We met up with four other widows. My mother held flowers in her hand and I the tools necessary to leave my father’s tomb nice and clean. Maruxa had always made All Souls Day special, a tradition more closely related with the memory of the departed in the world of the living rather than a matter of faith.
I placed the flowers in the assigned space on the floor. They looked quite pretty, but Maruxa was not quite convinced and prompted me to place them on a granite vase close to the wall. It was hot, and when I finished, my mother gave me a small hoe: “Now remove those weeds.” The procedure was complete, and my father Dositeo was left well taken care of in his shining gravestone. Then, when I attempted to exit the iron gate surrounding his grave, I lost my balance and hit my forehead on one of the wrought iron decorative pikes. It’s silly, but I felt scared. I called out to my friend David, who was walking around the cemetery deciding whether to mow its grass and asked him whether he had some alcohol to clean the miniscule wound. He answered, “No, but the veterinarian is just down there.” And there we both went both to get the wound cleaned…And then I imagined my father cracking up with laughter.
Samhain, All Souls, Day of the Dead, Halloween…all depending on the place, religion or tradition. From the Celts in Galicia to the Pre-Columbines in Mexico and all through the multiple religions that adapted previous rituals, the fact is that all cultures share a moment of the year to remember, respect and recall their dead. Each one celebrates the day in its own way, and I—whenever I can—will keep the family tradition to clean the gravestone once a year even though my deceased father might remind me, with a small smack on the head, that it has been some time since I visited him.