In the age of social media, we are constantly being reminded to “Live Your Best Life!”
In fact, I think we are more conscientious about what is happening around us from day to day, whether it is in the news, or on a social media feed. With one click, we can learn what is happening all the way in China, and we also know what our best friend is eating for breakfast. How amazing is it to be flooded with information at the tips of our fingers and be able develop such an awareness of how we live our lives! But have you ever thought how that pace of processing information can potentially cause us to miss out on some of the most important things? I have to really sift through what I consume daily because I am trying to do my best to live with intention and create thoughtful memories with my family. I think I developed that quality from my Dad—who was a constant storyteller. He loved to travel with us as a family and sharing his perspectives allowed me to see life through a different lense. He loved talking about art, history, religion and even politics. So you can say that over time, I sort of inherited the ability to record what I feel in my heart and capture vivid pictures in my mind—with the ability to share those experiences with the most careful detail.
Because Living Your Best Life to me means that you are challenged to extract the lessons that life is teaching you–through each experience, both good and bad–and some sad. A few years ago, my sister and lifelong companion—passed away. Her passing was sudden—and it has been difficult to process. On an occasion, I experience a deep sadness merely at the thought of her. Fortunately, as the days pass, I have learned to cope with her loss by remembering. We had the most amazing memories because I grew up sharing a room with her, laughing into the night talking and sharing stories. We often recorded improvised soap operas with my father’s large VHS camera. I can still hear her random laughs of joy when she would see something funny! Those memories make me happy!
For Mexicans/Latinos—I think part of coping with death culturally and historically, has been through the practice of remembering our loved ones through a season called Dia de los Muertos.
For many families, it is an important season to remember those who have passed from this life. Traditionally, families set up a beautiful altar in dedication to those loved ones with Mexican Marigolds placed throughout, including some personal possessions or items that they loved while they were alive. The most significant tradition is the preparation of a special meal that they once enjoyed. What a beautiful way to honor those who are no longer with us. It not only provides us with peace, but also gives us a sense of connection to those who impacted our lives so deeply.
I know that death is a part of life, but I have often asked myself–why do we wait to honor our loved ones in death–when we can so in life! For that reason, I have made an explicit effort to enjoy each moment I have with my mom and my Abuela. I love seeing her water her plants in her garden, or spending time cooking and eating together. I have been truly gifted with the opportunity to learn from her, and laugh together–and to share those experiences with everyone.
One of her favorite things to do is grocery shop! I am not sure why, but I think it is just one of those funny and unique things that make her so special. Recently, we went to Vallarta Supermarkets, to walk the aisles and shop as she prepares for Dia de Los Muertos. My Abuela is like a kid in a candy store–her eyes brighten as she walks through the aisles. My Abuela loves the fresh selection of Pan de Muerto from the Panaderia section. She particularly enjoys the fresh fruit and vegetables from the produce section. She carefully picks through the ears of corn, looking for just the perfect piece for my Abuelo. As she passes la Floreria, she stops and gazes as the selection of flowers, and leans forward and picks the perfect bouquet of Marigolds to add the final touch. She is preparing a small altar at her home, as she does every year in dedication to his life and the years they spent together. Perhaps, it is her way of coping with the loss of Abuelo since his passing almost 17 years ago.
Later, we will arrive home, unpack the bags of groceries from the car, and settle in. With no words, and only a deep determination in her eyes, my Abuela pulls out that special elote and bright marigolds that she found at Vallarta Supermarkets, and slowly walks to the living room. With a steady pace, she moves towards the corner of the living room where she has placed a framed picture of my Abuelo–and with the most delicate movement, care and consideration, she gently places the plate with the single ear of corn before the framed picture.
There are some things that my Abuela has taught me with words, and other things, that she has taught me with her actions. It does not matter how elaborate the altar, or how simple the gesture in one’s celebration–but rather, it is at the core—about keeping someone alive in our hearts. I know that deep down, My Abuela does miss my Abuelo. And in the season of remembrance, such as Dia de Los Muertos, the altar represents resilience to live with purpose, even despite the loss of those we have loved, because it is a part of life. She has taught me that to live–is to honor those who are no longer with us–by truly Living our best life!
Today, as I think about those special people we have lost in our lives, I personally celebrate my sister. I know that one day we will meet again. My heart tells me that one day I will be able to hug her again and tell her how much I have missed her. Until then, I will continue to live with the intent to honor her with my life and to place upon the altar of my heart–Everything I do…in dedication to her.
We remember you today Eli.
We remember you today Tio Jose.
We remember you today Abuelo.
Thank you Vallarta Supermarkets for sponsoring this conversation–and for accommodating us culturally and as a community–by having everything we need to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos!