The Death Letter Project
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Maribel Morales Rosales | Research Assistant / Photography Archivist

What is dead and what happens when we die?

It is quite difficult to answer these questions, and I couldn’t stop thinking in the way all Mexicans, like me, celebrate the day of the dead or “Dia de muertos”. I have lots of memories of taking part of these celebrations in different ways, it all starts every 31st of October. I used to accompany my father and grandmother to the cemetery to visit my grandfather’s resting place, where we would clean the head-stone, light some candles, put fresh flowers and end all the ritual with a pray. All over the graveyard you could see other people doing the same, many families gathering around other tombs and the whole picture was like a big celebration.

While at home, we create an "ofrenda", a kind of offering with pictures of our relatives who have passed away, together with their favourite food and drinks, a glass of water, flowers, candles, "papel picado" (a traditional crafted paper for the occasion), fruit and especially home made "Day of the Dead’s bread" or “Pan de muerto”.

It was my grandfather who started this ongoing tradition of making this bread. He taught my father and he made sure we participated in preparing it; this was time to be together with other relatives at home, surrounded by the spirit of love, being together to remember others, making sure we enjoyed this tradition, believing that spirits are allowed to be amongst us once a year.

On the other hand, my mum’s family had a strong believe of a spiritual world, a world where part of that catholic beliefs mix with the unknown; where the possibility to be in contact with souls of relatives or people that have died was somehow real. My grandmother from my mother’s side was a medium, a person capable of making contact with that world. We often were asked to attend to the “cathedra”, where we listened to the words of our spiritual masters, and witness and learn about the world of light; where many people look for answers and guidance in their life.

This has made me more receptive of my spiritual side through dreams; the last one, was when I was warned during my second pregnancy; I saw a person with a pre-hispanic appearance with shiny earrings. He told me that they were coming for my baby, that they were needing to take it, I woke up suddenly with a sense of impotence, wanting this to go away from my mind but I couldn’t. Two days later it was confirmed that his heartbeat was gone.   

So after this experience, it is clear to me that there is something out there where the souls go to once they are separated from this world. I strongly believe that dead is the transition between the material world and the spiritual, that our spirit walk to the light where the soul rests to be transformed into love and peace; and our relative’s souls are there looking after us and waiting for when the time comes for us to join them and to experience that transformation.

Since I move from Mexico to Australia, I have tried to transfer some of these traditions to my sons, and share with them part of my life back in Mexico. I would like them to know that dead is an inevitable part of life, and although experiencing the loss of our loved ones will always be the most horrible time for us, we mustn't be afraid, we will say a temporary goodbye because there will be a day when we will be allowed to be together again at that place where the love is eternal and the light is always shining for us.

Maribel Morales Rosales

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  • Oh beautiful !!!!! - sierramalevich (Instagram)
  • Really beautiful letter Maribel Morales Rosales. - Julie Taylor (Facebook)
  • Maribel your letter is very potent, I felt very connected to your thoughts on death. Wonderful portrait! - Rosada Hayes (Facebook)