Today is Dia de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead. It is a primarily Mexican holiday, in which people remember their loved ones who have died by cleaning their graves, bringing food and drink and flowers, and having what seems like a party.
Our congregation has marked the Day of the Dead with an intergenerational worship service on the Sunday before for as long as I have been here. Originally, a member who grew up in Mexico began the practice, but after a few years she passed the leadership of the service on to the worship arts committee, and I have been involved in this service ever since I became the Director of Religious Education here.
A few things really jumped out at me last Sunday as I sat in the service.
When people are called to come forward and place mementos on the altar, almost everyone does. Everyone is touched by death.
The pain of loss may lessen with time, but it's still there. Some people are in tears for a loss that happened many, many years ago. A twin sibling that died in childhood. A baby stillborn. A child or young person. A spouse tragically killed too young. Or other losses that surprise me that they are still so raw: parent, grandparent, aunt. We will always mourn.
I know that some people avoid this service every year. Not that many people bring their children. But for many, this service is important. They come to cry. They come to see their tears as part of a larger picture of the cycles of life and the larger life of the community. To truly engage with life means to truly engage with death.
Over the years my "list" has grown. At first I was just placing a memento for my lost pregnancy (and no matter what some may say, that was a "real baby", and I still mourn it), then for my grandfather. This year it was my unnamed little peanut, my grandfather, and my other grandparents. More life also means more loss.
It is real, it is unavoidable, it is part of the experience of living.
It is the ultimate Great Mystery, the Final Frontier.
We live In Between (as our reading on Sunday by Richard Gilbert says).
Or, in the words of Tim McGraw, "I hope you get the chance to live like you are dying".