On the dead and the dying….

Today is Halloween which means in two days, many people I know will be celebrating Day of the Dead. I’m always fascinated by this tradition. Two of my oldest friends (and many of their family members) gather at their grandparents gravesite and have a big picnic and celebrate the magical lives of those they’ve lost. It’s a wonderful tradition, if you ask me.

I had the chance, over the summer, to do something similar. I visited my grandma for the first time since we buried her about seven years ago. It was sad, to be sure. It was the first time my sister had seen Grandma’s headstone so she was a bit teary for a little while. But after a bit, the tears subsided and my sister and I, along with one of our friends, spent nearly an hour running around the cemetery, chasing fireflies…it was the most appropriate way I could think of to honor my grandma’s life. She’s the first one that ever showed me how to catch a firefly (ah, the wonders of the midwest in the summer) and use it as a nightlight. She loved all the pretty bugs…fireflies, butterflies, ladybugs. I think Grandma was all kinds of smiles that evening, watching us run around like that.

Not long after my grandma passed away, one of my grandpas left. It was pretty gut wrenching to lose another grandparent so quickly. But there are two things I gained from those losses:
1. I was 26 years old before my first grandparent ever died. That’s a really long time to have all of them around. Like, a REALLY long time. I am a lucky girl.
2. Spending the weekend of the funeral with my family was the first time I really remember connecting with Crazy Cousin Jackie on a deep and meaningful level. Makes me sad we didn’t grow up living near each other, but there’s nothing in the world I’d trade for the friend I’ve made in my cousin since then. She’s pretty badass. You should all be so lucky to have a cousin like her.

I’ve experienced some pretty significant loss in the last few years, but this Halloween, rather than wallow in the sadness of the people I’ve lost, I think I’m going to choose to remember everything about those people that made me smile….the butterflies, seashells (an absurd amount, really), gravy, swing music, books and bookmarks, shopping, fresh bread, swimming, newspaper clippings, nicknames, eccentric hats, after-dinner tea…there’s a great deal of happiness to be had!

So this year, I challenge all of us, while we’re enjoying the candy and scary movies and costumes, to think of the people we’ve lost and try to remember the happiness they brought to our lives while they were a part of them.

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