Those who are dead are not dead…

Day of the Dead at the Nelson-Atkins Museum

IMG_1673    Sometimes I’m really not that happy to be living in the mid-west, although I do  consider it home and realize there are many practical advantages to living here. As you’ve seen before, I really would rather be looking at mountains.  But during the fall and spring I enjoy it much more, and there are a few favorite places in the Kansas City area that make me truly grateful to be where I am. One of those is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I will probably post several times about the Nelson. I went last Saturday because they are having a special exhibit of French Impressionist art, but when I went into Kirkwood Hall, I saw this first:

IMG_1583Really gorgeous exhibit for Day of the Dead, featuring Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

IMG_1584I don’t feel a lot of connection generally to Mexican art and culture, but I do find their approach to honoring the dead really fascinating.

IMG_1587The whole concept of preparing altars and a meal for the deceased actually does sort of appeal to me.

IMG_1589“Those who are dead are not dead, they’re just living in my head,” (Coldplay) runs through my head quite often, but especially during November.

IMG_1590Something that I wonder about is whether it matters somehow whether there is a person still alive who remembers someone who is dead or not. When all the people who actually knew my parents are gone, will that make a difference? I don’t have a religious take on this, I just think it might be why we sometimes take pains to make sure we are remembered.

IMG_1595There was a really great craft idea that many visitors enjoyed, decorating notes to those who are already gone.



IMG_1592If you click on the photos, you can read the messages. It was quite poignant.

All in all, it was pretty amazing to see the hall transformed this way. I really enjoyed what I saw.

IMG_1603I didn’t grow up with any rituals or observances about people who had died. That almost seems too extreme in the other direction.  I think I could steal bits and pieces from other cultures and religions who do, because it makes sense to me to do this.



12 responses to “Those who are dead are not dead…

  1. You pose an interesting question: “When all the people who actually knew my parents are gone, will that make a difference?”
    What about after all their children are gone? Especially in this day when families are scattered all over the planet.

  2. I agree with your take on this. No matter what the belief system or lack thereof, there’s something gracious and compassionate in sharing our memories of people who are no longer on this plane with us–it takes some of the sting out of the loss, extends the good that came of those relations and reminds us that our limited sight doesn’t cover everything, and that’s *okay*.

    • Thanks, Kathryn, for the comment. I really love rituals, but I’m not so used to making up my own. Thank goodness I can write things down, which seems to help.

  3. “I miss you, I hope you know.” That’s exactly how I feel about all the friends I’ve lost. That is an amazing display, it’s so nice that everyone can read the notes and see that those people mattered to someone.

    Great post

  4. I think sometimes of how quickly all of the people who knew me will be gone because I have no children. It doesn’t trouble me but it does bother me that soon there will be no one who remembers my grandparents as intimately as I do and in my lifetime my mother will eventually be forgotten. I wish I knew if anything happens after we die. I like the Frida and Diego display, makes me smile.

    • Thanks for coming by, elroyjones. If nothing else, seeing what other cultures do for their dead does make one stop and think, whether we draw any meaningful conclusions or not. It doesn’t seem fair that we put all this effort into this life and then it disappears…but who knows whether “fair” has any relevance in the afterlife.

  5. I decided that Halloween/All Saints/All Souls would be a good time to visit my family in Texas, because our parents’ grave site is there, and I have the desire to do something to honor them there. I think my sisters might find the idea of a picnic in the graveyard morbid, but I think it would be better than just putting some flowers on the grave and pulling a few weeds. In past visits, there was really nothing to do once you got there, and if alone, get sad and try to talk to them. This way we could try to celebrate them and tell a few stories of good things.
    As for being remembered after everyone who knows you has passed on, I offer a memory. Sometimes we do work at churches with very old windows that have very old memorials. Sometimes I ask if anyone remembers this person, and sometimes no one knows who they were anymore. I’m not sure what to feel about that. Or again, walking through old churches in Europe where people have been buried in the walls or floor, and they are not anyone famous, so that not many people know who they are walking on. I had a hard time with walking on the graves. I was raised that one did not walk on graves out of respect (or for us kids it was superstition too), but in these churches, you were not quite sure where the body was placed. There was just a plaque or inscription on the floor over the spot.

    • Thanks for the comment, Roger. I don’t have any experience with visiting family graves at all except as an adult, since we lived far away from any other family, but I don’t think my parents would ever have considered doing so as they thought it was not important as the person’s soul wasn’t there.
      My dad was in one of those Dutch churches when they were doing work on the floor, removing grave slabs. He saw a clavicle bone sticking up from the dirt and picked it up and carried it home.
      Sheesh, I hadn’t thought of that in a long time. I think I actually have it. Now I’ll have to consider what I think about that.

  6. By the way, I forgot to mention that not only do I enjoy KC immensely, the Nelson-Atkins is one of its features that I love the most! Lucky you to know that treasure!

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