Sunday, January 27, 2013


My friend Ruth was buried today. Her passing opened my heart and caused me to reflect on the meaning of life and death.  

My elders often speak of death as a continuation of life. They rarely say, for example, that someone died or even passed away, but instead they say that someone "made their journey." Sometimes I hear my uncle pray for the recently deceased and say, "cekʷmi wičis łuʔ šušuwełs." In English, the phrase translates as, "May she find her road," or "May he find his road" (The phrase is actually gender neutral). This prayer speaks to the belief that when our loved ones cross over to the other side, they embark upon a journey to a place of their ancestors. 

For me, the graveside service really did seem like the beginning of a journey instead of a final farewell. Friends and family held one another and wept, but they also laughed. Many expressed their hopes for the next world, while some felt the loving presence of those who have already gone ahead. 

As the final prayer ended, the bagpipes played "Amazing Grace," and just as the people went their separate ways, the clouds parted and the sun appeared for the first time in days. I was reminded that I once heard my Uncle Pat say, "When our loved ones make their journey to the other side, their first job is to make the sun shine again."

The faithful hand of the living
does not desert the hand of the dying.

~Walt Whitman

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

~Civilla D. Martin and Charles H. Gabriel

...I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.

~John 10:28

Even after life is gone
In our hearts your love lingers on
Even after you have left our sight
In our thoughts 
your light shines bright
Even after you are gone
In our memories 
you forever live on. 

~Injete Chesoni

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise,
Than when we first begun.

When our loved ones make their journey to the other side, 
their first job is to make the sun shine again. 

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