Yesterday was the Day of the Dead, or All Soul’s Day. Although there are various renditions of this holiday depending on geography and religious faith, the main idea is to honour the dead on this day. My own experience of this day is in Mexico, where it is believed that the souls of the dead can come back for a day to spend with loving relatives. It is moving to witness so many people openly honouring the loved ones they have lost, and, since losing my own partner, I have tried to re-member him consciously on this day with my children.
But this year, I had forgotten that the Day of the Dead was upon us until I woke up from a short nap having dreamed of my deceased husband, Quique. In the dream, I had been looking at my son who is 8. He was sort of crouching on the floor and I felt a need to pick him up and hug him. As I bent over to lift him, he was the 8 year old boy I see every day. But as I lifted him into my arms, he began to cry and he turned into an infant; the six month old version of himself, as he had been when Quique was alive. I comforted him but he was unable to tell me what was wrong. It was then that Quique asked me what I thought might be the problem. Quique suggested that was perhaps our son was teething. It was a conversation between two concerned parents like many we had had. He comforted our son and soothed his tears.
As he held our son and quieted his crying, he asked me to look at his back because he had been scratched by something at work. He lifted his shirt and I saw some minor scratches on his back. I passed my hand over his skin. I felt him. And then I woke. It was then that it dawned on me that I had been dreaming of Quique. It has been quite some time since I have had a dream with Quique. What lingers with me is the extraordinary ordinariness of our conversation. The absolute normal feeling of just being with him as we once were: a happy married couple, companions, partners, friends. There was no fanfare because he was dead. He just was. I just was. We just were. Together. Normal.
And the feel of his skin. The feel of his back on my fingers. Normal. Familiar. Loving. It has been six and half years since I’ve felt his back and yet it felt like the most normal and familiar thing in the world to me. That lingered with me.
Later, I remembered it was the Day of the Dead. I was walking the trails near my house reflecting on how good it felt to be so closely connected with Quique again. It was so lovely to feel that close, if even for a few moments. And then I began to wonder if he had come to me. I began to imagine that he had come to me to remind me it was the Day of the Dead; reminding me that he needed to be remembered. But in thinking about it as I walked, it felt more like a gift of him remembering me. I realized that I need to be remembered too. I would like to believe that he remembers me as much as I remember him. I want to believe that he still loves me, he misses me and he can come to my dreams to remind me of that. It may be magical thinking but it is comforting to consider.
I often feel like we have a responsibility to the dead to remember them. But on this particular day it felt just as important that they remember us. I hope that they can. I hope that they do. I play with the idea that my dream was just that: Quique letting me know that he remembers me. He has not forgotten. Nor have I. We still serve that purpose for each other: we help give meaning to our existence here on this earth by remembering and loving.