On a Cold, Piney Evening

On a cold, piney evening last November on the Day of the Dead, residents of the Guatemalan town of Santiago were holding a night-long vigil in the town cemetery. I watched an old woman, on her knees before a pine-needle-covered mound, tilt her face to the sky and wail. For an hour she rocked back and forth, keening in Tz'utujil to the soul of the person buried there.

That night, I lit candles and shelled peanuts in the cemetery with my Santiago friends. They asked if both my parents were alive. I said yes. My friends exclaimed, "Ai! Que suerte!" ("What luck!"). They laughed in delight and disbelief when I told them, "All four of my grandparents are too."

In that place of death and loss scarred by violence, we were celebrating the sweet, sad, jumbled mix of life in the face of death. This, I believe, is salvation. This is the full, abundant, wide-open, blinders-off life that God calls us to.

PATTY KING, 27, a Mennonite, is a long-term volunteer with Witness for Peace in Guatemala. She enjoys the writings of Lee Smith and Barbara Kingsolver and the music of the Indigo Girls and Johnny Clegg and Savuka.

 

 

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Sojourners Magazine November 1994
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