On Mortality

The Procession of Little Angels offers children a chance to mark Dia de los Muertos

Tim Burton's movie Corpse Bride had just been released, and the gothic glamour of it captured one little girl's imagination. From her first glimpse of the beautiful animated zombie-bride, she knew what she wanted to be for Halloween.

Her father felt slightly uncomfortable with the prospect of his 5-year-old daughter dressing up as a bride, so he suggested that she be a corpse fairy instead. This idea was met with equal excitement, and the costume was made.

A series of portraits were taken of the girl decked out in her Halloween finest. In one photo, her arms are outstretched; her eyes are painted with heavy black makeup; and her wings are just barely lopsided. She is ecstatic.

A few days after this picture was taken, the young girl in the photograph died in a tragic accident.

The silhouette of her picture has become the logo for the Procession of Little Angels, which is now in its sixth year. The procession is part of the annual All Souls Weekend, which takes place this year on Nov. 6 and 7.

Little Angels is a family event that acknowledges loss and death through a child's perspective. Kids can participate in various activities like wing-painting, sugar-skull-decorating and theater, in addition to the procession itself.

"(The) Procession of Little Angels is a kid-driven event," says Jhon Sanders, one of the directors of the Procession of Little Angels. "It's meant to be what kids are about. It's fun."

The Procession of Little Angels offers children a place to come and shape their thoughts and feelings surrounding death.

"It's always difficult for somebody when people die," says Sanders. "But when children die, I think I can safely say that most people feel an added depth to that sense of loss or grief ... because we feel as though it shouldn't be that way. That's such a young life that didn't have a chance to grow and develop. It affects us in a unique way."

That uniqueness helped the Procession of Little Angels become what it is today. Each activity—from creating guiding lanterns out of recycled water bottles and glow sticks, to performances by Stories That Soar—helps participants understand the feelings involved with death. It may sound grim, but the air at the event is much lighter than it is mournful.

"We merely provide the time, place and the intent to stop and take pause in our lives, because, let's face it: In our day-to-day lives, how many of us stop and consider our own mortality?" asks Sanders.

Paul Weir, one of the driving forces behind pyrotechnic troupe Flam Chen and the All Souls Weekend, points out that the Procession of Little Angels is entirely community-and volunteer-driven. A common misconception is that All Souls Weekend is city-funded; it is not.

"We developed the Procession of Little Angels because parents expressed interest in having an event for kids that was (on a) smaller scale," explains Weir. "It was just a response to the community need."

This year, the Procession of Little Angels will be held at Armory Park. The art activities begin at 3 p.m., and the parade will start at 6 p.m., on Saturday, Nov. 6, on the day before the All Souls Procession.

Sanders and Weir believe the event can be an important experience for anyone, whether or not a person has recently experienced loss.

"It may not necessarily be about memorializing somebody, but we're all mortals. We're all alive, and we'll all die," says Weir. "It's a great chance to stop and consider that, in whatever way makes sense."

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