Sunday, November 1, 2009

El Día de los Muertos

El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) is tomorrow, November 2nd. It is no surprise that the late autumn is a time to remember the departed. In the northern hemisphere, we witness the temperatures dropping, the sun lower in the sky as the days get shorter, and the death of annual vegetation. Here in New England, this takes the form of a vivid display of bright foliage.

Today (El Día de los Santos, or All Saints Day) was extremely beautiful, unusually warm and even sunny. I took a bike ride to the Mount Auburn Cemetery, one of the most beautifully landscaped cemeteries in the area. It was an appropriate day to take in the beauty of fall while contemplating our mortality.

One of my favorite reflections is found in Psalm 90 where one translation reads: “teach us to number our days that we may learn your wisdom.” Yes our days on earth are numbered, they are finite. But we must embrace our transitory existence and not be afraid of or obsessed with our eventual death. That is the wisdom we must learn, so that we can make the most of our lives.

The Psalm also says “for a thousand years to you……is like the passing of a single day.” This contrasts the eternal nature of God to our brief existence, with an understanding that time can be experienced differently, something that would be embraced in Einstein’s special relativity centauries later. Our lives pass in snippets of time, maybe a century at most. God spans the centuries (“por los siglos de los siglos”).

So, what becomes of us? Do we wither and fade and our life is extinguished, like the annual flowers in my garden with the killing frost? Christianity, Judism, Islam, and other faiths embrace an afterlife in heaven with God. Hinduism professes reincarnation. Others think death is the end. We don’t know the answer.

But while I was there in the cemetery, one thought came to me. I do know what will happen come April. Those same trees now displaying their brilliant foliage, after 4 months where their branches lay bear through winter winds and snowfalls, those very branches will bud forth in a glorious display of spring colors. Hope and life springs eternal.


Amy said...

I like this post, well said!!

Amy said...

Like this post, well said!!!