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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Honoring Loss

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 this month.

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 memories.

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