The Day of the Dead

It’s All Saint’s Day or something. Day of the Dead. Something like that. I never did take to the ceremony of it. I remember, because we were so practical as a family, we didn’t join in on the whole go-to-the-cemetery-and-respect-the-dead sort of thing. It’s a carnival out there at the cemetery this time of the year. We’d put up a little altar and set aside food and candles for the deceased and that was that. We’d pay our respects on other days, travel to the cemetery at some other time of the year when it is peaceful and we can truly be alone with our thoughts and our memories.

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The ghost of Christmas Past Tense (photo and digital imaging by my father)

And now, at this point in my life, after everything I’ve been through I have a very different view of death. Having almost-died three times, I feel very different about death now. That’s something that I’ll get into on another blog post.

But today is different. It’s funny, maybe even sick and twisted. I saw an old friend whom I haven’t seen or heard from in twelve years liked one of my tweets. I got curious and checked her profile and read through her tweets. Twelve years had passed and we had not caught up and based solely on her Twitter feed, she is not the person I remember her to be. This was a totally different person now and I know that you cannot (and should not) judge a person solely on what they post on social media but it was like I was looking at some stranger’s Twitter account.

Except for the occasional birthday greeting that I post on her wall when it comes up on Facebook, I had not really thought about her at all.

In some sort of sick and twisted way, it was like I was communing with the dead. It persisted, this crazy idea, and since I knew this friend was also close to a group of friends that I was close with back in college, I decided to use her profile as a jumping point to look at the social media accounts of past friends who I have not seen or heard from in ages — and if I’m to be honest, I wouldn’t care to anyway.

These people were very close to me back in the day, almost sixteen years ago. We were always together. Then, I graduated earlier than they did and the moment that I did, I was cut off. They stopped talking to me. I had worked in school, it was my first job, and my office was just down the corridor of our school organization’s office where we hung out a lot. I was just down the corridor and they didn’t come to see me even if I had asked them to. I had an office all to myself. They were senior staffers of the org now and a whole new batch of officers had taken over, there was no reason for them to not come and use my office as a hangout. I had asked them. I never heard from them again.

One particular person from that group even made a big deal about it, that I had no longer come to see them. They missed me she said and an older friend of ours, close to the group but not really a part of it, went to me and asked me what my problem was. I had told him that it was them who dropped me. I was working now and I had new responsibilities. This isn’t school where I could just take an absence from class to hang out, which we often did, and I offered them a hang out in my office so we could still be together while I worked and they did whatever.

That older friend arranged a one-on-one with that person who made a big deal about it and she cried and she apologized when she had no explanation as to why they no longer passed by, said hello, or invited me to join them for dinner or whatever. We ended in good terms and with promises to change but afterwards, I didn’t hear from them again.

Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.

— George Eliot

Now that I’m older now and I look back on those times, I realized how much older I was than they were emotionally. We were all pretty much the same age but somehow I was just more mature than they were. I spoke to one of my close friends — one of the few I had kept since college who knew them — and she told me she never understood why I hung out with them back in college. They were not in your wavelength, she told me just today.

I was angry at them throughout most of my early twenties. I felt betrayed and abandoned. Five years since then, I had all but forgotten them. I was growing up and it was just a part of my history and it no longer affected me. I stopped caring as I made better and better decisions as I got older and I became more and more who I am as a person, a person that I have come to like. I left all of that behind. My own immaturity and my recklessness. My bad choices, my flair for the extra-dramatic. I gave it all up.

Sometimes I still hear about them and I heard they haven’t changed much since then. At least, that’s what I was told. I do know that in some sick and perverted way, I checked up on them at the rise of Facebook and when Facebook was still “innocent and pure” and not so curated and manufactured, I saw what people meant when they said they hadn’t changed much.

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The act of remembrance is like looking down a flight of stairs you had just ascended, isn’t it? (photography by Tuchi Imperial)

I was so glad to be done with it.

Today, I was tickled by the idea of some sick and twisted game to visit their social media accounts — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — and take a look. I spoke to my friend and told her, it’s the day of the dead. Let’s look at the lives of the people who are now dead to me. It’s mean, I know, I apologize. But that’s what it felt like. Going back into the a sort of past, looking at their present-day-selves and matching these images with the people I used to know, sixteen years ago.

But the joke was on me. Nothing returned: not the anger nor the fondness. I recognize concepts and ideas that I brought with me from those memories but there was not an ounce of sentimentality involved. The joke, though, was that I was paying my respects to the dead. Not them, but the me of sixteen years ago.

I was revisiting the person that I was back then. The person who thought these people were the best of all possible people in the small, little world that I had found myself in back in my youth.

I was paying my respects to the person that I used to be and not judging him for what he thought was right or what he thought he needed. He was a person who made choices and did the best that he could with the options that he thought he had — he definitely had more that he just didn’t see and that I could see now because of the gift of hindsight — and for or for worse, things turned out a different way and the years passed and I ended up here.

I ended up here. Sixteen years from now, I’ll look back at myself and see that I’m surrounded by an amazing group of people and that I was still doing the best that I could with the choices that I have now that’s available to me at this present moment.

That’s life, isn’t it? Just a sequence of moments, a long list of choices and decisions.

Happy All Saint’s Day.

For the dead, who seem to take away so much, really take with them nothing that is ours.

Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster

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