Hello and welcome to my cheery little post about death.
No don’t run away! I promise it will be ok.
Halloween may be over for another year (boooooooo…) but thanks to the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead to you and I) we can eek out the spooky shenanigans for a couple more days!
Celebrated over November 1st (All Saints Day) and 2nd (All Souls Day) Day of the Dead festivities honour the dead and celebrate their reunion with family and friends. The celebration ensures that the dead are kept alive in memory and spirit, still members of the community.
Growing up in a Catholic Irish family, the subject of death never felt taboo. The dead and living openly share the same world for a few days after passing away bound together by the traditional Irish wake.
Both my maternal grandparents lived and died with us.
‘Laid out’ in bed, they were surrounded by visiting friends and family in the days leading up to the funeral. My Mother recalls on one occasion worrying that nobody was in the room with our Grandmother. She ran upstairs to find my brother and I, children at the time, sat on the bed either side of her chatting away.
Wakes are an opportunity to pay respects, say goodbye and support loved ones at a sad time. Celebrating the lives of those we have lost, reminiscing over cups of tea or often something a bit stronger.
We can’t avoid death forever, so we may as well talk about it, plan it (my parents have already bought their own coffins!) and approach it in a way that celebrates life.
Yes it’s sad, but it’s also inevitable. Life’s too short, You only live once, Love the life you live and countless inspirational quotes remind us of this regularly. My personal favourite is a little more, erm, to the point.
‘Memento Mori’ – Remember that you will die.
Remember that you could die at any moment.
Remember death and you can’t help but celebrate life in some way.
Do the thing that scares you and the other thing you’ve been avoiding.
Tell them you love them.
Say ‘Yes’ to things (and just as importantly say ‘No’ to things).
Don’t be a dick.
A lot of ‘Momento Mori’ artwork is associated with the Day of the Dead festival but it’s a theme that runs all through the history of art. Almost always sombre in tone, depicting a skull with an hourglass or clock (tick-tock, tick-tock), maybe some fruit or flowers and generally, well, pretty depressing. If I’m going to be inspired to celebrate life, a dark gloomy image just isn’t going to gee me up, sorry!
So I’ve taken matters into my own hands, literally, and carved my colourful offering to the world of Momento Mori art!
See? Not so morbid. This little guy hangs above my desk, keeping me company and making me smile. A cheery little note to self: remember death and celebrate life.