Dia de Los Muertos ~ Celebrating Death

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I first started seriously talking to my ancestors, long departed from this planet, as my mother lay dying in her hospital bed six years ago. In the hospital for several days, and her breathing becoming more and more difficult in spite of oxygen, rebreather masks, and nebulizer treatments, she clung to life. I could see the struggle, and my heart ached. I remember something somewhat similar with my father years before that. On what was to be the last day of her life, I took a break from her hospital bedside, going to a veranda off the cafeteria, shaded by huge leafy trees. Late January’s sun filtered through the trees, casting streams of shadows across the lawn. Birds winging their way in and out of the tree tops caught my eye, and it was then that I thought to call out to my ancestors. I called on them as I never had before, begging them to come for my mother, and take her home to where she would be at peace with them. I must have sat and stared at those tree tops, and those birds, for an hour, praying the hardest I have ever prayed in my life. I prayed to God, the Universe, the angels, but most of all to the ancestors, my abuelas (grandmothers), my tias (aunts), tios (uncles), my father and my brother. They took mercy and answered my prayers, taking my mother later that afternoon to be with them.

Today, on November 1st and tomorrow, the Mexican culture celebrates death, Dia de Los Muertos. Mexicans do not fear death, but embrace it, as a continuance of life on another plane. It is believed that on Dia de Los Muertos, the ancestor’s spirits return for a visit to this world. Mexicans decorate the graves of their departed loved ones, and create altars in their homes to honor those who have gone on to another world. The altars usually have photos of the ancestors, and foods that they liked when they were alive, and mementos that remind us of them. Marigolds are the flower used to decorate graves and altars during this time, the marigold is believed to attract the souls of the dead on this day.

My husband and I decided to make an altar this year, the first time we have done this. It makes us feel good to honor our family’s spirits, to remember the love we have for each other always. I talk to my departed ancestors every day, thanking them for the blessings and grace that they send me; I can  still feel their warm embraces.

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About Angeline M

Love to travel, read, garden. I am a nurse case manager working in Disease Management. Photos of locations visited are personal file photos.
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36 Responses to Dia de Los Muertos ~ Celebrating Death

  1. Beautiful post, Angel. And altar, too! 🙂

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  2. I think this is such a lovely custom, Angeline. Thanks for explaining it here. A very moving post indeed. xx

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  3. Oh Angeline .. what a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing this. What a wonderful way to honour your family. Warm embraces … such a beautiful thing to say. Thank you

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  4. Thanks for explaining Dia de Los Muertos, Angeline. What a beautiful way to honour those we love who have gone to another plane of existence. Am touched by your moving tribute to your mom.

    I love your altar. You’ve inspired me to create one, too. If I need any advice/tips, I’ll ask you.

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  5. pattimoed says:

    Hi Angeline. I love this memory of your mother and your connection to your ancestors. The Italians create similar altars in the homes or even in a corner of their restaurants (if they are owners). It’s a wonderful custom to honor those we love.

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  6. Hi Angeline- It’s a beautiful celebration and here in New Mexico, they go out! I was at the Sunday Art market which I attend for selling my work and everyone had one. I love it! I love how they put meaningful things to their loved ones. Great pics…

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  7. arlene says:

    I did a similar post on the way we celebrate All Saints and All Souls Days here in our country. Like you, we make an altar at home, sans the photos but the crucifix and we prepare food too and pray the rosary and the prayers for the dead. Then we light candles later at night near our front door.

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  8. I love your altar, and your connection with your ancestors. I don’t feel anything like that, and a kind of sadness that that there seems to be no connection even though I have a clear and ongoing connection with spirit.
    Alison

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    • Angeline M says:

      I’m glad you like the altar, Alison. I really do remember the day I wrote about in this post, as being the first time I felt this strong connection. It’s hard to know why, and interesting. I wonder if it is because I went to them in my mind? I don’t mediate, but during that hour nothing else existed for me, and I think that is what meditation does? All I know is that the feeling that they were there in those tree tops/that area was so intense. I’ve had only one other experience similar to that recently, receiving their help when I asked. It boggles my mind, it really does. Having your ongoing connection with spirit is a blessing. There may be a connection with your ancestors in other ways that you haven’t been made aware of yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Amy says:

    Very moving words. Thank you for sharing these precious photos with us, Angeline. We, Chinese, also have a similar celebration day for the death.

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  10. Su Leslie says:

    This is a beautiful post Angeline, and while it makes me sad to think about you losing your parents, I think you have found a place of understanding and acceptance and recognition that death is part of life. That is brave and wise and I hope that I will also be able to find that place when the time comes. Kia kaha (stand strong), Su.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Angeline M says:

      Thanks, Su. I think I actually have come to accept death knowing that it is part of life. When life presents these moments to us, we are stronger than we ever know. Thanks, too for teaching me the words “Kia kaha”. That will be a good mantra.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Su Leslie says:

        You’re welcome. I’m trying to learn Maori — the language of NZ’s first people — because although it is officially our second language, it is not widely used by non-Maori. It is also a language that has some beautiful phrases that often capture a thought better than the English equivalent.

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      • Angeline M says:

        Learning Maori will be a wonderful addition to your historical knowledge of NZ’s first people. I already like it from the one phrase you gave me…kia kaha.

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  11. A lovely post, Angeline. I’ve always hoped I can find my way to a perspective like yours when the time comes for close family to pass on. My husband started a similar tradition to welcome back/honor his parents every year and I can see the peace it brings him once everything is in place.

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    • Angeline M says:

      Thanks, Lisa. Those prayers the day my mother died came from a place I didn’t know I had within me. At first, I felt guilty for praying that my mom die, but the longer I prayed, the more I felt ok about it, and that it was the right thing. Setting up this altar to honor our departed relatives, and even dogs 🙂 , has felt so wonderful. I know what your husband must feel.

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  12. Beth says:

    Beautiful, Angeline! What a blessing to leave this planet with loved ones – both living and passed – all around.

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  13. Merilee says:

    This is lovely. I am sorry for your loss. As someone who frequents cemeteries to photograph them, I am always pleased when there are families visiting their loved one’s graves. Especially in the San Joaquin Valley, where there is a large Hispanic population who take care of their family in the cemeteries all the time. I like seeing families on weekends or in the afternoon visiting their people in the cemetery, with a picnic and children playing. Sometimes leaving balloons or flowers on the graves. It makes me smile.

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    • Angeline M says:

      Thank you, Merilee. We lived in the San Joaquin Valley for several years just recently, and are now not too far from there. We loved it. Families visiting cemeteries is a wonderful thing, and does not have to be a sad time at all. Thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment.

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  14. John says:

    In these fast times, we have believed and been disappointed in many things, but the customs of a culture that revisit and commune with departed loved ones helps ground and remind us who we are. Wonderful post, Angeline.

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  15. ShimonZ says:

    very touching post

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  16. Nice post. My wife does this every year.

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