And as we climbed a particular high point, we got a glimpse of the Cheyenne River Valley to the south of us, sun climbing through the early morning frozen fog. It was as though someone had thrown an iridescent gossamer veil over the valley --the fog lay crumpled and heaped up, and had small hills that emerged from the strange silken light of the fog like remnant drum beats --punctuating the course of the river and light and fog.
I wanted to press the image of the light deep in to my eyes as a blessing --to hold on to its strange beauty inside me.... Late Saturday night I had been called to the hospital --a parishioner, D, had been hit and killed by a car as he walked alongside the road on the way home. I met the family at the hospital --we said the prayers, wept, and waited for more family and the funeral director to arrive on in to the early morning hours....
--that's three deaths this week alone... --in this community... --a 22 year old young woman rodeo champion, an elder woman D who took so many stories and words with her, and now this....
--So, we prayed at the altar at White Horse, on the small hill alongside the Moreau River, cottonwood trees stretching to the sky and horses in the pasture by the cemetery --none of the horses very white....
And then we went to Promise --the families there had cancelled their church meeting the week before in order to attend the funeral of 12 year old T. The dad and his brother and the two boys came with the news that A is going to have surgery at the Mayo clinic and C went to see the new grandbaby and J was still not feeling well and that maybe he should collect some firewood although it should be warm weather for the next ten days, but after that, who knows.
So we said some prayers by the porch, talked about ways to keep the horses from sheltering there, and drove off in to the late afternoon to St. Thomas, On the Tree for more church, and singing that pressed against the growing dark, and children playing hard outside by the prairie dog city and the eagles watching carefully overhead.
When I got home, I expected a call to do a comfort service for D... but Joel met me in the driveway --C, the senior warden's husband died just five minutes before... don't bother getting out of the car, go, go, go.... So, I went... Joel arrived with our Deacon-to-be soon after, and we said the first prayers and waited for the coroner to announce the obvious. C was draped with a new Pendelton blanket.
I left to do the comfort service for D.... Joel stayed to do the Litany with the lay readers... I heard he went to get them all something to eat, too.... He got home after I did....
And this morning I am driving to Rapid to be with the family of L --L is actively dying.... Decades of working as a nurse, speaking to the old ones in Lakota as they lay dying --comforting them in their own language, even though she was told that she would be fired if she were caught....
And I remembered I had read this on Saturday....
Those were the times during this epidemic that we never had a chance to grieve our losses. Those were the times of multiple funerals a week. Those were the times when we wondered who would be next. Those were the times when death was a constant companion. I stopped counting the number of friends I had lost when the total reached 200. It was, in more ways than we realized, like being in a war. We were in a war.Yes --we are here in a war.... a war that has been going on for at least 150 years in this place --longer in other places... a war of extermination.... and it continues with the tools of dependency, poor health care, poor education, poor access to anything, racism, economic oppression, you name it.....
--and no one bats an eye.... The organizing, the collective kick-back, the raising awareness, the self-determination.... I grope to find it....
At prayer this morning (from Isaiah 1 after verse 10)
When you come to appear before me,Speak it Isaiah... speak it.
who asked this from your hand?
Trample my courts no more;
bringing offerings is futile;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation -
I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
Your new moons and your appointed festivals
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them.
When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.
--and who will listen?
Off I go. I know what sustains me today....
--and I must be careful in the high wind warnings, driving my little butterfly car....