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Photo by Tom Pablo, Andes & Amazon Semester.

A Celebration of Death

Earlier this past week I received some news of an important mentor from high school dying. This brought up a lot of past memories of my youth and wishing I could go back in time to this summer to reach out to her one last time while I was in California. Since receiving this news nearly everything around me has involved death, the heavy death, the type of death when even you’re the happiest it makes your heartbreak. I haven’t experienced losing someone close to me in a few years, it’s been a really hard week just processing the loss of a beautiful soul who touched so many young people’s lives.

To carry on the theme of death, which seemed to be the icing on the cake was the national holiday in Bolivia called Todos Santos. What follows next is the beauty of international travel, coming to a country and experiencing a holiday where even political protests are put on hold to honor those who have passed.

While I have only heard about certain bits and pieces of what one does to celebrate Todos Santos I was expecting a day of sadness, almost a mourning type of feeling. My expectations put me at the edge of my comfort zone.

When my host family and I were walking to the cemetery I noticed everything around me was filled with life. The street the cemetery is on was closed, colorful flowers, food from vendors, games for kids people, I quickly realized this was not a day for sadness it’s a day filled to give back life to those who have passed.

Full bands with trumpets and drums were playing in the cemetery along with prayers being said and bread being given to those who came to honor their loved ones. Big altars were created filled with bread and fruit This was the truest form of giving and receiving I have ever experienced. For example, we went to honor my host grandmas mother. Her nephew was there and offered all of us chocolate, once my family said a prayer they handed us a variety of bread and we hugged them all goodbye. There was so much giving going on around me at every moment. Something no travel guide book could ever prepare someone for.

There were moments throughout my day where I was reflecting on my community I grew up in back in the States. The memorial for my dear mentor was also happening during this time. I was sad at first but I knew in my heart this was exactly where I was meant to be. Celebrating her life in a culture where family and community are the most important.