This Illuminated Billboard in Albuquerque Hopes to Change the Way People Feel About Death

A strangely warm memento mori

The modern Westerner is bad at death, especially so at the prospect of managing our own. The result is that it's treated glibly—like in slasher films—or pushed to the sidelines of our communities. Mourning, even within a family, is an isolated act, quarantined from the rest of our lives. 

It's a bit melodramatic, frankly. 

There's a holiday tradition in New Mexico, where businesses and homeowners line sidewalks and driveways with lit votive candles inside brown paper bags. These "luminarias" supposedly date back to Spaniard merchants, who, taken by Chinese paper lanterns, decided to create their own in New Spain. The act symbolizes the lighting of the Christ child's path on Christmas Eve.

It's a pretty story whose roots reach to our origins as a country. And in this campaign from French Funerals and Cremations, a luminaria may also light a path to where we're headed. 

(Death.)

Sunset Memorial Park, a cemetery owned by French Funerals, has erected a billboard over northbound I-25, one of Albuquerque's busiest routes. On it sits an enormous luminaria, which, throughout December, will light up every night around dusk. 

Created by agency McKee Wallwork + Co., the billboard aspires to change how people think about the ominous time-eating black hole forming inside each one of us. It encourages Albuquerque families to visit Sunset Memorial Park on Christmas Eve and carry on the act of placing luminarias on the graves of those who've passed. 

"For a lot of people, death is a taboo subject they don't want to think about, but our work with French and Sunset Memorial Park is changing that," says creative director David Ortega of MW+C.

"By hosting events like this, rather than only being thought of as places to mourn, cemeteries will come to be seen as sites for celebration and remembrance. All of us at McKee Wallwork + Co. are honored to offer this advertising and event as a way for the Albuquerque community to come together and enjoy the Christmas season." 

Visitors—including those with no ties to the park at all—are invited to see once-somber memorials to snuffed-out lives, lit anew. Hopefully, they'll for once be surrounded by people who are there to celebrate what's to come. (Be it a new year, the Christ, or the inevitability of our own demise, it's all the same coin, really.)