Friday, November 1, 2013

Remember and Honor Your Children Today

I originally wrote and posted this 2 years ago on November 1st 2011, but I'm hoping you won't mind if I share it again today 2 years later..

Since my first child, Randee Marie, died in March 1971, the most common fear I've heard repeatedly from moms (and dads) of children who have died, is the fear that their child will be forgotten.. That thought is almost as unbearable as the actual loss of the child... It’s important to us, that our child, no matter their age, never be forgotten..

The images I'd seen growing up of "The Day of the Dead" celebrations used to make me squeamish!!! But now that I understand the celebrations and reasons for them, I'm in awe and have a new respect for these special days - Yes, now that I know their intent is to honor and remember our family members who have died, I'm appreciative of this wonderful reason to celebrate. Imagine, a whole day when we are encouraged to speak our child or children's names, to talk of them and all that they meant to us - yes to celebrate them!!... So if you, like me, don't understand very much about this tradition, I hope you'll allow me to share what I've learned...

I was raised Catholic, so I knew that in most countries with a Roman Catholic heritage, All Saints Day and All Souls Day were religious holidays, days when we went to mass and silently said a prayer for those who had died. I was truly surprised to learn that in many countries, these "holy days" are truly celebrated - people actually take the day off work, go to cemeteries with candles and flowers, and give presents to children, usually sweets and toys and spend the entire day remembering those who have died.. Until I began researching the "Day of the Dead" and "All Souls Day", I didn’t realize that many, if not most, cultures around the world have a specific day set aside to visit the graves of deceased family members and their traditions often include celebrations, food and beverages, in addition to their open prayers and remembrances of the departed.

We all know that death is a part of life, it is something none of us can or will avoid; we will each lose family members and friends - then why is it, that so many people seem to avoid any aspect of the subject of death, never mind actually talking about a specific family member who has died.. And if you want to see real panic – mention your child who has died?? Is it me – why is it if I mention the names of any of my children who have died, panic seems to set in to those aound me.. they have funny looks on their faces? Do you get that same reaction?

There are times when I've mentioned that I’ve had children who have died, I immediately feel the chill!! And I know that most of those around me, hope I will quickly change the subject to the weather, sports or even the latest tabloid headline... anything - just change the subject!!!

So maybe that is why “The Day of the Dead” celebrations in Mexico, Latin and South America began to intrigue me... Did you know by the way that these celebrations, intended to celebrate and honor family members who have died, have gone on for as long as 2,500–3,000 years.

Did you know that typically November 1st (“Day of the Innocents” or “Day of the Little Angels”) honors children and infants; whereas deceased adults are honored on November 2nd, similar in the same Christian culture as All Souls Day.

During this time family and friends go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed, here or at home they will build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages as well as photos and memorabilia of the departed, flowers and other gifts. They hope to encourage visits by the souls and they are anxious for the souls to hear the prayers, praise, comments and memories of the living directed to those who have died. How wonderful that some celebrations will take a humorous tone, as the living remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.

These traditions vary in different regions, but almost all have different traditions for children who have died, verus adults. Typically on November 1st of the year after a child's death, the godparents set a table in the parents' home with sweets, fruits, pan de muerto, a cross, a rosary (used to ask the Virgin Mary to pray for them) and candles. This is meant to celebrate the child's life, in respect and appreciation for the parents. There is also dancing with colorful costumes, often with skull-shaped masks and devil masks in the plaza or garden of the town - then at midnight on November 2, the people light candles and if there is a lake or river near by, they wil sail winged boats called mariposas (Spanish for "butterflies") to the other side, to honor and celebrate the lives of their children...

In many American communities – especially Texas, Arizona and throughout the southwest where Mexican influence is very strong, Day of the Dead or All Souls Celebrations are held and they are very similar to those held in Mexico. As varied as the traditions may be - remembering those who have gone before them is the main focus. Yes they may build alters in their homes and burn candles; they might brightly decorate their loved ones place of rest; they always share memories of those who are gone; many will march together wearing masks and carrying signs honoring their dead; some may carry an urn in which people can place slips of paper with prayers on them to be burned for the souls for the dead – but the one thing they will do, this year and for years to come, that warms my heart, is to remember those who have gone before them – remember them and honor them...

Personally, I think that the “Day of the Dead” or “All Souls Day” should be a world-wide celebration – a day when we can openly celebrate and remember those who have gone before us.. Because to me, and for all of us who remain behind, knowing that our children and all family members, will always be remembered in the future, is a very comforting and peaceful thought...

So today, I will remember my children: Randee Marie, Robin Marie, and Bobby Wood and I will also remember your children - I will light a candle and keep it burning today in memory of all our children. I will rejoice in what they meant to each of us and celebrate that they were part of our lives and responsible for making us who and what we are today.. 

Yes today and for years to come, I will celebrate "Day of the Dead" and "All Souls Day" as it should be celebrated as a day of honor and remembrance... Cherie Houston

1 comment:

  1. Cherie, From the bottom of my heart I thank you for creating and maintaining this blog and I also thank Joyce whose work inspired you to do so. My son died April 2009 and while I continue to "function" in the world, every day is hard and there have been additional heartaches to bear when people I loved have turned their backs on my pain. But I thank you for your words and I just want you to know how much I appreciate what you write.