Today is Día de Muertos — the Day of the Dead —one of the biggest holidays in Mexico, and its celebration has crossed the Texas-Mexican border. Tradition says during the time of the Aztecs, a month-long summer celebration was overseen by the goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead. After the Aztecs were conquered by Catholic Spaniards, the customs became intertwined with the Christian commemoration of All Saints' Day.
I love the tradition, mostly because it is so different from my Celtic Halloween tradition that fears death. Instead of scaring away ghosts, we welcome the souls of the departed on Día de Muertos.
Today I honor the deceased from my family two generations back: my maternal grandparents E.J. and Elise Porter Stone, my paternal grandparents Thomas J. and Elinor Meis Murray, my parents Thomas F. and Joyce Elaine (Lane) Stone Murray, my father’s sister Kathleen Murray Tarski and my mother’s brother Jack Porter Stone. My brothers and I are now the Elders of the family.
I also honor my childhood friend Charlotte Ann Stout Lynch. We became friends in the third grade. She grew up in a hotel with her father and grandmother. I lived down the street in a house my older brother dubbed the “slump,” part slum and part dump. I finished college in three years; Charlotte dropped out about 6 credits from having her bachelor’s degree. My dad convinced her to finish it long after she’d begun working as an accountant for Gulf Oil. After that, she earned her CPA and then went on to finish a law degree. That’s when I realized many people “stop out” of school rather than drop out. Only governmental agencies and thoughtless people label them as losers. I was maid of honor in her wedding; she held the reception for mine in her home. We were planning a girlfriends’ weekend getaway on a Mexican beach when she died from a blood clot, a complication from minor surgery. I still miss her.
I honor Johnny Campbell who taught me to kiss one summer night on the back porch. He was a senior and my older brother’s best friend. I was a 15-year-old high school freshman and instantly in love after that long, steamy kiss. My mother made sure I never got another by forbidding me to date him. I never quite forgave her until I learned many, many years later that my mother was 15 and a freshman in college (she was incredibly smart, don’t you know) when a football player asked her out. Now I understand that she knew the regret that could come from kissing a boy who was too old and worldly. I thought she was being mean, but she was being protective.
And I honor James Alexander Scott who I never married, but loved so dearly throughout high school. We were so innocent and so hot for each other. If you ever saw the movie “Splendor in the Grass,” you know the teenage angst we felt. He went to Viet Nam when he was eighteen, and although he returned, he never came back, if you know what I mean. Jimmy’s job was to put the American dead in body bags before sending them home. He became part of the walking wounded, and he committed suicide in his sister’s backyard when he was forty. I still ache thinking about the twisted pain he must have felt all those years, and I curse my government for continuing to send our young to war on foreign soil.
Today especially, I honor the souls of these dearly departed who remain in my heart. They were important people in my younger life, for they helped shape me into the woman I am. God hold them close and fill them with heavenly bliss throughout eternity.