GRACE’S VIEW: Making an altar

Grace’s View | Grace Fowler

In Spanish, we recently learned about Día de los Muertos, or in English, Day of the Dead. One thing I have especially enjoyed about my Spanish class is that we cover topics like grammar and vocabulary, but we also learn a lot about the culture. Our professor is so passionate about everything she teaches us and that is pretty contagious. She makes every topic interesting and memorable.

When we were learning about Day of the Dead, we talked about how it is different than Halloween. It is not a holiday centralized around things that are meant to scare people. The purpose of Day of the Dead is to remember the loved ones that we have lost by celebrating their lives.

Another interesting thing to consider is the different perceptions of death that each culture has. And even within cultures, there are different views of death within every family. In Mexico, death is recognized as part of the cycle of life and people accept that. It’s not a taboo topic. Usually in America, the attitude toward death is not so positive. People are scared to die and when people do die, their funerals are not always a celebration of their life, but more of a somber mourning.

Now I am not saying that there is a right or wrong way to think about death. I’m just pointing out that there are different ways to think about it. One of our homework assignments in this class was to make an altar for someone who had died. We were given creative freedom to do it any way we liked. We were instructed to place things that they enjoyed or pictures of people who were important to them on the altar. In Mexico, altars are used as a place to put the deceased person’s favorite foods, pictures, clothes, candles, and so on. I chose to make a small poster. I have had several loved ones pass, but I chose my grandpa, John Stafford.

I was still young when he passed, but I have memories of him that I will never forget. Every summer we would come to Michigan to visit my grandparents and cousins. This was always the highlight of my summer. My grandpa would take us fishing, take us to Big Boy and always was willing to entertain us. When we went up north, he took us out on the boat to get ice cream. These are simple memories of everyday events, but they are special because I was with him.

On his altar I put pictures of my grandpa and me when I was little, as well as a picture of my grandma, a picture of some of my cousins, and a picture of skiing and of a lake. These are all things that I know he loved.

He was someone I looked up to and will always miss. People sometimes tell me I write like he used to, and that is one of the biggest compliments, in my opinion. I know his community adored him and I know he made a difference in this world. I aspire to be even half of the person he was.

Grace Fowler is a Greenville High School graduate and a Hope College freshman. She can be reached at

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