughtfully created my ofrenda, the alter to those I was honoring- my grandma and father. Photos of happy times, marigolds to help them find their path back, water and salt to quench their thirst after the journey, favorite drinks they enjoyed while alive, and food and other mementos reflecting their life. While my father wasn't a drinker, I included Glenlivet scotch (we had visited the distillery one summer in Scotland) and Sherry (which my Dad used in a number of his signature recipes). A book to represent his hunger for knowledge, reading, and teaching. And all the time, both after building the ofrenda and sitting with it, I kept a number of his vinyl records spinning; the voices of Judy Collins, Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, and Randy Newman were all present.
I sat in reverence; for these two amazing souls who have impacted my life, and all those who came before, passing on their wisdom and experience through generations. I know that through our bloodlines we have shared so much, even if we have not met. It struck me, too, how this one day is meant to unite us once again with those passed and yet I still feel them all the time. They come to me on the wings of monarchs, through songs on the radio, in eye-crinkled smiles of strangers. Reminders and reflections of gratitude for the moments we had and the moments that continue. The intentional offering on this day helped me see that in truth, my life is one continued ritual of honoring and appreciating all those who have come before me and shaped what I know today. I have learned that our connection does not stop, despite the physical no longer present. The love continues, the gratitude flows, and the guidance and expansion never ends.