Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Remembering Our Dead

A few weeks ago when I was back in Texas, I drove through the cemetery where my parents and Ned's parents are buried. The cemetery is beautifully landscaped and tranquil and I stood at the gravesides for a while remembering loved ones. It had been a while since I stood there. I was also remembering how we use to gather up the children and go to the cemetery at least every Easter and Christmas to put flowers on the graves.

Then my thoughts drifted even further back to when I was a child. Everytime we went to one of my Mother's family reunions, a part of one day would be spent with the family loading up in cars and driving to the cemetery where my grandparents are buried. The men would tidy up around the graves and we would put flowers in a fruit jar vase on the grave. There was always a walk around the cemetery to see who had died during that year or to visit the graveside of an old friend. There were a few silent tears but also stories about the dead and the family members who were still living. It was like the dead were connected with the living, a continuing chain.

I don't know how it is where you live but I doubt that very few baby boomers ever think of going to the cemetery around a holiday to put flowers on the graves of their parents and grandparents. Things have changed. I think that in the USA death is much more compartmentalized. Hospital, hospice, funeral home, cremation or burial. Done.

Maybe this is why I am so moved by Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. Oh, yes, some of them have become very commercialized and over run with tourist. Just read the Tales of Zapata Street blog to understand what is happening in some of the villages around Patzcuaro. But on the other hand there is something so beautiful with the altars built in private homes to remember those who have died. There is something very touching to see a whole village come out one afternoon to clean the graves and put out flowers.

One day when everyone in the community remembers. The custom varies from region to region, even from town to town but remembering the dead......Dias de los is a good custom.

Note: I have some more photographs from Dias de los Muertos but I have another project to work on now so I'll let you know when I put them up on Flickr.


jillian said...

really thought-provoking. My family had similar rituals now discontinued in an effort to... disconnect from the inevitability? be blithely cheerful? so focused on forgetting death that we do not give our time to honoring the lives of our lost loved ones...whoa.

Cynthia said...

Your post brings back memories of when I was a girl. Looking forward to your photos.

glorv1 said...

That was a beautiful post. You are right about not visiting the grave sites of family. It just doesn't happen anymore. When we go to San Jose where our parents are buried, we stop off at their gravesites, and spend a few minutes telling them how we miss and love them. My mom is still alive, but she has her plot and everything taken care of. I stop there too, knowing that one day I will be going there to visit her as well. Beautiful picture. Take care.

Steve Cotton said...

Very touching commentary, Billie. I was just thinking about how long it has been since my family got together to visit the cemeteries where family members are buried. My mother will soon be 81. She is the last repository of some stories. My brother and I need to drive to southern Oregon with her to keep alive some of those stories.

Calypso said...

Amiga - totally agree - celebrating life and lives that have come and gone is uplifting. A wonderful thought and memory provoking holiday for sure.

Alfredo said...

Billie, I had always asked myself why is it that I never see a funeral being done in the US. Not seeing them creates a separation between the alive and the death. We need to create a day of the death in the United States and not just the first holiday of summer. It makes me so, so sad to hear that soldiers lost their lives and we party on the day when we are suppossed to honor them. They lost their life for God sakes! Makes me cry for them. God bless them.