Thursday, November 5, 2020

Día de Muertos (José and Denise)

Last Sunday was Día de Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead Celebration. It’s a time to celebrate the lives of our deceased friends, family, and loved ones through food, offerings, and sharing their best stories so they will be remembered with joy instead of sorrow. One of the most important aspects of Día de Muertos is passing stories and traditions to younger generations, and older bud José did just that for a friend of mine.

My friend’s great grandparents came to the United States from Mexico a while ago, back when teachers would beat children for speaking Spanish in the classroom. For generations, her family refused to pass down their traditions and language because they feared it would keep their children and grandchildren from succeeding in the United States. As a result, my friend wanted to honor her family through Día de Muertos, but didn’t know how to do it accurately. I introduced her to José who introduced his friend Francis, and Francis hosted a night of sharing her own traditions and stories to a new generation.

In honor of Día de Muertos, we’re sharing stories of celebrating the deceased in our lives:
José Dominiguez
Behavior in Funerals
Being in funerals is not of my favorites, nevertheless I want to relate several personal experiences related with such happenings. Age has nothing to do with dumbness so was the case when at my 25 years of age I said innocently “My compliments for this occasion” to a sobbing widow instead of expressing my condolences, obviously my greeting come from my unconscious as a honest remark or from my dense neurons as an stupidity. Years later I went to a funeral house because a 12 year old son of a dear friend passed away and at the moment I faced Manuel my friend, the only thing I could say with trembling voice was “Manuel, I don’t know what to say” but he understood my silliness and embracing me said: “Thank God I was blessed with the presence of my son for 12, years”. When my father died I was so close to him that some one asked “How come you are not crying for your father” and I answered:” “When in life I try to be near to him, I knew his feelings in regard to death, and I can tell you he was waiting for this moment as something dear, now that he is dead I know that this is what he was expecting with patience and equanimity.” With Ramon, my second oldest brother I learned how powerful it is to say farewell words in funeral conditions. I saw him at least 4 times when in funerals he always stressed, and in a very dubiously manner, how that he had witnessed in the dying persons their conversions to Jesus. Many years later when I experienced my wife’s death I become totally silent, astonished by her loss, unbelieving what had happened, because until the end I was waiting for her recovery; after her death I painfully fall in a twilight suspense because I didn’t knew what kind of solitude I was going to embrace without her. But my main story in this essay is related to Anita’s funeral. In 2013 at El Paso, Texas, Anita, who was married with my nephew Robertito, died after suffering many years of lupus. Maria and I went one February Saturday night to the funeral house. The big room, where the open coffin was exposed, was almost full. At the end of the room was a big stage. At the right was Anita, at the center a podium with microphones and to the left, hanging from the ceiling a large screen showed continually photos of her family pictured in past happy moments. From the speakers Beatles’ songs emerged swinging through the atmosphere; very clearly I heard those words of: “Let it be”. I decided to tell personally my farewell since I loved that girl as a beautiful human being full of love and kindness. Before arriving to the coffin I noticed that several women were around her praying in a very intense manner; at the same time they touched her with force, then, lifting up their arms insisted in something I quite didn’t understood. I approximated in order to press the ladies to leave because there was a line of persons with the same intention as I. Being near to the group I noticed that they were a group of Christians praying with the hope that in a providential display God will give Anita her life again. I decided to address to Anita a few words from my heart at the same time that looked her peaceful and smiling face. Then I disappeared leaving the group in their intense effort of resurrection. After waiting a few minutes the Christian Church Minister opened the celebration of her death. Maria, my brother Roberto, and myself were perhaps the only non Christians in the gathering. Several speakers took the podium and praised Anita’s virtues and elevated their prays to God in many different ways remembering her as a true righteous Christian. The most outstanding of the speakers was Roberto Jr, Anita’s oldest son who did a remarkable resemblance of his mother embellished by copious biblical cites spoken in such emotive and wise way as if Jesus himself was inspiring his words. After him the minister told us: “Well in case that I need a substitute in our church I know that Roberto will be my best pick” and then invited us to participate. Maria asked me to say something so I decided to take the micro. I was not feeling sure about that because my discourse would be by all means quite different and the public will catch immediately the words of an infidel. Nevertheless, my words, I thought, will be not to please them but to honor Anita’s memory. So I told the audience: “I’m not a person acquainted to the Bible, so please I beg your forgiveness for my omission of the Holly book that is out of my comprehension, I just want to say words that come from my heart. Since I met Anita at the University Of Texas at El Paso before she married Robertito, I always believed that he was a very lucky person because Anita was an exceptional human being, full of joy and compassion. Since then till now for me she has been always a sweet memory, a joyful experience, a permanent melody, like the shine of a smile, like the flight of a butterfly.” I ended my discourse and downed the stage stair feeling happy about having the chance to meet Anita in my life time.
Denise W
I’m Not Going to Have a Sad Day
Well basically next Wednesday, October 14, would be six years that mother went to be with the Lord, and so I’ve decided to celebrate this year with things we did that were fun. I’m going to try to put in my heart that I’m not going to have a sad day. Why would I have a sad day? I want to remember my mom and I want to remember the fun things we did. And one thing she loved to do was to travel. We spent a lot of time in New York. She also loved plays, Broadway plays. So she said, “Denise we gotta get a ticket to Lion King.” I said, “Okay, sure.”
So I bought a ticket to Lion King in New York and we stayed at the Hilton Town Square because we arrived in the afternoon, we had lunch, and the play was at night. So she really truly enjoyed the Lion King, the music, particularly the song ‘He Lives in Us.’ She was singing it over and over and over and over. She saw that song from a very spiritual point of view. And another play we enjoyed was Aida. She loved Aida. Aida was very different. We did see that here in Philadelphia. I think it was Walnut Street if I’m not mistaken. Then we saw Beauty and the Beast. She enjoyed Beauty and the Beast. We also saw concerts such as there was a lady could sing like Mahalia Jackson, and so the play, I think it was called ‘Mahalia,’ so we went to see that in person. James Cleveland was another gospel singer that she loved and I loved. We went to see that play. We also saw most of the plays in Lancaster, PA. Lancaster, PA Sight and Sound Theater, that has religious plays based on the Bible, so we enjoyed those plays too. But, next Wednesday is the anniversary, it will be six years.
One thing we did, I’m originally from West Philadelphia, and when I was a young lady, about six or eight, a little girl, we would go to a place called a Jamaica Inn in West Philadelphia. There we would have my favorite meal, which was egg foo young. While dining there, I would hear in the background Diana Ross’ music. Diana Ross for example the song ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ and that era. Diana Ross- I mean the Supremes. That was before she became Diana Ross. So, I decided, long story short, to recreate next week. I want to have egg foo young, and play Diana Ross on YouTube and then maybe play some of the music from the showtunes of Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, et cetera and Aida of course. And I thought I would remember her in a way that was uplifting and just kind of recreate some the things that we did and enjoy. And I guess that’s what I love about my mother. She was always going to, I mean she always took me to Ice Follies when Ice Follies were popular, a circus when a circus was in town. Whatever was in town, or the zoo, of course we went there a million times, but whatever was in town or a play or some cultural event, my mother would be sure to take me. And I enjoyed that part of her, and that’s the part of I want to recreate next Wednesday, God willing. That’s all.

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And don't forget to maintain contact with the older buds in your life. If you can't be there in person, please call them, email them, or message them on social media. And if they're using teleconferencing or remote events for the first time, give them a call and help them set things up. Check in on them to see how well they're getting used to these programs. Buy them a computer or an internet package if they don't have one of their own. It's a human right, after all.

And if we missed you last week, Happy Belated Halloween! Enjoy our costumes!
Curated by Caitlin Cieri