Hello! Today and tomorrow are Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). I am self conscious that I learned about Dia De Los Muertos from the Pixar film Coco, and I am unsure if it’s appropriate is to look to the customs of another culture to deal with grief and death. I am unsure how to deal at all, as exemplified by my still relevant tumblr entry from 1 year ago, “grief, you scare me” (unlinked cuz my tumblr life is anonymous!!).
I lost two of my grandparents this year, and I made shrines for both of them. Shrines are a relic of my mom’s religion, of which I still don’t know the name of, but is most commonly called “bai sun” in Cantonese. I am reminded of this practice when I see the ofrendas (home altars) for Dia de los Muertos, and though my shrines don’t include photos, I like to think my grandparents are receiving my love and memory of them.
But grief still scares me. This is why I was moved by the courage of our Guest Editor Bee Uytiepo to question death, to engage with her ancestors, to face grief, not as a monster, but as an accompaniment in life.
This topic is hard and uncomfortable, but please know you are not alone in feeling afraid, unsure, or curious, what might be a more courageous way to approach grief?
Karen, Co-Founder of The Cosmos
Dear Cosmos Community,
When I was eight years old, I asked my Sunday school teacher, “ What happens to us when we die?”
He looked at me, perplexed, and told me my question didn’t fit into what he was teaching, and in truth, he didn’t have an answer. Heartbroken by my teacher’s response, I decided to give up on the Catholic Church and figure it out for myself.
Leaving the Catholic Church led me to find my way back to my Asian roots. I wanted answers about the afterlife and metaphysics. I wanted to study death. At the library, I read book after book about Eastern philosophy, death, life after death, past lives and channeling.
Years later, when my high school sweetheart’s grandmother Aurora died, I couldn’t forgive myself for not saying “I love you” one last time. Grandma Aurora understood and saw me in ways that my parents didn’t know how to. She was a real grandmother to me, as my biological grandparents did not live in America. Losing her meant losing that love and sacred witnessing.
I dreamt of Aurora. She wore a white dress and sparkly golden earrings. This was unusual, because Aurora didn’t wear dresses. She looked like an angel. She guided me into another room and pointed at her body on a bed. I asked her if it was her dead body, and without words, she said yes.
When I woke up, I remembered the teachings that she imparted to me, especially that we are not this body. We are beyond our bodies. After we die, we release these mortal coils and live on. Seeing grandma Aurora in my dream gave me permission to release my fear and worry about death. And for the living, she reassured me that her husband, grandpa Frank, would be okay without her. I could finally let go of my remorse from not saying that last “I love you” to grandma.
Today I perform death ceremonies for people who have lost loved ones who did not belong to a spiritual community. I’ve come to befriend death with a deep confidence, acceptance, and fearlessness, by thinking of death often.
I’ve learned that when we die, we remain connected. And because of this, we yearn to live within an interconnected, interdependent collective.
As a collective we are exhausted, anxious, scared, and pissed off. The pandemic has pushed us to question our mortality and how we want to live and work. We’ve been forced to give up so much due to the onslaught of rapid change. At the same time, I feel it’s a powerful time to reclaim our bodies and choose how we live our lives.
I’m planning something special to support artists and healing practitioners in their journey: a co-creative program to go deeper into somatic forgiveness, ancestral listening, grief, death and energy systems.
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, here’s a link to the waitlist to sign up: http://bit.ly/healingisgivingcocreating
Bee Uytiepo (@healingisgiving)
Should We Redefine Asian America? | 4 week reading + conversation series
~~ THIS IS AN EXPERIMENT ~~ FREE!
Sign up below! We’re aiming to accommodate everyone who’s interested. You’ll get an email later this week with next steps :)
Fall Community Book Swap + Potluck
Sunday, Nov 7 | 11:30-1:30 PM ET | Prospect Park, NY
Y’all asked for it!!! Bring as many books as you want to our community book swap on Sunday, November 7th. Grab some coffee on your way, bring lots of snacks (since food is a very Asian love language!!), and join us for a fall picnic in Prospect Park. RSVP below and we’ll send you the exact location to meet up this week!
Cosmos Book Club: Writing & Publishing with Larissa Pham, author of Pop Song (Free!)
Thurs Nov 18 | 4 PM ET | Zoom
A special event for emerging writers!! The Cosmos Book Club is sitting down with Vietnamese-American writer and author Larissa Pham to chat about how she wrote and published her first book in her twenties! Come for a very personal and transparent conversation where you can ask about navigating the publishing industry, putting a non-fiction book proposal together, and the writing process.
***Call for Recommendations***
What books, films, music, brands, and creators are you loving? Signal boost time!!!!! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll feature them (and you!) in the next issue of the Culture Corner!
My go-to fall lunch recipe smells like COMFORT: Top ramen, steamed bok choy, a pan-fried egg with a splash of low-sodium soy sauce, and a big heap of Nori Fume Furikake Rice Seasoning. My egg on top of anything craving is inspired by Bettina Makalintal, a food and culture writer who wrote one of my favorite things on The Internet right now: Five Ways to Cook an Egg syllabus, a “syllabus” of egg recipes with readings!!
watching Found (streaming on Netflix)
“When you know where you come from, you can find peace in your heart”.
This documentary follows three American teenage girls adopted from China — Chloe, Sadie and Lily — who discover that they are blood-related cousins through 23andMe. Together, they return to China to search for their birth parents, with the help of a genealogy researcher named Liu Hao. The documentary reminds you of the consequences of China’s one-child policy — an untraceable number of abandoned babies, often the less desired female infants — but it doesn’t linger too long in the context. This is a documentary about the courage and friendship of three teenage girls to confront their past, and IT IS SO HEARTFELT YOU MIGHT CRY.
I immediately added this book to a “canon” I totally made up but really want to see: equity, justice, and leaderships guides written by folks of color. Included in my made-up canon are adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy and Stacy Abrams’s Minority Leader, and I would love for you to email me more suggestions that I can share here!
Note: Book links are connected to The Cosmos Bookshop affiliate page. If you purchase a book from there, you'll be supporting our work and local independent bookstores!
ogling over Weekend Whims earrings — recommended by community member Mai T.
“I’d love to recommend the Rosa’s @weekend_whims small earring business on Instagram! Rosa sells polymer clay earrings every weekend and redistributes part of her earnings to mutual aid funds. I’ve been following her work for a while and have so many cute earrings from her! Highly highly recommend!”
Very perfect for fall!!
Photo Credit: Weekend Whims
Tomorrow is Election Day, so please make time to vote!