Celebrating El Día de los Muertos with Joe

Fall. The Season Joe and I loved best.

The rain came down, down, down in rushing, rising rivulets. Our yard was a muddy mess. The clock struck noon and the sun came out, flooding our yard with sunshine and warmth, just in time for our Halloween Open House. My relationship with Joe was like this: muddy, messy, and yet the sun always came out. In case you are wondering, the chocolate Dove bar I saved for him is gone from its hiding spot.

We made it through October, with a lot of love and support from family and friends. On Halloween, I put out a martini shaker, Joe’s favorite martini glass, a large bottle of Bombay Gin, and a jar of olives. Joe and Cole always went trick-or-treating in our neighborhood together, even when Cole could have gone with friends and even after he had gone with friends in other neighborhoods. After round one, they would head home so Cole could dump his bag of treats and Joe could fix a martini. In similar circumstances, other women might find wearing their husband’s old bathrobes reassuring, I find a martini glass and shaker on the counter reassuring.

November 2nd is the Day of the Dead, El Día de los Muertos. Five months ago on this day, Joe died. I think he likes this celebration being held on the same day he died. In fact, he is probably lobbying to have the celebration renamed “The Day Joe Died” and moved to June.

According to Aztec tradition, on The Day of the Dead, it is easier for the souls of the departed to visit the living. On this day, “One does not mourn for a departed one, for tears will fall in the path the soul must travel and the soul may slip and fall.” The idea of caring for Joe’s soul so it does not fall on its journey feels nurturing to me in a way I cannot explain. The Day of Dead celebrates those souls on their journey by remembering, living, and celebrating.

Cole’s school, (Chicago Waldorf School) will celebrate the Day of the Dead with an altar set up with photographs of the deceased, candles, yellow flowers called Zempasuchit, “Bread of the Dead” (a sweet bread), and candy skulls. Cole will add two pictures of his dad and a picture of his grandparents (Joe’s parents) to the altar. It is suggested that you fix the favorite food of the deceased, so we will celebrate El Dia de Los Muertos with enchiladas. Joe always said I could never fix enchiladas too often.

As the last leaves fall and November rolls in, everyone assumes the holidays will be hard for us. In reality, it’s the little things every day that are hard; the holidays just bring with them more little things. Today, I pushed my hands into the pocket of Joe’s jacket, pulling up the grocery list he had written for last year’s Thanksgiving. Ambushed, I was sent spiraling into the vortex called, “I MISS YOU SO DAMN MUCH!” Thanksgiving dinner, I can handle.

Joe made Thanksgiving dinner every year. He took care of the Big Things: turkey, two kinds of stuffing, Brussels sprouts, and turnips. I took care of the Little Things: shopping, cranberries, green bean casserole, rolls. Cole set the table and made favors. This year, Cole and a friend of Joe’s, along with his son will take care of the Big Things. I will take care of the little things, holding on tightly to the Thanksgiving grocery list. Joe, trust me, we won’t forget a thing.

Glad you were in my Odd neighborhood. Feel free to drop by any time. Odd Loves Company and odd loves you and you and you!! I would love to hear from you in the comment section of this blog, or on Facebook or Twitter!


6 thoughts on “Celebrating El Día de los Muertos with Joe

  1. I always love reading what you write about Joe and how you are dealing with the cards you have been dealt. When my father died (6 years ago), no one seemed to “get” that it IS the day to day “little” stuff that matters more than the “big” holidays. Well put.

  2. Ditto Cynthia. You are an incredible writer. Your strength (and sadness) bounces off the page! Thank you for sharing. You’re in my prayers

  3. Beautiful post with my favorite part, the surprise–the pocket.
    Who knew you would look in there? Joe. Got you past
    Halloween, right into Thanksgiving.

  4. I can see Joe and Cole right now, running down the alley and across the yards, with only a little cursing, chasing a large chocolate lab whose tongue flaps joyfully to and fro. or joe’s big hug, wild hair,eclectic taste in music, crazy politics….i still see JOE…living large.

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