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.