Because we have a significant Hispanic population in Kansas City, I learned several years ago about some holiday observation traditions for the Days of the Dead.

I have a lot of admiration for a cultural celebration that deals in a poetic and artistic way with the reality that death inevitably touches every life.

This graveyard in San Gregorio, Mexico has been decorated for the Days of the Dead (AP/Alexandre Meneghini)

The culture in which I grew up does not handle death very well. Much of mainstream U.S. culture seems to worship youth and health, but tries to ignore or banish any intimation that illness, disability or death may exist.

To my mind this is both foolish and futile. It turns us into cowards, who live in carefully-blinkered denial. It sets us up to be blindsided by one of the profound realities of existence, and it seriously distorts our priorities.

As a result, I believe we live less fully, and care less well for those who’ve fallen victim to life’s misfortunes.

We often don’t know what to say to people who are grieving a loss. As someone who has lost loved ones, I believe what we should do is embrace the sadness, acknowledge the loss, and smile at the good memories.

Here are a couple of others’ thoughts on that.

Keep your loved ones close, cherish them in life, and also in memory. They are why we are who we are today.

IMAGES: Many thanks to NBC Latino’s 2012 feature on the Days of the Dead, for the beautiful photo of the Mexican graveyard; to The Better Future’s website, for the “Speak their Name” graphic; and to Christine Snider’s Pinterest board, and amiesniderDESIGN’s Etsy site, for the “Those we love don’t go away” graphic.