Today marks the last day of the triduum of Allhallowtide. All Souls to the RC kids, and Dias de los Muertos to many others. The Day of the Dead celebrations include visits to the cemetery and altars at home to honour ancestors and absent friends.
I’ve been to funerals for non-family members, and I understand the hushed and respectful conversation. An order of magnitude below Inside Voice, there is Funeral Voice. In my world, that feels uncomfortable and not helpful in the currency of coping. But I understand the social niceties of the obligation of quiet condolences.
All four of my grandparents died within about a 6 year span. I learned to mourn with my family earlier than that, even, but those 6 years were intensive study. I learned to make hot chocolate in the lower level of Friscolanti’s funeral parlor. I knew how the Rosary vigil went (and have mixed feelings about the change to the ‘prayer service’ format). I have a stack of holy cards printed with comforting bits of scripture, or in a few cases, poetry that an uncle wrote. I know the flow of the Catholic funeral mass and the service at the gravesite. I’ve since become the go-to cousin for reciting the petitions of the Prayers of the Faithful. I always have enough black in my wardrobe to get through three days of mourning, and enough linen handkerchiefs to absorb my grief. I know enough to not wear eye make up that will flood into my eyes and make them sting for hours. I know that if you sit in the back of the parlor, on the folding chairs behind the tufted velvet couches and you watch, there are gestures of support. But if you listen, there is always laughter. And laughter always fills in the hole left by the loss of someone you love.
This year on Dias de los Muertos, may we celebrate the lives of our veterans and ancestors, not just mourn their deaths.