Only a few years ago, I was enlightened by a friend regarding the history
behind what are commonly known as sugar skulls, which are depicted on our cover
Originating in Mexico and
celebrated widely in Latin America and within the Hispanic community, Dia de
los Muertos – The Day of the Dead, is a celebration of life honoring departed
loved ones. Marked by parties, food and drink, the festivities celebrate the
lives of loved ones in a joyous manner aligning with activities the deceased
enjoyed while living.
A timely celebration this year,
not only because our feature article by Ronica O’Hara, “Dying Well, Four Steps
to a Good Death,” offers tips on how to prepare our lives for death while
living, but also because of a recent transition within my family this summer.
Our Natural Pet department also
deals with death and grieving in “Honoring the Loss of a Pet, Simple Ways to
Grieve and Heal” by Marlaina Donato who discusses practical ways to allow the
grieving process for the gentle and gradual healing of our hearts following
such a loss.
November 26, 2021 marks what would be
the 69th birthday of my dear sister Donna, (Donna-ReeRee as she is fondly
referred due to her middle name, Marie). She is in the far right of the photo
accompanying this letter. Never intended for this wide of an audience, this
photo is one of my favorites as it authentically portrays her abundant love for
laughter and life.
The other sibling you see,
Colleen, happened to be my “victim” in this photo. We made a deal to press our noses
against the glass for a funny photo at our nephew’s wedding reception back in
1989. Clearly, I didn’t follow through on my end of the bargain, contributing
to a silly memory which continues to satisfy with giggles, spurring happy
For me, one of the most painful
aspects of losing Donna’s physical presence, has been the years of joyful
living that her multiple diagnoses robbed her and her family and friends of for
over 30 years. Throughout her illnesses, there were pockets of hopeful times when
it felt as if she was “back” and had found the magic pill that would be the
cure-all to give her back the life that she so enjoyed.
In the end, that was not meant
to be. After, literally, countless hospital admissions these last few years,
her body finally succumbed peacefully in the middle of the night on August 22,
2021 amid her final conversation with the incredible man she had boldly declared
would be her husband (Dennis) when she was 7 years old.
This page isn’t
long enough for the tribute that could be paid to Dennis—our dear
brother-in-law, father, uncle, brother and Gramps—who stood faithfully beside
her, carrying her throughout the indescribably challenging bouts of sickness
and despair they faced together. Suffice to say, he’s one-in-a-bazillion and
our love and respect for him knows no bounds.
Thank you for
allowing me the space for a little more of the gradual healing required to
eventually remember Donna without the accompanying tears and heart-tugs of her
physical loss. The day after Thanksgiving, on her birthday, our family will be
celebrating her life in the manner of Dia de los Muertos, with joy and laughter
as she would most surely approve. My faith helps comfort me knowing she’ll be
there “with bells on”.
May you have many opportunities
this month to share in love and joy with your loved ones as we celebrate this
time of thanks-giving!
With peace and deep gratitude,
Maisie Raftery, Publisher