I can't ever find a meaningful way to mark these occasions. I've lit candles, many many candles. My mother was always finding a church wherever she was (despite being an exceptionally lapsed Catholic) and lighting a candle for some or other person she was worried about. We went the morning after she died and lit candles in York Minster and though the gesture was absolutely right, one she would have absolutely done herself, it was hollow for me. Everything I've tried feels empty. I've sat in the undertakers with my sister and a Diptyque candle, and a coffin, neither of us quite sure what we thought we were doing, I've been to a tree planting, I've been for ceremonial afternoon tea at Bettys Tea Room...But I can't find a single thing to do on these days that feels right for me. I suppose I still think there's nothing right about her dying; a decorous, fitting tribute feels inappropriate. It suggests a finality I don't feel.
I suppose anyone who has been through a big loss knows what she is talking about - "Everything I've tried feels empty. Sigh.
Today is Dia de los Muertos, a joyous Mexican celebration of those who have passed on before. Family and relationships are tremendously important in Mexico. Of course, they are important everywhere, but Mexicans seem to have a strong and special warmth for family that they extend far past death, recognizing that just because people's bodies are no longer with us, that doesn't mean that those people aren't still in our lives.
As I prepare for the holiday, which we celebrate at church, I have of course been thinking of Laura and Curt. They knew each other well and had great affection for each other. I hope that wherever they are, that their paths cross frequently. The thought of them hanging out together gives me great comfort.
So in honor of Dia de los Muertos, let me share a little Curt and Laura story.
The house I lived in with Curt had a terrible ant problem. While this worried me a bit, it sent Curt into a frenzy.
He tried to stop the ants with every non-toxic method known to man. He put the cats' food dishes into little moats of water. He sprinkled boric acid on ant trails. He used Windex and Simple Green.
And still the ants came.
One time when Laura was visiting, she saw Curt on his ant hunt. He had been sticking his head in the back of the cabinets with a flashlight, hunting ants.
A week after she went home, a package arrived in the mail for Curt. It was a big bag full of plastic glow-in-the-dark ants.
The note said "I thought these would be easier for you to find with your flashlight."
That's the kind of person my sister was. Always thinking of other people.
Edited to add: 10 seconds after I published this post, I walked into the kitchen to find one of my cabinets infested with ants, which had never been a problem here before. Ok, you pranksters. I get the picture. Knock it off! Love you two.
Me & Laura on the beach in 1983.