I watched the animated movie Coco last night (my first time) as fitting for Dia de los Muertos as well as All Saints Day. I love the Day of the Dead celebration welcoming spirits of ancestors to come back for a visit, showing them how much we still remember and miss them. This is similar to the Japanese Obon celebration in summer. The Pixar movie shows a colorful fantasy world of the dead, who live on in not-scary skeleton form – until they are no longer remembered by anyone living and turn to dust.
Yes, there is a second death, when no one living remembers you anymore. Then you are truly dead. The Coco movie is a message to the living that I take to heart. I encourage life writing to capture in print the stories of ourselves and our ancestors, so we and they have a chance to “live” forever, or at least until the last book copy of us is lost.
Another reason to write the stories of ourselves and our ancestors is that they contain the history and culture of the time. Every life that passes unwritten is a historical and sociological reference book missing from our family library. Both Cherry Blossoms in Twilight and Battlefield Doc are even in public and university libraries. Most of us have stories of what life was like for “everyday” people. History books do not capture these kinds of stories, so they are lost if we don’t write them.
What can you do about this? Start writing whatever you know! November is National Life Writing Month. It is also NaNoWriMo. Many writers are participating in National Novel Writing Month, but you don’t need to work on a novel; you can challenge yourself to start on your family history or a memoir. Don’t worry about perfection, just write. Type up what you know. You can gather more stories, put it all together, and edit later. Here are some words of encouragement:
“Every person passing through this life will unknowingly leave something and take something away. Most of this ‘something’ cannot be seen or heard or numbered or scientifically detected or counted. It’s what we leave in the minds of other people and what they leave in ours. Memory.
—Robert Fulghum, author of Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
A life well lived is a precious gift
Of hope and strength and grace,
From someone who has made our world
A brighter, better place.
It’s filled with moments, sweet and sad
With smiles and sometimes tears,
With friendships formed and good times shared
And laughter through the years.
A life well lived is a legacy
Of joy and pride and pleasure,
A living, lasting memory
Our grateful hearts will treasure.