By David Taylor
“Pirito” fought hard to live. He loved his family and was caught off guard by the deadly coronavirus like millions around the world.
Espiridion Lira Parga, born on Dec. 13, 1954, lost his battle with the deadly disease on April 22, 2021. His death was a shock to his family, who hoped he would come home from the hospital.
When the pandemic hit the United States, there was panic and uncertainty as the world sought the best way to confront the deadly virus.
For Dora Lira, it was a terrible time as she watched her father struggle for nine months.
“He got sick, was put on a ventilator and never came back from that,” she said.
On Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, his family gathered around his tombstone at Sterling-White Cemetery in Highlands to celebrate his memory on Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
The two-day holiday on Nov. 1 and 2 is celebrated in Mexico and other Latin American countries with rituals such as constructing altars, ofrendas, or offerings to the dead which includes decorating the gravesite.
It is the second year that the Sterling-White Funeral Home and Cemetery staff and families have commemorated the holiday with the public.
“The loved one’s commune with them on this day with fun music, their favorite food, and flowers. And as you can see, they are visiting with them in the cemetery,” said Bella Dion, managing partner at Sterling-White.
The celebration wasn’t limited to Sterling-White customers.
“We welcome everybody,” Dion said. “We let everyone in the community know that we were preparing this event, and they were invited to participate.”
On the tombstone of Pirito lay an apple, a rosary, candle, and other items.
“The apple is part of a tradition where you place some of their favorite foods,” his daughter Dora said.
Lira said Nov. 1 is reserved for the young dead.
“Those who died with miscarriages, or babies who didn’t make it. So, it’s like the angels,” she said, and explained Nov. 2 was reserved for the older dead.
Lira said her father’s family shows up to Pirito’s gravesite on his birthday, the anniversary of his death, and on Dia De Los Muertos. The family later said a rosary on his behalf.
As part of the celebration, the Crosby High School CTE Floral Design students created floral arrangements for the altar.
“They made a magnificent altar piece for today’s Dia de Los Muertos celebration at Sterling-White Funeral Home & Cemetery. Ms. Walton & her students use marigolds to celebrate life and add a pop of color,” said a thankful Dion.
More than 200 people participated in the celebration which included a mariachi band, tacos, and face painting.
“Many came as a family to celebrate and that’s what we’re all about,” she said.