Remembrance and “Book of Life” Film

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Do you long for “built-in” ways of remembrance for someone you love?   The most common lament I hear from families is frustration over the subtle, and not-so-subtle silencing that emerges after the death of a loved one.  “Don’t talk about your sorrow,” counseled a widow in a letter to my mom after the death of my father. “People don’t want to hear it.”  Believing her, she privately grieved the end of a sixty-year marriage.

 

Also, in America’s mourning-avoidant culture, family and friends often hesitate to mention a deceased loved one for fear they will upset us.  Yet, most families long to feel more freedom to speak openly about the one they love.

 

Perhaps that is why I found the new film The Book of Life so enchanting.  Drawn from the Hispanic tradition of remembering loved ones during the Day of the Dead celebrations, Mexican director Jorge Gutierrez creates a dazzling animated musical comedy and adventure film.  With gorgeous visuals, the plot encourages the importance of “The Land of the Remembered” where spirits live on as long as loved ones preserve their memory.  In contrast, great sadness awaits those relegated to the Land of the Forgotten.  Through an explosion of color and movement, it shows children growing in understanding that death is a part of life, and that remembering loved ones strengthens family bonds.

 

DAY OF THE DEAD CELEBRATIONS
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I recall the first time I saw the strange sugar skulls, skeletons, and Pan de Muerto bread in bakeries while traveling in Mexico City.  “What in the world are these?” I wondered.  Then I learned of the Day of the Dead, which originated in Mexico and is now celebrated throughout the world on October 31, and Nov 1 and 2.  This tradition gives Hispanics a yearly “built in” cultural ritual to recognize family members and friends who have died. Usually, although these vary by villages and countries, the 1st of November is the Dia de los Inocentes or Dia de los Angelitos. This day is given to remember deceased infants and children, the little angels. This also parallels All Saints Day in the Catholic tradition.  November 2 parallels All Souls Day  and celebrates adults who are deceased.

 

 

 

 

FESTIVE RITUALS OF REMEMBRANCE 

Families plan far ahead on how to decorate graves and build ofrendas (altars) in preparation for a gathering of family and friends coming to remember and pray for those who have died.  Vibrant Mexican marigolds, candles, memorabilia from the deceased, sugar skulls, favorite candies, drinks,photographs and breads all add a festive personal touch.  Toys often decorate the children’s graves.  It gives families a time to reminisce, picnic, party, tell anecdotes, laugh, and pray.  One hope is that the deceased’s spirit will come back to visit and continue the spiritual bond in the family.

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I was fascinated to see a big display of colorful Day of the Dead house decor in our local World Market this year as Halloween and Day of the Dead dates merge.  My hunch and hope is that the conversations emerging from persons seeing the Book of Life will encourage all Americans to ask, “Don’t we all need more rituals that create ways of remembrance?”  Learning from the natural expressions around life and death within Hispanic communities just might break the silence surrounding families that live with loss and love.

 

Films often shape cultural change; could this be the enduring legacy of the Book of Life?  

 

For a joyful time of exuberant yet thoughtful entertainment, considering going to this kid-friendly film!  Then, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

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Pilgrimage (54 Posts)

Pilgrimage through Loss: Pathways to Strength and Renewal after the Death of a Child offers encouragement and information for other parents living in the long season of sorrow. Drawn from interviews from mothers and fathers on their grief journey, plus Linda Lawrence Hunt's memoir of their family's loss, it also includes recent research on grief, resilience, and creative healing.


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About Linda
For everyone, life sometimes brings shipwreck moments.

Ours happened when four friends woke us one beautiful May dawn to break the news that our 25-year-old married daughter Krista had died 7000 miles away while volunteering in Bolivia. Our hearts shattered, much like the shards of her bus that plunged over a mountain cliff.
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Desperate. Determined. Unwaveringly confident. In 1896, a Norwegian immigrant named Helga Estby dares to cross 3500 miles of the American continent to win a $10,000 wager. On Foot. BOLD SPIRIT: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk across Victorian America introduces readers to this fascinating journey of an audacious act of courage and love of a mother trying to save a family farm.

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Support for Parents

+ Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors On-line forum and website www.allianceofhope.org

+ American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO) (Formerly Candlelighters Childhood Cancer) www.acco.org

+ Compassionate Friends www.compassionatefriends.org

+ First Candle: www.firstcandle.org Support for Stillborn and SIDS deaths

+ Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide (LOSS) www.catholiccharities.net/loss

+ MISS Foundation (also in Spanish) www.missfoundation.org On-line support groups : Infant & toddler death and advocacy

+Parents of Murdered Children www.pomc.com

+ TAPS: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors: www.taps.org 1-800-959 3277 for survivors of military deaths