Wednesday, August 09, 2006

surviving the dead

My friend's teenage son was killed on friday. I went to his house yesterday to offer my love and support and was welcomed into quite a beautiful exercise in humanity. My friend is Native American and practices the traditional customs of his tribe, and death comes with many specific rituals. It was day four of an eight day process. Day four is when his son's spirit makes his final goodbyes to the living and begins the transition towards being welcomed by his ancestors. To honor him, my friend and his community have been sitting in sacred circle surrounding an altar. We smoked ceremonial tobacco, mixed with sage and anise. Prayers were offered. The casket is being built by hand in the garage, the top carved with a beautiful medicine wheel. It will rest on a bed of sage. Medicine men are coming from the reservation. Tribal elders are gathering. The sweat lodge fire is burning and ceremonial sweats are taking place. There is much chanting, dancing, and prayers. People were sharing dreams and visions of the elders welcoming the son home. My friend is exhausted, grief stricken, and full of grace. The sacred circle was in a tiny ragged but lovely garden, and after offering tobacco a brown hawk flew up over the circle, and off into the trees. Hawks are not common where we live, but no one wondered why it was there.

My friend has suffered the greatest loss of his life, but he is surrounded by community, and held steady by his beliefs. My friend knows his grief time is still coming, and he is ready.

The last service is on Saturday. 16 ceremonial songs will be performed and the beat of the drums will ensure his son has reached his final destination. There will be many tears and much rejoicing. We will be there, and my friend has specifically requested my child be there - it is important to him that she and other children learn early on that death isn't something to be feared. She'll clap along with the drums, we will cry for his loss and our pain, and we will celebrate. I am honored to be a small part of such a powerful experience, and I hold my friend in my heart as he buries his son. And he will be ok.

1 comment:

the womom said...

I'm very sorry to hear this. Your friend is in my thoughts.