Dia de los Muertos is a Celebration of Life!

November 2nd was Dia de los Muertos (the day of the dead) this year.  I was going to talk about this for the most recent Carnival of Aloha but I was too slow.  Talking about marigolds and a picture of these flowers was all I could muster.  The mystique of the marigolds intrigued a couple of readers and now I have to try to make this even more fascinating.

Birds watch over Puea Cemetery on School Street in Honolulu

I love how these white cattle egrets look so creepy sitting on those grave stones?  Most people refer to them as garbage dump birds but I’m going to go with Michael Walther at O’ahu Nature Tours and call them egrets.  Mahalo, Michael, for that information and reassurance!

Regular readers know how much I love and respect our graveyards.  Does this strike you as morbid?  It’s not!  Honest!  Let me explain.

CBS News Sunday Morning found itself on Halloween this year.  There were so many wonderful stories but I selected the best fit for this post.  I hope that link will work, at least for a while.  Fortunately for those strange people, like me, who are stricken with a touch of graveyard addiction, they spoke of all kinds of things like the tombstones of celebrities and some of the self-made monuments of the ultra-rich.

They even talked about the human fascination with, and dissecting of, the afterlife and near-death experiences that people often talk about.  I couldn’t help but be intrigued by America’s nerdy need to put a scientific explanation on it all.  Yeah, they actually think they might find one!  Good luck with that. Wonderful show, CBS, I so wish that I had taped it all!

What CBS missed, being stuck in Halloween, was a much more beautiful way to deal with the memory of our deceased families, friends, and yes, even celebrities.  I am anti-Halloween because I have read about its evil origins and, to be honest, it frightens me.  I love the silly dress up and the eerie nonsense, but the reality is not something I care to deal with if I can avoid it.

Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) puts the celebratory feel where it belongs — on treasured memories, not on ghouls and goblins.  Mexico doesn’t mourn their dead, they celebrate their lives!  What a beautiful way to remember loved ones and our ancestors.

I need to bring this all home to Honolulu.  Dealing with the memory of our loved ones and caring for their resting places is always a concern and very much a part of Hawaii’s culture, to be sure!  Sometimes the cultural observances of others overflow the borders of countries and are adopted.  Hawai’i should know all about this!

Don’t get me wrong; we celebrate too.  A good example of this is our celebration of the much revered King Kamehameha whom we remember with lei and a parade very year!  But, what do we do about our families and friends?  We take flowers, say prayers and/or recite words of love, and then weep.  I think I like the Mexican tradition better. 

I think we should blend the traditions.  Take flowers, say a prayer, recite a message of love, and then party!  Celebrate their lives and the people that they were.  What a wonderful tribute that is to them.  If they are still hanging around nearby (depending on your beliefs), they can join in and appreciate our efforts!

Marigolds from Home Depot

I know, you’re wondering, “Yes, but why the marigolds?”  My sister mentioned that they were a popular flower with spirits.  From what I’ve read, they are the flower of choice for Dia de los Muertos events.  Home Depot had a lot of them!  I noticed that many of them disappeared between the afternoon of November 1st and the morning of the 2nd.  Perhaps I’m not the only one?  Just an observation.

On November 2nd I quietly combined the traditions and took some marigolds, prayers, wipes, and water, and went graveyard hopping.  The sun was not always in my favor for picture taking but the photos are full of sentiment!  The places and the people may or may not be familiar to some but the message is universal.

Rose Pelayo stone at Puea Cemetery in Kalihi.

I started at Puea Cemetery because one of my readers who leaves comments from time to time told me that his grandmother was buried there.  I’m hoping that Rose Pelayo is Keahi’s grandma.  I have not seen him for a while so I hope he will let me know that I found the right lady!  If not, I’m still happy that I visited and prayed for someone there.  This little cemetery needs all the prayers and visitors that it can get!  These grounds are under the State of Hawaii’s jurisdiction and the State is in need of a reprimand but that’s another story for another time.

Nu’uanu has the best neighbors!  My dear friend’s grandmother is at Nu’uanu Memorial Park cemetery so I had to visit there.

Grandma Helen at Nu’uanu Memorial Park cemetery.

The sun was very warm that day and it was drying up my cleaning quickly!  The flowers seemed to like it though.

Zadoc and Lawrence Brown’s stones at O’ahu cemetery.

When it comes to upkeep and elegance, O’ahu Cemetery will not to be outshined by its neighbors.  It is worth noting here that my marigolds were not single flowers but rather a collection of little potted plants — that’s why they are not inside the vases.  The Brown family has a nice little area at O’ahu Cemetery and there is a lot of history there.  That is one thing that O’ahu Cemetery has a lot of — history!

Young Gill Jamieson buried at O’ahu cemetery.

I cannot, and will not, forget little Gill Jamieson whose story still shakes me because I know that story is what my own mother’s warnings were based on.  I washed his stone, gave him his marigolds, and told him that he didn’t die in vain.  His story has and will continue to protect children from the harm of messed up people like the one who kidnapped and murdered Gill at the tender age of 10.

Paticio and Francisca Yangson’s stone at Hawaiian Memorial Park cemetery.

Then it was time to shake a leg and move over to the Windward side and Hawaiian Memorial Park cemetery.  There are a lot of friends and family buried there.  I couldn’t find my own grandparents but I was able to find my husband’s grandparents.

James Wallace at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe.

Behind Hawaiian Memorial is another military cemetery, Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery.   This is my stepfather’s stone.  The red dirt doesn’t help photography either.  I set a rule at the start of this day that I would not cry.  This was a day for the celebration of their lives.  Remember I said we are supposed to celebrate rather than weep? Rule broken.  I couldn’t help it!  This is fitting since today is Veterans’ Day!  Jim was more than a soldier for our country; he was a soldier for our family.

Mililani Cemetery grounds.

Mililani Cemetery is the best kept cemetery.  The grounds people are going at it constantly, and it shows!

Albertina Botelho’s stone at Mililani Cemetery.

Albertina Botelho is buried at Mililani Cemetery.  She was always a very dear friend.  I still remember things she said to me and the things I learned from her.  In my senior year, only a few months before graduation, she asked me for a graduation picture.  A few days later she was gone.  I had already broken my no-cry rule once today; I broke it again as I watered her marigolds.

I said my little prayer about eight times that day and used a lot of Lysol wipes. I wanted to do this — to celebrate with these dearly departed souls because the opportunity presented itself.  So, I did.  While exhausting, this was an accomplishment that felt really good, inside and out.  Um, I think I really like marigolds!

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10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 sonya // Nov 14, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    i LOVED reading all your stories!! how nice are you that you took the time to drive all over the island and pay respects to all!

    keep it up!

  • 2 Evelyn // Nov 14, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Hi Sonya! I just wanted to make happy visits to those who have directly or indirectly made an impact on my life. Well, I tried to keep them happy. 🙂 Not always easy but so worth it!

    Thank you for visiting and for your kind comments.

  • 3 gigi-hawaii // Nov 16, 2010 at 7:56 am

    I love your photos! Those marigolds are the best. Unfortunately, they don’t last year round.

    Thanks for visiting my blog, Evelyn. Appreciate it.

  • 4 Denise // Nov 16, 2010 at 8:57 am

    This is such a lovely post. Hi Sonya, I followed you over from Gigi’s blog and have to say how much I have enjoyed visiting. What a lovely thing to do and I agree with you, celebrating a person’s life is a beautiful tradition.

  • 5 Evelyn // Nov 16, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Hi Gigi! Thank you for returning the visit! I was just happy to seen more Hawaii bloggers! Glad to have found you and hope we can connect more often. 🙂

  • 6 Evelyn // Nov 16, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Denise, thank you for following me back here! 🙂 Thank you for your comment and for appreciating the oddity of Mexico’s unique tradition. I just thought it was an amazing way of looking at things and a great way to keep the memory of the deceased very much alive and well! 🙂

  • 7 Becky Cook // Nov 16, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Evelyn, you always amaze me. Another wonderful blog. It is wonderful to know that all you honored that day are at peace and enjoying the beauty of heaven.

  • 8 sonya // Nov 16, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    evelyn! i agree…i love seeing all the local writers!!

  • 9 Evelyn // Nov 18, 2010 at 6:15 am

    Aw, thanks you guys! I honestly thought everyone would want to have me committed after reading this post. 🙂

    I do so love the graveyards and this is a much better way to celebrate the resting souls of friends and family than the “other” way just a few days before!

    @Becky, I know there are names familiar to you and maybe we can do this together and visit people from your life next November, too! We just need to get you here! Hopefully it won’t rain whichever year you decide to come. We’ll keep an eye on that!

    @Sonya, thank you for taking such an active interest. I’m seriously amazed and kind of relieved! Whew! 😉 I must admit, I didn’t think there would be many comments at all. Thank you!

  • 10 April M. Williams // Dec 26, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    My kids think it is weird to visit cemeteries though I find them fascinating. From he Trinity Church in New York to small farm communities, each has a story to full. The art work and symbolism is beautiful. Check out this video from Diamond Head Memorial Park to see the interesting headstone on Kam Fong’s grave. http://aprilmwilliams.com/2010/01/01/book-em-chin-ho/

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