Día de los Muertos: Honoring Loss is Sacred
This weekend was a special event for me as I stood in the middle of Grand Park with my radical and unapologetic friend, Ash. Untethered from the evangelical world, Ash told me these words last year, "Heidi we've got to do something special for your cousin and my nephew whom we've lost. We've got to honor them." I remember nodding my head in reply as she hinted at us to hold a moment during the following year's Day of the Dead celebration. I didn't know what it would look like or what I would do, but after the deep and painful loss of Jessie, I knew I needed to do this in remembrance of him and said, "Yes."
Here we were, one year later at Grand Park surrounded by tissue paper marigolds and a beautiful crispy fall night in Downtown Los Angeles. Ash was guiding my awkward brown self into adorning the communal altar for our loved ones on this Día de los Muertos. I stared blankly and didn't know what to do as she set the water, sweet bread, and released the aroma of sage into the air. Hours before, I sat at work wondering in my colonized mind, if I was doing something wrong.
Before this moment, Día de los Muertos was a holiday I knew only a few of my tias in Mexico embraced. Through my father's side, our indigenious roots are evident through our familia, foods, and health care approach. My father additionally shares that our great grandparents en los pueblos de Jalisco sometimes wore elements of vestimenta indígenas, dressed in beautiful clothing.
Today, we've held onto ancestral practices of healing through sávila, eucalipto, and visits the sobador or curanderos, but stripped away practices that heal us in our grief and mourning. In our "coming to Christ", we followed the colonizer's lead into silencing our voice and cultural expression with grief.
Yet throughout this year after losing my cousin, I can't help but say in Christ, I am learning how important it is to hold and honor our mourning for this is vital for healing. I've held the tension between Holy Saturday and Resurrection Sunday in my Christian faith. How much more can I also hold the tension of death and resurrection for my loved one through a day like Día de los Muertos? On this day, my grief and loved ones are honored and sacred in my remembrance. I find healing through my cultural expression with grief and anticipate one day being reunited with them.
For a few minutes, I stand in front of the DTLA altar and pause staring at the picture frame I printed for Jessie. "You are gone but you are not." I think to myself, my heart knows this yet my brain cannot comprehend. Standing in silence, I hold this tension. I remember the time God allowed us to share together. Closing my eyes, I imagine hearing his voice once again and find comfort that I get to remember him without judgment on a day like this day. Through this embodied, spiritual and ancestral practice, I leave Reeses and Snickers for Jessie finding a joy in my offrenda selection for my primo hermano, "Hope you like it."
Peace sets in my movement and liberation to simply "be" in this moment. I turn to Ash saying, "Ready? Let's go for Guisados Tacos."
This weekend was a response to a cultural separation I faced from an ancestral tradition. It was my own journey in comprehending loss through this side of eternity and holding onto the difficulty of loss through remembrance.
This weekend was a reclaiming of what colonialism and la ropa anglo sajón took from me and my family's heritage.
It was my first Día de los Muertos celebration and I was reminded of what I'm learning this year in my mourning,
"Beloved, know that pain, grief, and hope are held together by Eternal Love in your waiting and in your silence." Honoring loss is sacred.