I made my first altar for Dia de los Muertos four years ago, one year after my dad passed away. It wasn’t a tradition I grew up with, but missing my pops and hungry to commune with him, I was drawn to the ritual and to the chance to share memories with my children.
My dad was a dreamer and a doer, a trait I proudly inherited. But more than that, he was my greatest encourager. When I went to college to be a “weather girl” he cheered me on. When I decided to become a dental hygienist, he was enthusiastic. When my visions turned entrepreneurial, he went along with my scheme to buy our childhood house and turn it into a coffeeshop and bookstore. I still own and love that house, but it is still not a coffeeshop or a bookstore.
Later, as a young pregnant wife, I decided on a house cleaning business, and my dad bought all of the tools I would need – a top of the line vacuum cleaner and natural cleaning supplies. And for my first sewing business, he sewed reusable bags alongside me at a time when no one was really using them. He delighted in my successes and encouraged me to be better and stronger. He was my first sewer when I started CoffeeSock. Meticulous with his tools, his filters turned out perfect even as my own were a bit wonky. It drove him crazy, so he made our first acrylic pattern, and standardized our product.
My dad. We worked together. We hiked through Central America together. And we drank countless cups of black coffee together, sometimes lukewarm, but never minding. I am grateful for the annual ritual that does him honor, along with those others before him whose legacies have traveled through the ages and reside in me and my family.
This Dia de los Muertos, I will add marigolds to my dad’s altar, light a few candles, and celebrate him in memories so that he lives on in my children.