When I first saw previews for Coco, it didn’t really strike me as a movie we would run out to see. Then the rave reviews started coming in. Reading some of them online, I knew I wanted to take the kids to see it. One reviewer wrote “If an animated movie is going to offer children a way to process death, it’s hard to envision a more spirited, touching and breezily entertaining example than Coco.” (Robert Abele, TheWrap)As the movie began, initially I did not think it was anything special. While visually interesting with some upbeat music, it did not grab me. The skeletons of departed family ancestors as part of Dia de los Muertos scared Theo. But then the story began to play out. Much of the message was that as long as someone on earth remembers them, the spirits could continue to return on Dia de los Muertos. They would pass down and honor the dead for generations.
It grabbed me. It grabbed Theo. We both cried, though I think for different reasons. He cried at the heartwarming moment on the screen. I cried, thinking of Nelle and Iris. We have been more open in talking about them at home, but it made me even more determined not to let my children forget the babies that we lost.
Later that night at dinner, Theo said “I think that our babies could be sitting in this room with us. Nelle could be sitting right here.” He gestured the seat next to him. The next day, he commented, unprompted: “I think that ALL of our family members that have died are watching over us. Like great-grandpa.” Referring to my grandfather, whose ashes are scattered beneath the same sheltering oak where we took the ashes of our babies.
We have always talked very loosely about afterlife, or “heaven” or what happens to us when we die in this house. In the same thread of conversation, Theo asked if anyone knows for sure what happens, and I said “No, honey, no one knows for sure. But we believe like what we saw in the movie – that our family is always with us, as long as we remember them.” He smiled happily. Later, he observed that Nelle and Iris’s footprints on the tray in our bedroom are like the photos on the “ofrenda” (offering) – allowing them to cross the bridge and visit us.
I am so glad we saw it. I am glad it gave them a tangible, visible explanation where I had previously fallen short. I am glad I have a point of reference. And, above all, I am glad that death and the afterlife were portrayed in such with such a vibrant, positive energy.
Remember Me (from Coco)
Though I have to say goodbye
Don’t let it make you cry
For even if I’m far away I hold you in my heart
I sing a secret song to you each night we are apart