Sunday was All Saints’ Day here in Poland. It’s not that I didn’t fully appreciate that day before I met my wife Ania, but it’s mostly that I simply didn’t care nor understand that ‘holiday’ until I saw how much it meant to her and her family.
I spent most of my adult life in Los Angeles, where the only remnants of the All Saints’ Day was Dia De Los Muertos celebrated by my latino friends with some really, really, sweet and sugary skull candy. And that’s a day after All Saints’ Day. The day before All Saints’ Day is halloween, with of course, more candy. But no one actually mentions All Saints’ Day at all in America. A day with no candy at all, but with candles and warm memories of those that have passed instead. Perhaps I would appreciate that day more if I had a grave to visit in the U.S., but my relatives that have passed are buried in Poland, so no real reason for me to be visiting graves in L.A. come November 1st.
This all changed when I met Ania, but it really changed after the death of her father. I witnessed the grief and anguish her family was going through, and countless hours spent at the cemetery cleaning the gravesite, making sure it always had flowers and a lit lantern. I’ve been to plenty of gravesites before, but I’ve never seen such care and thoughtfulness when it came to taking care of a grave. I usually showed up with a candle every now and again, said a prayer, and thought of good times I had with my grandfather. My grandfathers grave, by the way, is pretty much the only one I know how to get to and the only one I regularly visit. I don’t think that’s entirely a bad approach, I believe the idea is to take the time to visit the grave in remembrance of that person. But it was pretty apparent to me that Ania and her mom were on the other side of the spectrum and now I sort of am, too, by association. I help out when I can, mostly stay out of the way, but support when possible and do all the heavy lifting when necessary. But most importantly, I’m there next to Ania.