Dia(s) de Las Muertas: Bringing Life to Death

Celebrating Mexico and Catholicism is not my usual modus operandi. Neither was losing a beloved sister suddenly.

In the 13 months since Mimi died, I’ve accepted there’s hole in my heart that will never heal. But there’s a peace offering in the ongoing celebration of Dia de Las Muertas, or Day of the Dead.

Mexico’s biggest festival ends today, November 2nd, on what the country calls All Soul’s Day, a time to honor the newly, and long, departed. 

Thus I remember my sister Mimi today and recent rituals to honor her life’s impact and meaning in our lives.

On her birth day, we placed her ashes inside our home church’s columbarium. Mimi’s steel urn now hugs our mother’s brass one, placed there six years ago. All that separates the pair is a picture, seen below (far right).

This hand‐carved columbarium holds cremated remains in perpetuity at our childhood church, St. Matthew’s Episcopal. The small spaces in the wall are called niches that hold urns of ashes. 

Unlike a cemetery, a columbarium is not built into the ground but rather inside a church wall or a similar structure. It’s also not a mausoleum, a building built for caskets, either buried or entombed.

As important: interment is burial in the ground; inurnment is when cremated ashes are placed in an urn followed by final location in a niche.

I didn’t want this education, either. 

In the church chapel, we gifted flowers overflowing with symbolism.

The single red rose honored our sister. Yellow flowers on the right recognized our parents and grandmother (our father and his mother rest in the niche’s back row). The varied floral spray on the left celebrates living family members.

On the one year anniversary of Mimi’s passing, my other sister and I remembered the eldest with a Jewish Yahrzeit observation. This annual rite commemorates a loved one’s death with rituals celebrated by Jewish faithful since the 14th century.

This observance was Merrilynn’s idea, mirroring a ritual she conducts after her own experiences of heartbreaking loss.

Together, we lit three white candles, read Yahrzeit meditations, prayed together, and said blessings to our departed sister. We even offered ring‐topped cupcakes. Mimi smiled.

Now today, I’m honoring loss and grief again. Writing can be ritual, too.

And I finally understand. Without knowing it, I’ve been practicing Dias de Las Muertas since August. Three times.

Ancient archetypes awaken again.

The human condition: we’re not different from each other, are we?

Important perspective to remember with this thing we’ve got happening in America tomorrow.

So who are you remembering on this All Soul’s Day? 

2 Replies to “Dia(s) de Las Muertas: Bringing Life to Death”

    1. Thank you, Rosa, for your generous understanding. You’ve shared the ride with me even as you’ve walked your own Dias de las Muertas.

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