Marigolds and Sugar Skulls
“I’m going to the cemetery,” I flatly told my husband. “I need some time alone.”
He looked at me. “Go ahead. Be careful out there. Are you sure you don’t want us to come along?” He knew I hated driving, but I felt compelled to go. He knew I’d be crying.
I needed to do this alone. After work on Friday, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some marigolds. Flowers were important in Dia de los Muertos; they represented the fragility of life, and the bright colors of orange and yellow attracted spirits and guided them. I found a bunch, along with some mums, and then headed over to the bakery section. Another important part of the tradition was bringing favorite foods of the loved ones to the cemetery as part of an offering to further encourage the spirits to come. I ended up with a package of pastelitos de guayaba and circus peanuts for my father, Kedem Tea Biscuits and a shot of Benedictine for my mom, and some sugar skulls for both of them.
I drove down to Dade City and pulled onto the narrow road in front of the memorial parking near the front of the columbarium. I cut the flowers, opened the packages, poured a shot, and brought them to the white marble sepulcher. My breath caught when I saw the bronze plaque with both their names on it. It had only one name etched on it a few months ago. I placed the marigolds in the flower holder and placed a framed photo of my parents and cousin on top. Beside it I placed the pastry and cookies, ants appearing out of nowhere. The sugar skulls, in bright hues of blue, green, and orange, represented the souls of the departed.
I knew one day they had to die; it’s part of the natural order of things that parents die before their children do. My body felt as if it were being squeezed, finding it harder to breathe. I needed a tissue and headed back to my car. That’s when I heard it.