Thursday, October 31, 2013
Day of the dead
On October 31, 1994, the city of Chicago experienced a torrential downpour.
Although the home town football team is famous for beating its opponents in inclement weather, the Bears managed to get trounced by the Green Bay Packers 33 to 6 later that evening at Soldier Field.
About an hour after returning from a business lunch with my new boss, John Platt, I was drying my socks in the microwave (seriously) when the phone call came from Minnesota. My mother called to let me know that my dad had had a heart attack while having lunch at their little house on 3rd Street in St. Paul. Although an army of paramedics arrived just a few minutes after she had called them, it was too late to save my dad.
Just as I think of my dad on February 3 (his birthday) , I also am reminded of him every year on the 31st of October, because that is when he left us for a new and better location. Although Halloween is usually a day of joy (especially for the younger generation) it always carries a sense of melancholy for my sister and me.
If you dig deeper into the origins of the holiday, Halloween SHOULD be a time of joy, not only for those who have lost loved ones on October 31, but other folks as well.
Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a three day Mexican festival that has ancient origins, possibly going back to the pre-Columbian times of 3000 years ago. In modern Mexico, the holiday focuses on family and friends getting together to pray for departed loved ones. The purpose of the meetings is to encourage visits by folks who are no longer with us, and the gatherings generally include offerings such as favorite foods, beverages, and memorabilia.
The offerings are called ofrendas, and may sometimes include items that would likely be considered unusual by most people. For reasons that I’ve explained previously, I brought a bag of oranges and 2 quarters to the ofrenda offering at a local church a few years ago.
Mexico isn’t the only country that celebrates the Day of the Dead, since it is celebrated in a number of countries in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. In 2004, I was stranded for 4 days in Hong Kong due to the fact that I had traveled there just before the Qingming holdiday (also called Grave Sweeping Day). Since the government office that I needed to go to for my visa was closed on the following Monday (Qingming) I had to wait until the following Tuesday to obtain the paperwork that I needed to return legally to my residence in Guangzhou, China.
I’ll never know for sure, but I strongly suspect that all the energy generated by the Day of the Dead offerings around the world will generate enough energy to bring the ghost of Larry Brennan a little closer to earth again.
After all, to quote one of my cousins (at his funeral), he was a really good guy.