My friend, Russell, died early this morning before dawn. I have had the privilege to sit by his side for the past few days, keeping his wife company as we Stood Watch over his transformation. She had brought him from the city last Sunday so he could die at home. He had been hospitalized in a major city off and on since last May. About six months ago, they had decided to move from our rural community to be closer to the medical care he needed. In doing so, they left behind their small, integral group of friends and community they had grown with over the past 16 years.
Russell was dying…. And he asked his wife to move them back to their cabin home where he could pass on in peace. Heeding his wishes, she and his daughter had him transported by ambulance to their cabin this past Sunday. Only 4 days ago. When I learned that they had arrived, I took my place with others who came to Support, Hold and Witness his passing with his wife.
It is always an Honor to have the opportunity to tell a loved one goodbye before they die. To Speak words which lay unspoken in the Heart, to offer thanks for their presence and friendship in our lives. I met my friend and his wife in church when they first arrived. He was of “American Indian” ancestry, a title he preferred to be identified with over “Native American”. He was a Medicine Man in his own right, offering ceremonies for Blessing of people and places. He told me a few years ago that he no longer “felt the presence of” his Medicine in his hands….it was gone, and with it went his Song and ability to drum for periods of time. He had asked me to create a new drum, a shield, for him last year and I happily obliged.
Yesterday, it was obvious that he would be “putting down his robe” soon. A group of us, seven in all, had gathered to Watch and wish him Godspeed for his journey. We gathered on the veranda outside of his room in the evening, a little before sunset. We sat in a semi-circle facing north. We had a magnificent view of our valley which ends at the base of Fox Mountain, a sacred place for me. Light evening thundershowers were passing overhead, it was a beautiful sight to behold.
We were relaxing, some with drinks in our hands, voices low in laughter and conversation when a thick lightning bolt came and slammed into the Mountain directly in front of us. All of us saw it, together. Moments later we are reaching for our phones to notify the local sheriff office to report that open flame was visible from the lightning strike. We all sat and watched as a helicopter appeared to size up the situation, and as fire engines began to pick their way across the landscape to reach the fire. The fire spread to about 20 acres real quickly, glowing bright orange and yellow as darkness fell. I drove home late, watching the fire blaze bright into the early morning hours.
I received a phone call early this morning from his wife, telling me that Russell was gone. I jumped into the shower to quickly wash up, threw on some clothes and drove to their home immediately to be with her and his daughter. While driving there, I heard a small chuckle in my Heart….Russell had said his goodbye in a powerful way…..He left us his bon voyage gift…..”Fire on the Mountain” to those of us who Stood by him to send him off……His Medicine Renewed…
All Blessings my Friend and Love…..Godspeed.