Today marks the end of Día de los Muertos, the Mexican holiday celebrated on November 1st and 2nd (along with a few other days depending on location). It is a multiday remembrance of loved ones who have passed celebrating their lives more so than a period of mourning. Family and friends gather and share stories and anecdotes of the departed, create altars (ofrendas) at home with the favorites foods and drinks of the deceased, place gifts and trinkets at gravesites, and generally make festivities with song, dance, food, art, parades, and simply celebrate the lives lived by our dearly departed. It is a cultural act that blends beliefs and aspects of the indigenous people of Mexico before the conquistadores arrival and the Catholic faith that came with said conquistadores. Día de los Muertos has taken on such significance that it is now recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It is genuinely a beautiful celebration, and if you so desire, the National Museum of the American Latino has a virtual ofrenda at the moment and some more information on the holiday and its history and meaning for you to peruse.
The holiday is personal to me from a cultural perspective, but has taken on a stronger significance with the recent passing of my paternal grandmother. It was both sudden but expected with her age and deteriorating health. It was as peaceful a death as one could hope to have though that knowledge is minimal comfort. With her passing, there have been the usual conversations and thoughts around death and those who remain and what we should do to keep and honor her memory and life. There have not been clear answers at this point, and with that lack of clarity comes confusion and a seeming inability to fully move past. I suppose that is why I have been thinking about and gravitating more toward my cultural customs and heritage, in spite of familial considerations and beliefs. These practices had a purpose and bridged the divide between past and present and filled the gap for those of us which are not comforted by or find solace in Christian/Catholic death rites and rituals. I do not simply wish for my abuela to be in a better place in the afterlife; I want to acknowledge her existence, remember her presence, and learn more about her and her life. Celebrations and rituals (because at its core it is a ritual and rite) like Día de los Muertos does that much like other similar acts do for cultures and people across the globe.
I think the last few years have been, for most, kind of shitty even among the victories. We have almost all experienced loss and death often unexpectedly, and, collectively, we need an act of grief and remembrance and celebration of those we have lost. A time to just acknowledge and accept those losses is very much needed, so find what works for you and do it before the year passes. I imagine you will feel better having done so. Until then, enjoy a song that encompasses that idea splendidly.