Practicing Gratitude on Dia de los Muertos

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh


While children devoured the last of their Halloween candy, parents rationed and hid the mounds of treats, and frustrated teachers pulled their hair out with kids overdosed on sugar in their classrooms in the U.S., we were totally immersed in the cultural tradition of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on Ometepe Island.

For me, a little appreciation for family traditions goes a long way in Nicaragua. I am filled with gratitude to be a part of the custom of visiting the graves of loved ones, instead of experiencing a highly commercialized, sugar-overloaded, and hangover holiday of which I can find no altruistic reason to partake.

                 Practicing Gratitude on Dia de los Muertos

Gratitude strengthens relationships. Marina and her family have been our neighbors for over 10 years on Ometepe Island. At times, our relationship has been confusing and mysterious simply because our customs, language, and traditions are so different. Yet, we all count our blessings that we can share our lives together.
IMG_9453Marina sits on the grave of her husband, Don Jose, who died last October. She recalled sweet remembrances of their lives together raising five children. I believe that gratitude is about shifting one’s perceptions. No one has a perfect life. Marina and Don Jose struggled through poverty and sacrificed to provide for and to raise five strong, healthy, and good children. For this, I know she is very grateful.

IMG_9478We shared the benefits of gratitude today by appreciating what we have… as opposed to a consumer-driven emphasis on what we want.

IMG_9479One of the most powerful ways to raise grateful children is likely to be grateful adults. Raising grateful children means raising our own gratitude levels as well. Luvy, Marina’s daughter, is a perfect example of a grateful daughter.

IMG_9471We now have four friends buried in our local cemetery, two foreigners and two local Ometepinos. We visited their graves and gave thanks for their friendships.

IMG_9498At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. Albert Schweitzer

IMG_9463The cemetery was a hub of flowers, rakes, shovels, and families visiting their loved ones.

IMG_9500The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.
– WIlliam James

IMG_9491Families decorated the graves and tombs. Children played while the tinkling bell of the ice-cream vendor floated softly through the cemetery.

IMG_9465 Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. – Marcel Proust

IMG_9489He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. – Epictetus

IMG_9494Practicing gratitude opens the heart…even for a very small heart like Piglet’s.

IMG_9504Gratitude is an emotion of connectedness, which reminds us we are part of a larger universe with all living things.

IMG_9514As we left the cemetery on Dia de Los Muertos, our gratitude led us to feelings of love, appreciation, generosity, and compassion, which further opened our hearts to this lovely day. Now, time to eat pizza with our extended family in Nicaragua. 🙂

IMG_9515Dia de los Muertos…the day that helps us rewire our brains to fire in more positive and compassionate ways.

Day of the Dead in Nicaragua

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
― Mark Twain

November 2nd is Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Nicaragua, when the cemeteries fill with family members decorating, cleaning, and painting the crypts of their loved ones. It’s a time to celebrate the dearly departed. Theresa and I walked to the Moyogalpa cemetery early this morning with flowers for our dead friends. We passed people with hoes, buckets of paint, brooms, and flowers…lots and lots of flowers.

IMG_3785The grave sites are picked clean of all weeds and the soft volcanic soil is raked. Then, they wash the crypts and apply a new coat of paint. Finally, family members and friends place beautiful flowers, little handmade skeletons, candy, and other bling-bling on the graves.

We walked along the paths admiring the variety of decorations, the arrangement of flowers, and the beautifully tiled and painted crypts. Even the poorest families, who couldn’t afford to make a crypt, lovingly placed flowers over the hills of dirt protecting their loved ones.

Theresa and I were looking for Jerry’s grave, the only foreigner buried in the Moyogalpa cemetery. We hadn’t been back to visit the cemetery since Jerry’s burial, so we couldn’t remember the exact location. Roaming workers directed us to the spot under the large Jicote tree shading his beautifully tiled crypt.
IMG_3800After a little chat with Jerry, and placing some flowers on his grave, we searched for Jose’s grave. “Excuse me,” I asked, but can you help us find Jose’s grave?” “He died 3 years ago. He was 24 years old and he worked at our house.”  Friendly and helpful Nicaraguans helped us search for Jose, but there were hundreds of Jose’s in the cemetery and we didn’t know his last name.   Some said he is buried in this dirt covered grave, but we didn’t know for sure. I placed my flowers beside the grave, and told Jose how much I missed him.
IMG_3805It was a lovely dia de muerte. R.I.P Jerry and Jose.