One Last Time

The Day of the Dead

The excitement for the reveal is so great, that only very few people see how Carlos’ old face cracks like brittle stone and a tear rolls out of his eye. The big paper mache statue truly is a special sight. The large colorful skeleton is smiling down on the gathered celebrants, seeming almost as if it is about to jump down and join the lively mass of people.

Carlos, now 82, sits on a bench, tears in his eyes. He's crafted countless skeletons like the one before him, even overseeing their construction. These skeletons are a tribute to the Day of the Dead, a cherished tradition. Yet, it's been a while since he last fashioned one. Loneliness has settled in, with most friends and family departed. His children have migrated to larger cities for employment. The past year brought the loss of his wife, Maria, leaving him in solitude.

He really grew bitter in the first months after his wife’s death. Especially after the funeral was over and his children had gone back to the cities, he realized how empty the house really was. How tall and hollow the rooms seemed. How much the village had changed, compared to when he had been a boy. When new people moved into the neighboring house, which used to belong to his best friend, he felt a slow panic, like everything was changing faster than he could hold on to it.

But he was proven wrong. The new neighbors were friendly and open, and the kids even helped him carry his shopping bags every now and then. They went as far as inviting him to their occasional barbecue evenings and he went, even if only to hear the buzz of voices. Grumpily, he admitted to himself that they really weren’t half that bad.

It seemed more than just coincidence that when autumn rolled around the corner the kids would find his old workshop with all the paper mache skeletons of past years. For a good two weeks, they left him no peace until he consented to build another skeleton for the approaching day of the dead. At first, he felt upset when he realized that he didn’t have the strength to build the paper mache by himself anymore, but the kids from the neighborhood jumped so readily to his side, that he couldn’t help but accept their help. Together, they worked on the skeleton for a long time until finally, ultimately, it was completed.

Carlos looks up at the huge smiling skeleton, remembering how he thought he would never be able to build something like this again. He sees the golden shine on his neighbor’s faces, the excited glimmer in the eyes of the kids, hears them laughing and singing. He thinks of his wife Maria and for the first time in a long time, he feels at peace.

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