The Magic of Memories
Since marrying into a Mexican-American family, I've learned so much more about honoring loved ones who have passed. We have an altar at home that includes my husband's parents and grandparents. I love seeing their photos and the many small items that make us think of them fondly. Rather than making you feel sad, the space brings out smiles and conversations about times together. Now with my beloved dog Cleo getting closer to the time when she too will pass, I am making plans to include her. For many of us, our dogs are part of the family so I think that means they should get included in Day of the Dead festivities too.
Some veterinary hospitals are offering public altars for their clients, like this one here I saw at the San Francisco SPCA. It was beautiful to see the power of the human-animal bond displayed. While I appreciate the sentiment behind the Rainbow Bridge, and I believe that our faithful dogs will be with us in the after-life, I selfishly would prefer to have this time in November each year to openly celebrate Cleo's life and her place in our family.
We are family
Celebrating Day of the Dead means making the favorite foods of your deceased loved ones. If they have a grave you visit them and clean it on November 1. I think this signals to them that you want them to visit you. On November 2 you essentially have a party for them with lots of their favorite music, eating their favorite foods and toasting them with their favorite drinks. You are telling them that you love them, remember them, and want them to come visit you again next year. You want them in your life. Here in San Francisco we have been celebrating Dia de Los Muertos for 25 years with a procession and public altars. If you haven't gone before, it's worth joining in.
I love my dog and feel that she is a part of my family. When the day comes and she precedes me in death, I'm looking forward to celebrating her life with us each future November. It's probably a coincidence but I already know it will be no problem integrating her into the festivities. Her favorite music is classical, her favorite drink is water, and her favorite foods are fish and veg.
How do you feel about home altars for our pets and other family members? Do you celebrate Day of the Dead in your town? I'd love to read your thoughts honoring our family that precedes us in death - including our dogs.