Most of us heard about or watched last year’s hit animated movie Coco. It was a touching rendering of a magically colorful and festive land of the dead. Who wouldn’t want to live there?
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a Latin American tradition, has become a popular celebration in the United States. It is not only a florid, enjoyable time for all things Catrina but an invitation to pause and remember our loved ones who are no longer with us. Remember Me is the theme song of Coco the movie because it is when we are forgotten that we truly die. This is also a time for us to reflect on our mortality and the things that matter most to us. A time to think of our own death but most importantly to reflect on our lives.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I were invited to a get together with friends. While there, I spotted a couple who we’ve only met casually, but enough to know they are not the lovey-dovey type. Neither of them showed affection for each other in public before, but this time it was different. They were sitting close together holding hands. I noticed how she lovingly caressed his arm and whispered to his ear. How sweet, I thought, but strange. Later that evening, we learned he has recently been diagnosed with a serious illness.
Someone, I can’t remember who, recently wrote that if eight people will genuinely mourn him at his funeral his life would have been worth living. Eight people! How many would be saddened by my passing I wondered. Dead is inevitable and unexpected we know, but do we live each day as if it was our last? Or do we try not to think about it and continue making personal, financial plans as if we were going to live forever? Do we put off showing affection to family and friends?
Most people fear death and thinking about it that is why the title of this story. This is likely more a fear of the unknown than anything else. But what if the land of death was like in the movie? A joyous place where families live happy carefree lives and look after us on earth; a heaven. If we were certain of this, how amazing our lives would be! No mourning but joy, no fear, and no sadness. Chances are we would live our lives preparing for that finite moment. Unfortunately and for the most part, faithless attitudes prevail and so we live.
For the past 18 months, I’ve been “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” due to a family member’s illness. Among many sobering thoughts, I’ve learned that we only get one chance, one opportunity to make a difference. Let us enjoy what we have each day, and albeit the cliche, live each day as it was the last. There is no normal life. It is just life handing out experiences like a blackjack dealer. It is important to focus on everyday miracles – there are plenty – and it is up to us to make the best of the hand dealt.
Took the featured photograph during a recent trip to Terlingua Ghost Town, Texas. The town’s cemetery right in the center of town across from a popular watering hole and souvenir shop.