Dia de los Muertos: On Death and Dying

Although Dia de los Muertos seems to have been incorporated into Halloween, it’s very much its own holiday in Mesoamerica. I’ve always known it to occur on November 1st through 2nd.

Some people might think Hispanic culture to be morbid with all the obsession with skulls and skeletons, but it’s actually quite the opposite. The whimsical skulls and skeletons remind us that all life is cyclical and not to take the death part too seriously.

Dia de los muertos, Pexels

Dia de los Muertos is not a celebration of death, but a celebration of life. We remember family and friends who have left us.

Traditionally, we visit the cemetery where loved ones are buried and bring food and drink to share. I’ve always found that part a little disrespectful, but that’s because my introduction to Dia de los Muertos had already been tampered by Anglo sentimentality. Anglo culture fears death (or at least remains woefully somber) whereas Mesoamerican culture embraces it as a part of life. It’s about perception.

It might sound weird, but I’ve always been fascinated with the moments before death. It’s more scientific curiosity than anything else. I’ve heard so many first hand accounts from friends who have been with the dying at the moment of death. The things people say just before they die fires the imagination. They have whole conversations with invisible people. Some are afraid, others are angry that they’re still on Earth, robbed of an early exit.

It makes me want to hold their hand and ask them burning questions, but death is each person’s private journey. It’s their time to do with as they please. They owe nothing to the living.

Speaking of death, a good friend scared me into a cold sweat. I had texted her last week, but she never answered. At first I thought she might be on vacation. I know she doesn’t look at her phone when she’s traveling. I texted her again. Still nothing.

My friend is a whole ten years older than me, so I start to fear the worst. I made a special trip to see her at work. (Yes, she still works–at manual labor no less–but only because she enjoys it.)

She was fine. Thank goodness. She never heard her phone ding, so she had missed my texts completely.

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Did you have a good Halloween? Did you get many trick or treaters? One of the things I miss about living in the city is seeing the trick or treaters, especially the little bitty ones. They are so cute!

Did anyone ever scare you by not returning your calls?

 

 

 

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17 Comments

  1. We had tons of trick-or-treaters last night for about an hour. Then it just got too cold for the little ones, I think. Not as many teens this year, but lots of elementary and middle schoolers. Most of the costumes were homemade, too, which I thought was pretty awesome.

    I try not to freak out when someone doesn’t return a call or e-mail; people have busy lives. I also know that sometimes they just forget to respond (beause I’ve certainly done that.) I’ll wait a few days and then try again, and usually that works. If it’s someone in poor health I’ll reach out to a family member, just to be on the safe side.

    • Lynn: I don’t worry so much if they’re younger, but my friend is in her 70s. She’s in good health, but then so was my 55 year old friend in superb athletic condition who simply dropped dead. You just never know when you’re number is up.

      I love to see the costumes parents make for their kids. And the toddlers are the cutest, especially if it’s their first Halloween.

  2. If one of my kids doesn’t return a text or call, it doesn’t take me long to go into hysterical mom mode. I do it quietly – just in my mind – but I cover the gambit of “kid having an asthma attack” to earthquakes and nuclear bombs. I know I’m being silly, but I’m always relieved to finally get the call back.

    We had a decent bunch of trick-or-treaters last night, although they got started late. We came very close to using all the treats. One more group of 4 or 5 would have cleaned us out. One of my favorite costumes was the kid in the dragon costume, with his dog also in a dragon costume! The dog was so excited to be and about, it was adorable!

    • Marlene: You can’t help it if it’s your kid–and sometimes husband. Greg scared the heck out of me when he went for a stress test once and didn’t call back for over four hours after it was supposed to be over. At the time I was living 300 miles away too.

      There was a glitch in the center’s system and they had to move him elsewhere, but in my mind he was dead on the treadmill and the staff had no way to know how to contact me.

      re: dragon costumes
      I love it! We dressed Tank up and he would carry a basket of treats to the door when the trick or treaters came. The best moment was when one little toddler looked at him eye to eye and then wrapped her arms around him. His parents got jittery, but Tank loved all people, especially children. He melted into that little girl’s arms.

  3. We have lived outside of a town since 2001, to be quite honest in all that time frame no trick or treaters has actually been somewhat of a blessing because of our dog and then our cats being a door opening escape hazard. It always amazed me how quickly the little four legged fiends could slip outside when we were distracted handing out candy. Especially the crazy cats.

    The non-answered phone calls were stress inducing when my parents still lived in South Texas 3 hours away from me. When my father went deaf he could not hear the ringing and did not answer when my mother was outside working in the yard or hanging/gathering clothes on/off the clothes line. Sometimes I remember dialing over and over for hours on the house phone and getting more and more panicked Maria before she finally answered.

    When I was able to get a cell phone for her to carry around it helped when she could hear it ring to answer it

    • Jackie: Elderly parents can be more worrying than kids. Kids might not have the experience to get out of a bad situation, but the elderly don’t always have the physical capacity to help themselves.

      My mother is never without her cell phone. My brother has it set up so he can track her…just in case.

  4. We don’t get many trick-or-treaters anymore. There are no kids in the houses right around us and we’re not in the path of those making a trek around the block. We had ten this year – higher than the last couple years – and six of them came by within ten minutes of 6:00 (the official neighborhood start time). Once upon a time the doorbell rang non-stop for two hours. I miss that.

  5. So, because my kiddo is still young, she occasionally watches shows that kid-focused. We watched a show called Elena of Avalor. They had an episode about Dia de los Muertos, talking about the importance of the day, the remembrance and celebration of life of those who’ve gone before. And it included taking special food to the graveyard as well. Getting to hear about it that way made it seem quite aceeptable.

    As for Halloween, we didn’t do trick-or-treating this year, going or giving. We had some rather rainy, wet, chilly weather so that discouraged some of the kids and parents.

  6. We got give or take about 59 trick or treaters. I counted them. The big rush was between 6:15 and 8 p.m, and then it died after 8 p.m., no one else came (and silly me, based on what we saw earlier I didn’t think we would have enough candy so sent hubby to store for more candy, only not to have to use it; he took it to work). I realized after seeing all the costumes last night I’m out of touch with cartoon and movie figures. I tried to identify costumes and was wrong 99.9% of the time ๐Ÿ™‚

    Son scares me if he doesn’t return a text or a call in a timely manner (within minutes after I text or call is what I consider a timely manner). I often have to remind myself he is busy and has a young son. He usually answers in a reasonably short time but I’m always in panic mode until he does so.

    betty

    • Betty: Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever had that many trick or treaters. Your door got a real workout on Halloween.

      re: texts
      That’s my mom. LOL. If she doesn’t hear from one of her kids within minutes, she keeps trying until she connects. I finally broke her of that habit with me when she called Greg’s phone while he was trying to sleep and he had just finished a graveyard shift.

  7. My mother in law was surrounded by invisible people as she died. Your story of visiting the graves with food and drink put me in mind of the ancient Inca custom of periodically taking out their mummified ancestors from their tombs and sprinkling them around the banqueting table in between family guests. Bit of a conversation killer, I imagine.

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