Last year for Halloween, I taped paper circles on my preggo belly, put on very tacky bowling socks, and went as a bowling ball. It was the first time I had taken a picture since finding out I was pregnant (from July through October I quietly avoided cameras, because I was afraid that pictures would bring bad luck. FYI: avoiding cameras does not bring good luck, and after suffering the worst outcome, I treasure every single picture and memory that I have). By Halloween, I’d finally reached the “viability” milestone with a healthy ultrasound under my belt. For the first time during pregnancy, I felt safe and happy instead of nervous, and I wanted to celebrate that.

This year I avoided Halloween entirely. Instead, I embraced the Day of the Dead. I was lucky enough to have an amazing friend to celebrate and honor my son with me. The Day of the Dead came as such a calming, affirming opportunity to mourn in public, communally.


My son is always present to me, in an invisible but very welcome way. The Day of the Dead was a chance to make that presence visible to others, and to acknowledge the fact that so many others are also accompanied by their own dead loved ones (especially those who have lost a spouse, child, parent or sibling). Though each death is an awful tragedy, it’s reassuring to know that others have died as well. You just can’t see the dead at the park or point them out at the grocery store.


In the past, the festive and aesthetic aspects of the day struck me as a morbid indulgence, a chance to play with taboo. Now, though, that open acknowledgment and celebration of my son’s current physical state, morbid as it might seem, encouraged a bit of acceptance and even made it easier for me to be around other babies – if only for a moment. Thinking joyously about what he is made it easier to cope with what he is not. It was as though I could say to Sacha, “You died and that is okay, I still love you. The living have one holiday, the dead have another, but we all belong. We are different, but not so different. You are dead, little boy, but you exist for me.”

flower crown

Flower crown by Melody Smith

After all, each vivo is part-muerto, maybe even mostly muerto. We only hang on to life for a short time before our muerto nature wins over.

I felt truly comforted for the first time in weeks. I only wish the day didn’t have to end.

haunting beauty

Haunting Beauty by Melody Smith

But of course, Monday came. This morning, a colleague unexpectedly brought her newborn to work, and an awful flashback-y spiral ensued as the tiny baby’s cries reminded me of my Sacha’s cry. The combination of relief and horror and joy that I experienced when I heard Sacha’s cry, just as a code was being paged — unsure which one of us the code had been paged for — convinced it must be for me since he sounded so healthy — prepared for my own death, so ready for my own death, had already arranged my will and prepared my insurance so that my son would always be cared for — never imagining that my crying baby would bleed to death in the nursery hours later — and why, why was no code paged then, when he had stopped crying, when one of us was really dying, when he was kept so far away —

I tried to stay, but could not focus; my heart and mind flew out the window, so I sent my body after them. That’s actually progress for me – to show myself the consideration of getting up and leaving, instead of fighting to remain. But it also means that I missed a special conference I’d looked forward to for weeks, something I’d hoped might help me to identify new and different roles within my career, now that so many of my goals and interests have changed.

How am I going to get through the rest of my time as a vivo? I don’t know. But I don’t take life for granted these days; I know that living is ultimately a finite task. I’ll have my Sachita muertito along with me until my own breath runs out.