This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

Family, alive or dead


I grew up in a culture that never spoke of death. Thinking of dead people was seen as morbid. The thought of visiting a cemetery, and having a picnic there, was horrific. Dead people were, quite literally, buried. They were buried in body and buried in mind. Solemn respects were given, but that was all.

Then I moved to Arizona, and I learned a new way of looking at death. I met Mexicans. And they don't make the sharp distinctions that I was taught about family in death. Family was family, whether alive or dead. And it isn't morbid, it's a celebration.

It's a tough concept for someone like me to wrap their head around. I grew up associating cemeteries with ghosts, with shady images, with quiet solemnity. Death was all about sadness. It was creepy, and people who had an interest in dead people (like me, because I've always been interested in the family history) were weird.

Well, maybe I am weird. But my interest in dead people isn't morbid. It's always been a celebration of life, of family. And if you're curious about this, here is what I suggest:

• Go to a cemetery with an Hispanic person in Arizona. Take a look at the markers. They aren't forgotten, and crumbling. There are photographs there, there are signs of life, of remembrance, and celebration. Children play and shout. And yes, there are picnics.

• Stop at a marker at a roadsign in Arizona. In the culture where I grew up, this would be unthinkable. They mark the place where someone died. But if you look at it that way, you have it backwards. They are a remembrance of life.

• Look at the back windows of trucks in Arizona. There are a lot of dates that you would normally associate with a grave marker.

I try not to talk about this kind of stuff. That's why I write a blog. Many people don't understand why I've spent so much time on the family history. Or why I have pictures of dead people around the piano. Yes, they're dead, but they're family.
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