Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dia de Los Muertos: Honoring my loved ones

It may not be fashionable in these times of creeping xenophobia, but I've always admired the celebration of Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) that takes place on this date throughout Latin America ... and with our changing demographics, increasingly here in the US.

At the core of the festivities is the honoring of loved ones who have passed on, and that's a tradition that most Americans, including myself, neglect far too much. Our society has always overly concerned itself with the present and future, at the expense of reconciling its past. That's understandable for a country that prizes assimilation above the preservation of cultural identity, but much is lost in the forgetting.

To make personal amends and lead by example, I'd like to use the occasion to recognize three of my guiding spirits. In this space, I'll construct a virtual altar at which I'll try to feed the memory of my adored dead with loving words. The joyous celebration of the holiday views death not as an ending but as the next stage of human existence. By invoking the spirits of our ancestors, we keep their energy alive, and I know that each of these three people still exist very vividly in my heart and thoughts.
  • My grandfather Anthony was a quiet, kind and patient man. He was dedicated to his family and learned to adapt himself to whatever profession would put food on the table during the hard years of the Great Depression. He valued the weight of his words and didn't use them capriciously. He was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. I miss the sweetness of his smile.

  • My grandmother Rosa was a woman small in stature but big in heart and intellect. She took great pride in her Italian heritage, and highly prized the benefits of formal education. She was fiercely independent by nature, but sadly limited by the circumstances of the time and place of her birth. I'll always remember the brilliant sparkle in her eyes whenever she greeted me with a hug, and the passion with which she discussed politics.

  • My father, Tony, was a man of strong convictions. He was very loyal to his family and his faith, and expected us to be equally dedicated. He had a sharp mind and enjoyed a good intellectual argument, but he also loved to kick back and watch a big game or bout. He felt nothing was worth having if it wasn't earned, and made sure to teach us the important lesson of self-reliance. He wasn't quick to anger, but could get very passionate when provoked. In many ways I'll always measure myself against him.

They've each greatly influenced me genetically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually, and I hope that I leave as lasting an impact on my friends and family. I wouldn't be the person I am today, for better and worse, without them. Although I have to find my own way in this world, I thank them for the lessons they've left with me, and aspire to honor them with all I do going forward.

Note: The images in this post are taken from the amazing art work of my cousin Jen Blazina. The top piece features the wedding photo of my grandparents (Anthony and Rosa), and the lower one that of my mother and father (Marina and Tony). You can see a wider range of Jen's pieces on her website at


Miriam Robbins said...

Francis, what a beautiful tribute to your ancestors!

Your cousin's work is fabulous, by the way, and has given me some ideas for future displays of my ancestor's photos.

Francis Scudellari said...

Hi Miriam,
Thanks so much! Obviously I couldn't do each of them justice in a few lines, but I thought I'd try some type of acknowledgment. I'm glad Jen's work inspired you ... I'll let her know.

WaterLearner said...

Hi Francis!

It's always good to think back and reflect on good moments with our late relatives!

Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope to see your comments and continued visits.

Francis Scudellari said...

I love the new look of your site, and just left a comment there :).

ndpthepoetress Jean Michelle Culp said...

How nice of you to share these memories with your Readers, what an honor to your Family and ancestors. I can see in much of your writings and chats that much of their admirable personality radiates in you as other aspects of yourself continue to shape the person you are as an individual and many – as myself, are proud and blessed to know you Francis.

Anonymous said...

Francis this touched my heart. When my father passed my family all started losing touch with each other until the family almost dissolved. It was his loving memory that brought us all a bit of's what glued our family back together. Great piece Francis.

Anonymous said...

Your post is a remarkable tribute to your history. Our ancestors have helped shape us. I see the start of your biography.

Francis Scudellari said...

Hi Michelle,
Sharing is something I do pretty well :). I have some living guides too, and I count you among them.

Francis Scudellari said...

Hi Deborah,
Yes, I've been neglecting mine recently to my detriment, so I need to get myself back in the loop. This was a good way to kick myself into doing that. I'll have to plan trips to visit my brothers in DC and LA :).

Francis Scudellari said...

Hi Kathy,
Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I hope it's the start of something, just not sure exactly what ... more likely biographical fiction that I've been ruminating.

Anonymous said...


"By invoking the spirits of our ancestors, we keep their energy alive"

I agree. Couldn't of said it better. My father passed away when I was 17. He always told me someone was kept alive if you kept them in your memories.

Great tribute.

Francis Scudellari said...

Thanks JD. I think its something we Americans don't recognize enough, maybe because most of us have severed ties in some sense with our cultural pasts.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for putting my artwork on your blog. Your writing really resonates with me and is beautiful. It has inspired me to think and observe this holiday with refelction.

Francis Scudellari said...

Hi Jen,
Your pieces definitely made the post, so I hope some of my readers checked out your new site ... which is great, by the way.

I know we share a very deep affection for those three folks, so I wanted to connect my writing to your pieces.

I hope I'll get the chance to see you seen, but it's hard keeping up with such a jet setting artist :).