Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Day of the Dead

Well, Bush. This is it. The Day of the Dead. Down here in Mexico, the “people of faith” believe that their dead loved ones return to visit them. They set out food and drink, along with flowers whose scent attracts the dead and shows them the way home. In this way, children can visit with their grandparents in their homes, lovers with their lost beloveds, widows with their departed husbands. A joyous reunion of a kind, then. Yesterday, we visited the main cemetery here in San Miguel de Allende and were much moved to see the loving care with which gravesites were cleaned with pails of water, some of them repainted with a fresh coat of colorful paint—bright blues, greens, yellows—and decorated with displays of flowers, some real, some gaudily artificial, but all placed with love and with respect.

And the families were already gathering at the cemetery yesterday. Today, we hear, there will be huge crowds of them, assembling at the graves of their loved ones, chatting quietly or sitting there together in quiet contemplation. And, watching them, I thought it sad that my own parents would have no place to return to—no ancestral home where their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren still lived, and where their own grandparents had lived so many years before. No flowers to lure them there, no food and drink for them to enjoy. (We discovered that the people here believe that the dead have partaken of their feast when the taste has gone.)

Our family is scattered, as are the vast majority of families these days. Especially, I think, in the United States, Bush. Even in Europe—that “old Europe” that your Rumsfeld so readily dismissed, remember?—there are still places where ancestral traditions continue. But in the USA? We have lost that geographical center to which our dead, if they chose to, could return. How bewildered they must be, floating around in the ether with no place to go! How cavalierly we treat those who have gone before. Only the elders of some Native American tribes, perhaps, understand and follow this ancient lore of heritage, this connection with the ancestors. And bless them for it. The rest of us have sacrificed it, I believe, greatly to our cost.

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