Two days ago there was to be a 50% chance of snow and accumulation today. This morning, the weather report has changed --just freakin' cold with no snow. And I grieve for the land and the plants and the animals --there has been no precipitation to speak of since July. Everything is aching for water.
Church was happy yesterday --singing in places that don't usually sing, birthday cakes and lots of laughter --I mean, it was the last Sunday of the year, so it was time to laugh --we get to remind ourselves that we count time in a different way as Christians --and what fun it is to think of all the different kinds of calendars and all the different ways of keeping track of time....
And the prairie is suddenly alive with the return of the large birds of prey --eagles, and hawks of so many shapes and sizes. They perch atop the utility poles --sentinels, and wait for the small life to scurry in the uncultivated places. Sometimes they catch the not so small life --rabbits and prairie dogs in the open fields where the wild horses, buffalo and cattle graze on the dry stalks between the clusters of wild roses flush with hips that grow where the prairie folds over on itself.
Yesterday, after returning from the far eastern reaches of this Reservation, I went up to the Manor, the small cluster of tribal apartments for the elderly. I had received a call from Arizona --please visit my auntie, so I did. But she wasn't there. She had been taken to the hospital early in the morning --and the hospital had moved her to Rapid... so, prayers for auntie were all I could do....
And then I turned my whole being to the task before me --one I was dreading in ways that made me pay attention... the funeral for T, twelve years old, hung himself at home.
The relatives and friends and supporters gathered out at the 4-mile corner (four miles east of town) and processed with T in a horse-drawn cart, followed by a dozen cowboys on horseback --including his father. And then the 100 or so cars that followed, emergency lights blinking in the dusk. By the time they got to town, where I waited, stole and hat and gloves, it was dark. The team that drew the cart expertly backed up to the church, the cowboys put their horses to graze in our yard in the back of the church lot, and the panic of unexpected and unavoidable grief welled up among the people.
Oh God. Now we really have to start. We can't cook any more. We can't make any more phone calls. We can't arrange things or pack boxes or clean house. Joel tolled the bell as we carried T in to the church --twelve year old coffin bearers --eight of them.... And as we stopped and said our prayers, I was reminded of the procession at the Easter Vigil --in the dark, carrying a feeble light of hope that could blow out at any moment.
The church was packed with flowers --and the scent of people. Three hundred people --standing in rows, crammed in to pews. The funeral director centered the coffin, opened it, and we began....
The father had brought a box of stuff from T's room, and he arranged it all in the coffin while the people looked on --the boots at his feet, his hat at his head, books, a bible, rodeo belt buckle, lariat, pocket knife, a broken magnifying glass in a box, his beaded Indian necklaces, his cowboy kerchief, the pink teddy bear --and his bow and arrows, his BB gun that helped him win State Championship last year...
--everything he owned. Crowded in to his coffin bed.
The wake was rowdy... like riding a bucking bronco. For me, at least. A tenuous grasp of some thin thread and my knees clenched around the wild beast. And then, after the final prayers, wave after wave of young teens, holding each other, crying, filing past the open coffin, getting in line again to look again to test their disbelief, putting hidden mementos in the folds of the Pendelton blanket that held his little body amongst his toys and precious belongings.
After dinner, we had a funeral mass --I knew that liturgy was supposed to be the apex of the journey to the graveside --coffin closed, final words and all that. But that is not what was going to work and was not the truth in this journey.
And after the mass, little B, five years old, who noticed turkeys as big as cows a few weeks ago, came up to me in the sacristy and said, he's asleep and we won't see him or play again. He's my cousin.
I quit doing the holy dishes, dried my hands and gave him my full attention. Yes, I said. You're right.
Why, asked B. Why asleep?
What should I say? And I lunged for words that scurried in the corners of my heart. He didn't tell me, I finally said. But his spirit got hurt.
Will my spirit ever get hurt? asked B
Oh B. (and I knelt to see him eye to eye.) It might. I hope not, but it might. And if your spirit ever gets hurt, you come and talk to me, to your mom and dad who love you so much --you talk and talk about it, okay.
This is a bell, said B and started to play with thurible.
Yes, I said. Would you like some incense?
And I gave him a two small pieces of frankincense and myrrh and thought of wise men and the baby Jesus and I wanted to howl and toll the bells to awaken the dead and storm the gates of heaven saying Now, Now, Now....
At prayer this morning (Galatians 6:1-10 --I cut it up...)
My friends ... --you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. ...
Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. ... Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher. Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.
So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all...
--and then there was this too.... (beginning at Luke 18:15)
People were bringing even infants to Jesus that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
This morning we carry T over to the school where the final words will be said. I worry about what will be said... Then we will return to the church to feast, and then travel the forty miles to the family ranch to give T back to God through our Mother Earth.
--knowing that what they didn't put in the coffin with him will be burned so his soul doesn't linger....
I want to howl and toll the bells to awaken the dead and storm the gates of heaven saying Now, Now, Now....