Yesterday a friend left the planet, suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving a new, loving relationship, a large, loving family and a lot of bewildered friends and acquaintances who cared about her. What do you do when someone just ups and leaves without saying goodbye or giving any notice of their departure? No illness, no accident to account for their abrupt departure, no note of intention. Just gone.
My friend, who would actually fall into the category of fond acquaintances, was found yesterday morning sitting in her chair, gone. Perhaps a heart attack. She was a lovely, caring and kind woman. If she had known she was going, she would have left a note or reached out to tell someone what was happening. She must have “died peacefully,” but we don’t know. Her loving partner was sleeping and the rest of us were in our own worlds, unaware of what there was no way to be aware of.
What do you do when someone goes away and you know they won’t be back, that you won’t have a chance to say anything that was left unsaid. What do you do with the hole that their going leaves? How do you avoid feeling like swiss cheese in this time of life when more and more people are leaving?
Somehow, because I’m in a foreign country connected to the rest of my life by only a thin, electronic string, I am feeling lost and alone. I am too far away to huddle with the people who also cared for this woman. While I am staying in a lovely home with kind, caring people, I don’t really know them and they don’t know me. We can’t gather in this hour of loss.
Here in Mexico, preparations are beginning for one of the biggest events of the year: the Day of the Dead which begins this year on Saturday, November 1 and ends on Sunday, November 2. Traditions connected with this holiday (holy day) include building private altars called ofrendas, honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts.
I believe it is important to remember and honor the dead and every year, the number of people to be honored grows larger. However, I wonder if the additional purpose of this celebration is to honor the living, to reflect on our own lives to make sure that we are living it to the fullest, to make sure we have said what we wanted to say to everyone who is important in our lives?
Perhaps we need to remember and honor the dead but call it the day of the living, a day for righting old wrongs, telling those we love or those who are important to us how we feel. Perhaps it is a day to honor our own lives and the endless connections to others that make up the web of our lives. Perhaps that would be the best way to honor those we’ve lost.