Monday, November 1, 2010

The Day Of the Dead

Today begins the Day of the Dead festivities in many Spanish-speaking countries south of the Rio Grande. This is a time to honor loved ones who have passed on. It is also a time to celebrate the goodness of life, in general. In many countries, graveyards are decorated with brightly colored fabrics and flowers. Music is played, songs are sung and the favorite foods of the departed are prepared and enjoyed in their honor.

Nov. 1st is dedicated to the ‘Innocents’: A day to remember those that passed before they were old enough to have tasted life at all. Although I lost a sister within hours of her birth, today day holds special significance for me because it was the day my younger brother, Ralph, dropped dead just six years ago. He was 53 years old.

His life was never easy. He was conceived after our father had had lost his job and homestead. Dad and Mom already had to young babies to feed; I was only nine months old at the time. They had to pack up what they had and return the D.C. area to live with Mom’s family until Dad could find work. I don’t think life was intended to be easy for this one. It was as though he was an angel, being tested to earn his wings. He was only nine years old when a tobacco truck catapulted him thirty feet off his bicycle, breaking his right arm and left leg. He spent two tours in Vietnam Nam; dealt with the hardships of divorce and much later suffered third-degree burns over most of his body when a battery vat blew up at his work. He was never able to work in daylight again.

Any one of these (and other) experiences could have forged him into a bitter man. Many people use the hardships of life as an excuse to act out their pain and anger, however Ralph never seemed to lose his sweet, caring demeanor. He and his second wife, Kathy shared their home with over twenty children besides their own during the years together.

I don’t have many pictures of my brother. But the favorite that I do have and that I dig out each year around this date, is one taken of he and I with our older and younger brother. That sweet expression on his face is one he never lost.