Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Day of the Dead

Originally uploaded by russandval.
If I say "Day of the Dead," you may instantly think of the Mexican celebration with the little skeleton guys. I know I do.

But in Brazil it's different. It's just like Memorial Day. But bigger. Much bigger.

Jaci recommended a field trip to the cemetery to see the goings-on. We all jumped at the chance. I was especially excited when I found out we were going to a cemetery that I have noticed several times and have been longing to visit. (Earlier today, I said I was dying to check it out--poor choice of words!)

This morning, Russ and I met Jaci, the Maberys, the Sasses and Keith to head down to the cemetery. After a good twenty minute wait for the bus, we hopped on. Because it's a holiday, traffic was pretty light. And then we got near the cemetery. It's in a pretty hilly part of town--the roads go up and up. The traffic got heavier and heavier the closer we got. Finally it was stop and go. And on one of the big hills the bus stopped and didn't go. We stalled out. The driver waited a second, restarted, lurched forward and stalled. A little roll, a slam of the brakes--no problem. He tried several times to get going again but the hill was just too big. We all got off the bus and walked the rest of the way (it was only a fews stops away).

Outside the cemetery were vendors of all descriptions. You could buy fresh flowers, artificial flowers, candles, water, hot dogs- anything you might possibly need for your day at the cemetery. The next wave of people came as we entered the gates: the evangelicals. Since this is a Catholic holiday, most conservative evangelicals do not celebrate it. Instead, they apparently use this opportunity to hand out tracts! We received several tracts, all quite interesting, and some actually had some good things to say. But I don't know when they're mourning is the best time to tell people they're wrong. After the evangelicals was a row of nuns and finally we entered the main part of the cemetery.

I had never been to a cemetery outside of anglo-North America. I had never walked among large above-ground tombs and crypts. At the entrance are the most expensive monuments. Some had obviously cost millions to construct. There were little chapels, amazing sculptures and beautiful flowers. There were large trees providing shade. These had been rich and powerful families.

Turning a corner, we got to the next level down. Still large above-ground crypts, but they were a little more subdued. Around the outer edges were walls of vaults.

Winding a little more and heading down some stairs, we ended up in aisle after aisle of vaults. They were not as nice as the ones upstairs but were much more recent (within the past five years).

There was another section where there were in-ground graves but I didn't make it there. The cemetery was so immense. Many people were walking around, looking for their loved one's grave. Jaci told us her father is buried there but doesn't know where he is. She says she doesn't see a point in going once a year to wash the marker or put out flowers and then ignoring him the rest of the year. (I think there's more to the relationship than we know about).

In all, it was quite an interesting morning. I would like to go back to the cemetery when there are less people there. I enjoy walking and reading the markers, taking in the scuptures and just experiencing the peace. I don't find cemeteries scary or eerie (though I made a few zombie jokes today) because death isn't something for God's children to fear! I'm so thankful that God is life! He is the giver of life, sustainer of life and He has given us the road to eternal life with Him. The graves we saw today were full of people who had lost to death. We don't have to! Praise God!

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