LOS ANGELES — With each flower they cut, Carlos Lopez and his wife Helen remembered their grandson Cpl. Hunter Lopez, who was killed in Afghanistan at age 22.
Hunter was among 13 U.S. service members killed in a bombing at the Kabul Airport.
What You Need To Know
- Dia de Muertos is celebrated each year on Nov. 1 and 2
- Calvary Cemetery has been celebrating the holiday for eight years
- They typically have more than a hundred ofrendas, or offerings, but scaled it back this year due to the pandemic
- The ofrenda for Cpl. Hunter Lopez was among five built in the cemetery's mausoleum
Hunter's grandmother noted that Hunter was very affectionate, respectful and happy. She showed a dog tag that she wears everyday with his picture, saying it makes her feel like Hunter is with her every day.
Helen and her husband are part of a team of family and friends building an ofrenda, or offering, for Hunter on Día de Muertos — also known as Day of the Dead. The holiday is one of the most important celebrations in Mexico, where families welcome back the souls of their relatives for a brief reunion.
For Hunter’s grandfather, it’s a time to remember and celebrate Hunter's life. He explained how Hunter loved to ask him about his family’s history. The two kept in contact even when Hunter was deployed, as Hunter often sent pictures.
Brian McMahon is director of community outreach for Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries, while also overseaing the Día de Muertos event each year both at Calvary Cemetery and in Oxnard. McMahon noted that from the first year they held the celebration, he quickly grew to appreciate the holiday.
“I was just able to observe the interactions that the families were having with one another, their being able to share stories, reminiscing about their parents or family members that they were building the altars for,” he said.
Each offering contains items that the person being honored liked, ate or drank. Since Hunter was a big "Star Wars" fan, his family added lightsabers. His grandmother said she had made him a "Star Wars" costume that he wore several times as a child.
It’s these memories that his grandparents say they love to share because while his life was short, the impact he made on those he loved is everlasting.