One of the most persistent and pernicious lies we tell ourselves is that we’re in this alone. Everyone around us is having a Pepsi moment while we’re wallowing around in the muck. If we’re ever brave enough to sit down and have an honest conversation with someone— and I mean anyone, take your pick, from the stranger on the bus to your colleague who you’ve known for twenty years— we discover that life puts its heavy foot equally on all our necks. One of the marks of healthy culture is to offer opportunities to reveal the lie of individual suffering and be together in the truth of our common griefs and losses.
And so, El Dia de Los Muertos. Went to the celebration in SF’s Mission District last night and carried along by the power of the Aztec Dancers and the Brazilian Maracatu drums, ended up in Garfield Park filled with the exquisite altars. Each uniquely and artfully arranged to honor the passing of a loved one, with flowers, candles, cut paper designs, photos, all put together with love made public. There were also hung papers on clotheslines to simply name the recently departed and here is where it struck me forcibly how we are all united by loss. Not a single person in the enormous throng of people who had not been touched by death, not a single one that would not continue to be touched by death, not a single one that wouldn’t one day be on that clothesline paper— that is, if there is someone left behind willing to take time to honor the moment.
To all my dear ones who have passed on, I public apologize for myself not making you a beautiful altar filled with the things that you loved in this world. But please know that I’ve built these altars in my mind— not the same as making it three dimensional in a shared community setting, but it’s a start. Next year I vow to do better. Meanwhile, please know that you are missed and forever loved.