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  • Writer's pictureCari Mackey

Saying Goodbye in Panama

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

We are all faced with this eventually...the dreaded call telling us "It's time to come home, it's time to say goodbye." If you have been on the receiving end of that call, you know how painful it is. Ryan and I have chosen to live in Panama where we are a long way from our families so when I received that call this past November, it felt like forever trying to get home for my mothers last breaths. Though I never got to say goodbye, I was holding her as she passed on and it feels like a lifetime ago.

Facing the death of a loved one is different for everyone the world over as we try to honor their life and move into a new future without them. I haven't been able to write to you since that day in November but I have been thinking about you and what I would write when I resurfaced from that experience and also a thankfully busy season full of guests.

In Panama, much like the rest of the world, ceremonies to honor the passing of a loved one and prepare them for their passage to the other side vary greatly depending on religious beliefs, family traditions, tribal traditions, social status, and region.

Depending on how you see it, death is a time of intense sadness and grieving, mourning, and celebrating to help in the healing process as we face the reality that life has to continue though forever changed.

The past years have been a stark reality for the world and though death and life are something we all have in common, how different cultures honor their departed is absolutely fascinating.

In our region of Panama, where catholicism is predominant, the body of the deceased is returned to their home to begin the the "Rezo del Rosario" (the prayer of the rosary). This ceremony is performed in the evening in front of an altar composed of a white cloth, a cross, flowers, candles, a photo of the deceased and a glass of water - an offering to the spirit.

After the rosary ceremony, the family stays together all night drinking coffee, tea and eating bread. The following day a mass is held in church then the body taken to the cemetery for burial. For 9 days the family returns to their home for the same ceremony of the rosary staying awake together to honor the spirit of the dead and prepare them for their passage.

Following those nine days, each month on the day of the the death, the family gets back together at the altar for the same vigil for a year as well as visits to the cemetery. I have often wondered why the grave sites are above ground in Latin America like this photo. It turns out what I was thinking - environmental reasons like rain was wrong. These above ground burial vaults are typically purchased and built in advance to entomb ones casketed remains when the time comes. This may be a bit of a dark topic to get my weekly coffee chats going again but it seemed appropriate and helps to explain why you haven't heard from us in a quite a while. But rest assured, we are here, doing well, and continuing to share this magical place with our guests and hope to see you here soon!

Your Friends in Morrillo, Cari and Ryan Mackey Owners and Hosts Morrillo Beach Eco Resort

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