After all, to the well-organized mind,
death is but the next great adventure.
The first time I became involved with preparing a Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) altar, I was volunteering at an orphanage in Colon, Queretaro, Mexico. The children brought me items that reminded them of some loved one who had died. I collected vegetables, cigarettes, photos, bread, beer, different kinds of food, toys, rosaries and musical instruments. I still hear their voices telling me, "He liked to eat carrots, he loved green chile, she ate salads, he smoked, this is a picture of my aunt, mother, dad, etc., my mother baked bread, my uncle drank beer, my sister loved beans, this was my little brother's toy top, this was my sister's doll, my dad played the harmonica, my mother prayed the rosary, and so on! When I had all of the items gathered, I began to prepare the altar.
I made it into three tiers and placed the different items on the large table. On the top I was told to put candles for each dead person and then an extra candle to make sure no one was left out! I arranged the rest of the items and I was proud of my first Day of the Dead altar. One of the nuns brought me a large decorated sugar skull. "We always have these special skulls on the altar," she said, "and yellow marigolds!" That night, some of the cigarettes and a bottle of beer disappeared. From then on, when it was time for bed I took down anything that might tempt the older boys and in the morning I would place the temptations back on the table.
The second time I helped set up a Dia de los Muertos altar, was at the Hispanic Office of the Archdiocese. It was an impressive altar with many of the same items that had been used in Mexico.
Today, after the mass at Spirit of Christ Catholic Church, we were invited to the Parish Center to see altars that had been prepared by some of the parishioners.
|Remembering loved ones!|
|This child showed me the|
skull she decorated!
|Decorated sugar skulls|
|A very small altar!|
|Tequila and tamales on this altar! Love the|
green skull and squash also!
|A mini-reunion with Sister Molly. It had been|
a few years since I had seen her!
To live in hearts we leave behind
is not to die. Thomas Campbell