Turkey Time & Helping Others Get Blogging

Every Thanksgiving, I get the same song stuck in my head:

Maybe it’ll be stuck in your head too now. Thanks a lot to my sister, who likes to sing this song as loudly as possible.

After helping make sweet potato pie, and eating a lot, and talking, I spent the rest of my Thanksgiving evening helping a fabulous 62-year-old I met tonight create a blog. She has a lot of opinions and learned how to use Skype recently, so I wrote out a step-by-step guide and we practiced posting a couple times.

Spreading the writing love, y’all! What’d you do this Turkey Time? Do your grandparents blog or tweet or facebook?


Dia de los Muertos, Los Angeles style

Here in the city of angels, we celebrated Dia de los Muertos last week, with an event at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

There were intricate altars for family members, to call them back to us. To appreciate and rejoice in their lives. Some had lights, and others had candy. Families sat by each one, smiling and sharing stories about their beloved dead.

Some had papier-mâché figures.

Some were people sized, and others were giants.

The marigolds, seen at every altar, are traditional flowers whose purpose is to call the dead back to us, to lead them home.

Altars included items and themes important to the dead, like this one from Alice in Wonderland:

There was a traditional Mayan dance, to call them back to us.

One had a snakes and ladders game, where you roll the dice to learn your vice or virtue, then earn the right to write a deceased loved one’s name on the board. I wrote small, but it felt good and right. Loss transcends culture, location, time. The particulars are personal, yet death wears a common shroud. The days of mourning are long, but the years are fast. When we remember together, in that communal remembering we bring to life those we are no longer with us.

I painted my face:

Later that weekend, in church, the service was on Lessons from the Dying. We did a choral reading of a Rumi poem I plan on using at my own someday future funeral. We heard the top 5 regrets of the dying, and I ticked them off in my head: improving, good, good, improving, maaaaaaybe.

As I grow older, I realize how repetitive life experiences are. No one has the same constellation of events, the same quirky characters and idiosyncratic specifics, but there are thick, common threads that bind us together. Someone has gone through the life event you’re experiencing. They survived. You will too. They probably even wrote about it. Why not learn from them? We’re not such special snowflakes. Might as well benefit from the bounty of others’ life experience.