I watched as my 11-year-old son took away a small piece of napkin from his little brother Andrew so that he wouldn’t choke on it. Andrew is 3 years old and has Down syndrome. Andrew did a fake cry when Alexander took the piece of napkin away from him. He then immediately smiled and hugged his big brother tightly around the neck. It was pure joy to watch my two sons smile out of love for each other.
This interaction reminded me about Dia de los Muertos. We are not from a Latin American family, but I greatly admire their customs and culture. Dia de los Muertos celebrates the feasts of All Saints Day and All Souls Day by teaching about the communion of Saints and the souls in Purgatory. On All Saints Day and All Souls Day, families will place photos of loved ones on a small altar called an offrenda. The deceased loved ones are honored when their photo is placed on an offrenda. So, what does Dia de los Muertos have to do with my two sons hugging after big brother rescued little brother from choking on a napkin? Plenty.
Dia de los Muertos encompasses honoring the saints and praying for the souls in Purgatory. But what if every day was Dia de los Muertos? When we celebrate this great feast, we celebrate the love of deceased loved ones. In doing that, we can also honor our living relatives. When my children hug each other and smile out of pure love, then they are honoring each other and the God that created them. The saints that have gone before us consistently preached the message of the importance of love in the family.
On All Saints Day, we remember and honor the triumphant saints in Heaven. It is trouble that always proceeds triumph. Each saint had their own bit of trouble to overcome, leading to their triumph in Heaven. Alexander stopped Andrew from choking on a napkin. This was the trouble that led to the triumphant hug between brothers.
On All Souls Day, we pray for the souls in Purgatory. We remember that our prayers and participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments can be used to help the poor souls in Purgatory. By consistently doing a daily Examination of Conscience, we recall our words, thoughts, and actions in hopes to make reparation with God and thus join him in Heaven when our time on Earth has come to an end.
As Catholic special needs parents, we know that our patience can be tested at great lengths. May we make a good Examination of Conscience at the end of each day and participate in frequent confessions so that we can find internal peace. May we be strengthened and renewed by the saints who have gone before us, paving they way in overcoming lack of patience while setting the example of overcoming trouble with triumph.
May we remember our deceased relatives and honor them with fervent prayers during these days of Dia de los Muertos, all while never forgetting to pray for the souls in Purgatory.
Erin Thielman is a mother of three, and speaker, who blogs at www.erinthielman.com.