Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Harvesting wisdom from people we've lost

Eagle feather.jpeg
The display on the table at the ceremony
to scatter Kim's ashes on her favorite
mountain pass.

Recently, my husband’s great aunt passed away after a long bout with a painful cancer. Kim was a wonderful woman and her wry wit and comforting presence will be missed at every family gathering.  Her love and pride in our family was something that I cherished.  Kim had been part of my life for almost thirty years and her presence in our lives taught me many things.  

Kim devoted her life to supporting the mental and emotional health of troubled teens across the nation.  A spiritual person from a young age, Kim gravitated toward spiritual people from all faiths. She eventually settled in southern Colorado, cultivating a close connection to the Native American community. While working with teenagers on the reservation there, Kim’s faith was deepened to include many Native American teachings of the Great Spirit and the sharing of wisdom from generation to generation.

Most cultures contain some tradition of harvesting the knowledge of those who have gone before us.  For many, those traditions are rooted in storytelling.

“Storytelling is writing the past, living the present and preserving the future,” Shannon Smith writes in her article “Native storytellers connect the past and the future, published in Native Daughters, a publication of The College of Journalism and Mass Communications.   

“Storytellers, in many Native cultures, carry lessons across generational lines. The women who tell these stories preserve traditional customs and confront contemporary problems.”

Like the Native sages she worked with, Kim became the storyteller of our family and tribe. During her last few months, we heard of her trials at the teenage group homes where she was a firm voice of reason.  We heard stories of her travels across the country to both visit and support her family and life-long friends.  We heard tales of her many foster dogs, and the passion and support Kim had for their care.  We relived times of strife within the family, fights and arguments, both great and small.  We shared stories of love and pride and she made sure that we knew that she loved us.

Through her lifelong actions, Kim taught us that there is no end to the kindness and patience of those who love with all their being.  She taught us that children and animals are wonderful and fragile things that should be handled with the utmost care. Kim’s experience and wisdom with teens was apparent during times the younger generation needed her steady hand, but she also never shied from teaching the hard lesson that tough love is still love by holding us accountable for our actions.
While this wasn’t my first brush with death, I’m reminded time and again that death is hardest on the living who are left behind.

What wisdom have you taken from a loved one who has passed from this life?

Charla Dury
The Grounding Rod - Focusing your energy in the present moment

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