Death is an intrinsic part of life, yet it comes hand in hand with grief, which is convoluted by nature and has a way of shaking us by the shoulders and forcing us to refocus: now that someone I love is gone, and mortality shows its mercilessly clean face, what are the first aspects of my life that pop into my head and grab every ounce of my attention by the lapels? Those are the things that are the most important. Scrap everything else.
Mexico has been practicing mourning particularly right (not that there really is a way to do it wrong, of course, and not that it is a competition) this whole time through the Día de los muertos (Day of the Dead) tradition. And while remembrance can take a myriad of different faces, I would argue that any semblance of it is key to living with loss. Today is a day when millions of people put flowers and food before images of their dead in an organized effort to love and honor those that were here before them. In a similar spirit, I give you literary flowers—snippets and quotes— to stir our living spirits and turn our inner eyes towards our memories.
“When great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.” —Maya Angelou, When Great Trees Fall
“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?” —Terry Pratchett, Going Postal
“There is no death, daughter. People die only when we forget them,’ my mother explained shortly before she left me. ‘If you can remember me, I will be with you always.” —Isabel Allende, Eva Luna
“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.” ―Isaac Asimov
“The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.”
― Czesław Miłosz, The Issa Valley
“Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the ways we expect.” Luna Lovegood, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“We never actively remember death,’ Odenigbo said. The reason we live as we do is because we do not remember that we will die. We will all die.” —Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun
“Love doesn’t die with death. Love is like liquid; when it pours out, it seeps into others’ lives. Love changes form and shape. Love gets into everything. Death doesn’t conquer all; love does. Love wins every single time. Love wins by lasting through death. Love wins by loving more, loving again, loving without fear.”
― Kate O’Neill
“The sorrow we feel when we lose a loved one is the price we pay to have had them in our lives.” —Rob Liano
“Grief, no matter how you try to cater to its wail, has a way of fading away.”
― V.C. Andrews, Flowers in the Attic
Death is not something we can or should put a stop to, as tempting as it may be to seek its antidote. What we can do, however, is to put a pin in the marvelousness of a person who is no longer among us, and feed it like a well-watered orchid so that the spirit of love—our person’s particular brand of love—lives on. On this Day of the Dead, I hope we all have someone to remember.
feature image via glamour mexico