“The border between the dead and the living, if you’re Mexican, doesn’t exist. The dead are part of your life…That’s why there’s Day of the Dead.”

– Sandra Cisneros

October brings about the start of the holiday season around here.

The air is cooler. We begin to think of all the family gatherings coming up through New Years. Halloween of course is the first of a stream of those gatherings. And, unfortunately, this will be the first holidays without my sister.

She pops up in my thoughts so much. While I’m driving and I hear a song on the radio. While I’m watching a movie and remember her odd movie or tv show quotes she would recite. While I’m at the grocery store and realize that they now have Halloween Egg Nog – damn, she made the best egg nog cookies!

And, it makes me realize how much I miss her and I start to cry. Right there in the dairy section of the grocery store.

Immediately following Halloween, for us, comes Dia de Los Muertos. For those unfamiliar, it’s a Mexican custom where we celebrate the life of those that have gone before us. It’s a celebratory view of life and death. We don’t fear death. We mock it, dare it, thumb our nose up to it. That’s why you see so many calaveras (skeletons) dancing and singing.

Of course, when it hits so close to home, however, we hate it, loathe it, recoil from it for coming in to our lives and snatching someone so dear. At least that is true for me.

This year, along with the photos of our grandparents and uncles and aunts on our ofrenda (our alter), will sit a photo of my sister Tish. Staring at us with her lovely, huge smile. Her bright eyes. I swear I can feel her with me.

For Dia de Los Muertos our ofrenda will have some items that are favorites of our departed – drinks, candies, fruit, bread – to welcome them back for the couple of days it is said they come to visit. And while I would wish for a visit from my sister, I hope she is actually in a peaceful place with her feet up relaxing for a change. Without a care, without pain, without worry.

I feel her with me all the time anyway. It’s as if she really isn’t gone. Almost as if she is on vacation and I’ll get to hear all her stories when she returns. She’ll laugh loudly and tell us of her adventures. What she ate. What she saw.

But, we’ll be ready for her and the rest of our departed family and friends if they do decide to come for a visit on Dia de los Muertos – All Souls Day and All Saints Day.

We’ll sit around the fire pit as we have in years past on Halloween, handing out candies to the trick or treaters as they come by. And, thinking of how much we miss my Tishy. And, how much more fun it would be if she were with us in person and not just in spirit.

She is part of our lives. She always will be.

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