Day of the Dead


  • “The strange thing about death is how the hole, the echo, that a loved one leaves expands as the years pass – that is why [Seamus] Heaney is so right when he talks about that void being both ‘empty’ and a ‘source’…’Death destroys a man, the idea of death saves him.’ It’s a paradox I’ve always found comforting.” – Eleanor Mills, “Be not afraid, we can handle death

Today is Mexico’s second day celebrating “Día de Muertos” – “Day of the Dead”. It melds both the Spanish / Catholic tradition of the All Saints Day (honouring Saints in Heaven) with the indigenous Aztec celebration of the goddess Mictecacihuatl (goddess of the afterlife). It is an extended celebration to honour deceased loved ones (1st November is for honouring children and the 2nd November is for honouring adults).

Much like the Halloween that precedes it (“Hallowed Eve”), it embraces death by donning the garments and appearances of death’s guises. Not to honour or praise death itself, but to bear hug it with a rebellious swagger that says ‘we are not going to let death scare us nor take our loved ones fully away, but we will respect its inevitability and power over our destiny.’

And like Halloween, the grotesque and decrepit of death’s decay (especially skeletons) are the de rigeur look. And maybe as the piece “Person Asks Online For Advice On How To Deal With Grief” describes, such grotesque stage makeup scars and gouges can themselves be a testimonial to the wounds of loss…

  • “I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a whole right through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to ‘not matter’. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even be gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is strong that the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life.”