Editor’s Note: DC Service Corps volunteer Tori Wangler shares an original poem that she wrote in honor of Día de los Muertos.
When death comes like an old friend,
open your door with gratitude.
Do not be afraid of her darkness
and her mysterious ways.
Just step aside
and whisper a blessing.
When death comes, do not turn away.
When death comes like a sparrow at dawn,
do not scorn her song.
Know that she has work to do, and it must get done.
Regardless of the hour. No matter the weather.
Curl against the bedsheets
and press your lips to your beloved.
When death comes, do not cover your ears.
When death comes like rain in the summertime,
lift your face to the thundering sky.
If you can, forget the touch of sun–
crack your heart apart for the healing floods.
Feel the welcomeness of her embrace, soft and dark.
Lay down inside the garden.
When death comes, open your windows and sing.
When death comes like an angel through the hellfire,
recall the beauty of the life that goes on and on.
Here, now: press your hands to her hem, that precious shroud.
She will cover you in light.
Rest inside her
and be loved.
When death comes, let her protect you.
When death comes like a thief for my family,
I will remember the promise that was given to all children long ago.
Though I will curse her and spit on her name,
one day I will make peace with earthly impermanence.
Recall the faith of your mothers and fathers
when they stepped into the shadowy veil.
When death comes, hold your sorrow as a dying flame.
When death comes for the innocent, do not make sense of the world.
When the young and bright and sweet are ripped away, depart from logic.
There is so much more we can never hold.
So much truth is only big enough for God.
Hold tight to your love
and do not be afraid.
When death comes, fall back into the mystery.
When death comes and settles across the doorsteps,
I will kneel before the hand-shaped altar.
Shining with loved ones’ faces, overflowing with love
and flowers and mementos, I light the candles.
Prayers on my lips as tears fill my eyes,
I stay awake into the night and feel their presence.
When death comes, remember those who have gone before.
When death comes to scent the air with late-autumn smoke,
I long to crawl beneath the covers and close my eyes.
The passing of life over to the barrenness of winter
creeps against my bones like an echo of grief.
Cold hands, slow blood–the gradual fatigue of sunrise
and the glistening of a snow-white veil.
When death comes, grant yourself mercy.
When death comes as an abrupt shepard,
I will remember the kingdom that waits for me.
A land that has been promised to me
since before time began.
Just one pass over that river.
Coins on my eyelids, cross in my hand.
When death comes, trust in the covenant.
When death comes to loom in my twilight years,
I will have hoped that time has been good for me.
To love and to be loved;
to hold and to be held.
Such a gift to have had this life of mine!
Such a blessing that such love will live on forever.
When death comes, she will leave the best parts of me behind.
When death comes like a long-fated lover,
I will take her into my arms.
After a life so long, I am no longer afraid;
after a love so big and wonderful, there is nothing left to know.
Meet me at the gate.
Find me amid the stars.
When death comes, I will be waiting for you.