Since my granddaughter’s tragic death 6 weeks ago, my heartache has been unrelenting. However there are moments in which the weight of the shroud of despair have been lightened. Surrounded by the unconditional love of my family (immediate and extended) makes me feel better, sometimes even smile.

I got a call from my holy clown brother, Patch Adams, who during the conversation said he’d like to recite a poem by Pablo Neruda, but before doing so he wanted me to imagine that it was Kyah writing it to me. So, I sat back at my desk and looked up at the pictures we had taken just before the tragedy. The tears flowed as I listened to my baby talk to me. I felt her presence as if I was struck by lightning that made my whole body tingle. It was the first time I let a smile through the veil of my tears. (I’ll recite it to you at the end).

I felt that same jolt of her presence a week later when my friend, colleague, and co-author of Healing Ceremonies called to tell me to say that he was as going down to Aravaipa Canyon. Howie, goes to this riparian paradise every December on his annual solo spiritual retreat. Before going, he asked me again if I wanted him to get willows to rebuild the sweat lodge. 

I had been crippled with ambivalence about rebuilding it for the last year. Even though it was brittle, and cracking I just wasn’t sure how much longer I would be able to do this. But when Howie asked me this time, a week after Kyah’s death, and I said yes without any hesitation, because I heard her say clear as day “do it for me, and for you”.  

Participating in this ceremony sustains my spiritual life. Here, in the uncomfortable heat and darkness, a window in my mind is opened that lets me see my world in a different way. It illumines that portion of my mind that allows me to contemplate the divine mystery. This is my holy place. 

We built the lodge on December 16; took three men with a sledgehammer to make the deep holes into which the willows are set. Then they are bent almost in half to create the dome shaped structure. During this process one of them snapped in half with a jarring cracking sound, it happens sometimes even with fresh willows. When the second one snapped it really got my attention because I felt the eeriness of Kyah’s presence. When it happened an unheard of third time, I could hear her speaking Neruda’s words; I am with you in this transparent house whose walls I can pass through so you can see me. 

At the Lodge dedication ceremony before the New Year she was with me again living her heritage of joy and love. To love and be loved unconditionally is the divine message, and people are its expression. We are the language of God, and I have learned how to love more profoundly.

I say this For All My Relations, Mi Takuye Oyasin

Sonnet #94

If I die, survive me with such sheer force
that you waken the furies of the pallid and the cold,
from south to south lift your indelible eyes,
from sun to sun dream through your singing mouth.
I don’t want your laughter or your steps to waver,
I don’t want my heritage of joy to die.
Don’t call up my person. I am absent.
Live in my absence as if in a house.
Absence is a house so vast
that inside you will pass through its walls
and hang pictures on the air
Absence is a house so transparent
that I, lifeless, will see you, living,
and if you suffer, my love, I will die again.