The tradition between Halloween and Nov. 1 is to honor those who are no longer with us. In Mexico they celebrate this holiday as the “Day of the Dead”. The belief is that when you celebrate the dead in various ways that their spirit will come and join the party to remind you of their continued presence in your life.

My yoga teacher Todd Norian reminds us all to live,live,live and then let go and die. To live as fully as you can in each moment and when the time to pass on arises let go. Our culture often fears death and yet none of us are going to get out of here alive. Having the courage to talk about death with loved ones while they are here matters.

I took care of my father in his last weeks of dying from cancer. It was an honor to do so. I brought him to my home and made him as comfortable as possible with the help of hospice nurses and family members. I witnessed the stages of dying which were similar to the stages of grief. When an earlier cancer had returned, he went through a stage of denial and hid it from me and the family. Then he went through being angry that his life was going to be cut short. The bargaining began when my mom and sisters convinced him to go to the MD Anderson center to treat the cancer aggressively- which in my opinion only caused more pain and suffering. He entered a stage of sadness and depression when he returned from that experience. Only to let go and accept the inevitable. In the last days he became more pain free and after celebrating his last birthday he passed two days later 70 years young. Those memories I cherish as I witnessed him processing all that he had previously held on to.

My father died when I was 29 years old so in reality, he has been gone for the last 34 years of my life. Yet, I feel his spirit with me every day. I only have to get still with the practices of yoga and meditation and I can feel his presence. There are many examples where I just knew he was with me.

What ancestor do you honor? What lessons did they teach you that you continue to carry in your own heart? Can you celebrate their presence and know that even when their physical body is no longer here, they are still with you? Live fully by their examples and love fully in this life and beyond.

Janie Gunn