Chicana and Designer AF

My Grandfather's Rosary


My Grandfather’s Rosary

In the Loving Memory of José Calderón Montes | 1934 - 2013

In the Loving Memory of José Calderón Montes | 1934 - 2013

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they are faced with the harsh reality that someone they love is going to pass away.

For me, that moment arrived in late 2012 when mi Abuelito José fell sick and I began to wonder how my life would be without him.



After years of witnessing my grandfather check in and out of hospitals, this time felt different. This time, I knew my grandfather was going to pass. I guess my mom knew it too because she was very deliberate in the way that she took care of him. My mom has been a care-provider both personally and professionally throughout her entire life. Becoming a mother at 16, a care provider by 34, and a grandmother at 36 makes her kind of a pro at loving you.

My mother was not only taking more time to help cleanse my grandfather's failing body, but his soul too. While sitting alongside his hospital bed, she would use a rosario to pray with and for him almost every night. Seeing her pray comes as no surprise since I've gotten used to hearing her whisper in bed every night—but on this occasion, her behavior changed in a way that I've never seen before. Instead of praying for his health to improve, she began praying for his sins to be forgiven by God. Like you and I, my grandfather had his faults and my mom was determined to help him make things right with God before his imminent passing.



As a culturally Mexican-American Catholic, I often see items like prayer cards, pendants, and rosaries used as tools for providing and receiving comfort. I have also observed that during times of bereavement, people almost immediately become incredibly attached to the objects they associate with the person who they’ve recently lost. Whether an item has spent generations in a family or not, those who are grieving instill the recently deceased’s identity into keep-sake heirlooms. As an unexpected result, designers are left with a monumental responsibility in facilitating some of life’s most precious experiences through the objects they design; churches, urns, gravestones, and in my case, a rosary.

Rather than disrupt any already ingrained cultural paradigms with unnecessary technology, I decided it was best to enhance the communal experience of praying, grieving, and honoring the deceased with My Grandfather's Rosary. Unfortunately, this product was made after my grandfather’s death in early 2013, but if given the chance I would have loved to keep my grandfather's presence with me.



My Grandfather's Rosary is an honorary, pulse-sensing heirloom that captures the heartbeat of a dying individual.

My Grandfather’s Rosary is no longer only used as a tool for prayer, but as an extension of my grandfather’s living, breathing identity. Our digital family heirloom has the ability to provide those who are grieving the opportunity to "feel" their loved ones' pulse during the ritual ceremonies of Dia de los Muertos—a Mexican holiday that honors our ancestors and the cycle of life.