Embracing mortality


LONG BEFORE I even thought of moving to Mexico I was a fan of the Day of the Dead tradition.

A Catrina stood on my bathroom counter in Houston.

But that fascination played no role in my choice of a place to live. It was pure happenstance that I landed in one of Mexico’s major hot spots for the Day of the Dead.

Even more good luck has found me living within walking distance of a generally excellent cemetery to visit on the Big Night. Being within walking distance is important because the traffic here on this day is a nightmare.

So, after doing some chores in the morning, we had the Honda in the carport by noon, and did not drive outside again.

Around 5 we took a walk to the neighborhood plaza for the heck of it, and we sat on a steel bench. I shot the photo above of the man toting flowers to the nearby cemetery.

I then pointed the camera in the other direction. As you can see, we had the plaza to ourselves because all of our neighbors were decorating graves in the cemetery.


We’ve visited that cemetery most years on the night in question, and the experience has been variable. Sometimes it rains, making a muck of things.

Some years, TV news crews have showed up with bright lights. One year, the municipality installed a huge spotlight on a high pole at the entrance, spoiling the atmosphere.

That’s gone now.

But when it’s just right, it’s spectacular, a very moving and incredibly beautiful experience.

Last night was one of those nights.

We headed out just after 7 because night had fallen. We walked the two blocks to the plaza, which we crossed diagonally. We continued two more blocks.

We crossed over the highway via a pedestrian walkway and looked down at the bumper-to-bumper traffic of clueless visitors heading elsewhere. Just a short walk farther was our huge neighborhood burial ground.

I did not take a photo because thousands of other people have already done it for me. Here is one.

As always, my child bride had built an altar in our living room. I photographed that later with my Fujifilm camera with no flash and with the living room lights off.

We have lots of deceased on my wife’s side due to the large family and unexpected deaths. Her mother died at 31. Two brothers were murdered in unrelated incidents.

(Note to my daughter: Your paternal grandmother and great-grandparents rest among the altar crowd. It’s a pity you’ve never come to visit. You’d love it.)


Life’s little twists

This year’s altar.

WHEN I MOVED to Mexico almost 16 years back, my mother was not pleased, to state it mildly. I moved anyway.

I visited her in Atlanta most every year until she died nine years later at the age of 90. Now she visits me.

Every November 1, she joins the Mexican relatives on the Night of the Dead altar my wife erects here in the Hacienda’s living room, and her being there means she comes to visit.

I wonder how she likes it.

In her physical life, she only came once. That was just a few months after I moved south. She flew down with my sister for a week. It was the only time she’d ever left the United States except for a vacation to Banff, Canada,  ages earlier.

My sister had never left the United States, and hasn’t since.

My mother now comes every year on this night. She rests there on the altar near my wife’s father, the doctor who died at just 61; her mother who died at 31; her two brothers who were shot to death in unrelated events; and an aunt.

I wonder what my mother thinks of her company, none of whom spoke English. But I guess that doesn’t matter anymore.

You never know where you’ll end up.