I spent some time in Mexico recently and was privileged to be there for the Days of the Dead celebrations. This is an interesting celebration for someone who comes from a culture where we do not have an annual holiday that encourages us to remember and honor those close to us who have died.
The Mexicans believe that people die three deaths: The first is when our bodies cease to function; the second is when our body is returned to the ground and the third is when there is no-one left alive to remember us.
Therefore Los Dias de Los Mertos is important because it is a time for remembering friends, family and ancestors. To do this altars are prepared with photographs of loved ones, flowers, candles, favorite foods and drinks. It is a time to transform grief into acceptance and invite the spirits of those departed to return home for a few hours.
Creating my altar was a soulful experience. I placed a photograph of my father, who died when he was the age I am now, in the center. Around him I placed photographs of my grandparents. It felt very healing sitting in meditation with my memories of these people who were so important in my life.
The marigold is the most traditional flower used at this time. The fragrance of the marigolds leads the spirits home and so one creates paths of marigold petals to your front door to show the spirits where to come. I know it was comforting to me to be able to honor my ancestors in this way and to feel that they were close to me. It felt like the veil between worlds was indeed thin when I awoke in the morning and saw the sun shining through the door on the pathway of marigolds petals.