Friday, December 3, 2010

Why I felt so alive while honoring the dead:

"Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors)."

This is actually a topic I've been meaning to write about for a month or so but haven't been able to find the words. Let's see if I can accurately express my experience today.

Ironically, the moment when I felt most alive occurred during the All Souls Procession this November, a huge celebration meant to honor "departed ancestors". In order to explain why this moment made me feel so alive, I have to give you a background story involving The Hospital Visit of 2009.

Last year I was in the hospital when Tucson's magical All Soul's Procession occurred. A friend came to visit me in the hospital and described her experience of being involved in the procession. Her story made me cry: it sounded beautiful and I missed it because I had stupidly gotten myself trapped in the hospital. Later that night there were images and video of the Procession shown on the news that we watched while working on jigsaw puzzles to pass the time. The Procession looked as beautiful as my friend had made it sound.

This year the Procession became a celebration to me not only of my departed ancestors but of the fact that I didn't depart. I wrestled with self hatred and despair and lived to tell about it. I realized how much I wanted to be and stay alive.

So when I came to the edge of the Procession and saw the costumes and floats I began to cry. I felt free...and I was reminded that I am alive. To follow today's prompt, here is that moment in detail:

The sun was beginning to set, so the sky was orange and yellow and white. The air was perfectly cool and fresh. Hundreds of people were milling about Fourth Avenue, wearing an array of incredible costumes that represented people who had passed away who they'd like to honor. People wore black and painted their faces like skeletons, or they wore elaborate dresses and glittery, homemade masks. Personally, I was wearing my Great Grandma Herzog's flannel skirt that she's given me and one of her brooches. I was also wearing a halter top- between the warm weather and the constant walking through a crowd it was warm enough for this outfit all night. 

 Everyone was occupied with a task, whether it was painting their faces, putting the finishing touches on their float, or taking pictures of the sights around them. I was somewhat preoccupied with the third option. There were so many sights that I wanted to remember and I wanted to be able to describe the experience to people after I left.

I think what was so magical about it was that so many strangers gathered for the same purpose: to honor people who had died before them and to remind themselves that death is never far; that their own lives are precious and short. This idea was represented and repeated in hundreds of different ways.

I'm rambling; I'm having difficulty describing the reality of the night. This is why I haven't written about it before! Let me leave you with a few pictures from the night and maybe in the future I'll be able to do a better job of explaining myself.

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