An ancient Mayan ritual, the Day of the Dead is still observed in many places in Mexico. Each year we, at UUCE pay homage to that ritual and build a collective alter to honor ancestors. We can't pretend to do this in any way authentically, but in all cultures there seem to be times and places where we feel as if the barrier between us and the dead is most thin. The religious traditions of the world all try to deal with death in some way, but they address the topic from a group-think... as in where do the dead exist in general. But as individuals, we tend to wonder about this question in terms of specific individuals, as in "where is grandma."
In autumn, the transition between living in dead is felt most clearly. It is reflected in nature.
When we feel such closeness, we look to object that remind us of the loved ones who have gone over to the other side. All religious traditions have some version of this. In the Christian bible, Acts 2:29 refers to the patriarch, David, who is dead but the bible passage refers to his sepulcher as a special place of remembrance. Today we still visit a grave marker... we visit a memorial... or we look upon grandma's and grampa's belongings to feel closer to them. This not altogether rational. It it much more mystical. Yet even the most sincere atheist does not feel out of place going to visit the grave of a beloved.
Or we hold an object that is old in our hands and wonder who touched it, who found it useful? Here before me is a guitar, many people have played this guitar, perhaps very famous people played this guitar. They are now dead, we don't remember their names, but the guitar is here and will be here still after I am dead.