My family recently watched the Disney movie, Coco, and the main theme has me pondering on the differences of death among cultures. In the movie, the primary character learns of the importance of Dia de Muertos, or “Day of the Dead” and the significance it has for his family.
From Wikipedia, “The Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular, the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican ancestry living in other places, especially the United States. It is acknowledged internationally in many other cultures. The multi-day holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.
Seeing the family display and how they took care to put out their loved one’s photo, along with an item that represented them, made me think of how opposite that is for most in the American culture. Here, death can be taboo, especially when it is the death of a child.
If we remember or honor our child annually, it is seen by some as we’re not moving on or dealing with death in a healthy manner. About the only similarity, we have here is Memorial Day, which wasn’t even created for the purpose it is primarily used today. Or October awareness month, but it mostly for pregnancy and infant loss not that of a child.
The biggest difference with most American observances versus other parts of the world is that the ceremony of death is a celebration of their loved one’s life. And it includes all those who have been lost.
For us, the anniversary of our child’s death will forever seem difficult to celebrate. Instead, we remember who he was by doing random acts of kindness on that date. Every year I pause though, wondering whether we should include others in the day and how it might be viewed. His birthday has been bittersweet as well, for how do you remember a milestone that doesn’t occur? In our hearts, our boy is forever 14.
Related: Thoughts On Her Anniversary
Coco had me longing to see cultural changes regarding death. We should celebrate and remember the lives of our loved ones, no matter the age they passed. They were loved then and continue to be, even if no longer with us.