Día de Muertos shrines

As our family just experienced the loss of an Auntie and Day of the Dead celebrations are soon upon us, it seems fitting to start a proper celebration this year. If you are reading this, living in North America, you probably shudder at the thought of celebrating death. It has been a topic I have often avoided discussing for fear of seeming too morbid.

In the process of moving towards only positive thoughts, (leaving behind anything like death), I am trying to live my life with more intention, more passion, more joy. This is a practice and it takes time. Sometimes I wonder if I am making any progress at all. In those moments I also wonder, what if I don’t finish and suddenly die instead? How will my husband and children remember me? As this frantic woman trying to cross off all the tasks on her “to-do” list?

Of course, a practice is never “finished”. That is the whole point of it. Little ways, each day, progress is made. Maybe our modern world just moves too fast. Slow, intentional and barely incremental change is too small to register. If you don’t move forward in big steps, you are perceived to be standing still, or worse moving backwards.

In contrast to always moving forward, I thought it might be helpful to look back. To honor those who have come before and be grateful for what they leave behind. I think that is the essence of the Día de Muertos celebrations and particularly the shrines.

But I don’t want more stuff in my house. I don’t have a place for a typical shrine and it doesn’t speak to me. But a carefully curated selection of digital items, paying homage, can easily be bound together and taken with me as I wander the world. I can be guided by the wisdom of the past anytime.

So I have started with my Grandmothers. I feel connected to them in small ways. Some experiences I know for sure and others are only from stories. With help from my parents, I am going to practice my first celebration this year. Somehow this process feels good, like I can add some joy in my current life, from the people who longer share it with me.

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