My alarm went off at 3am. Time for Sadhana. Now in the tradition I have been taught, part of this process is a cold shower before starting your practice. I fricking HATE cold showers. Yet this morning, nothing seemed impossible, nothing was to be hated, nothing was to be an issue. I got up, I took my cold shower, I dried off and dressed myself. (I still can’t tell you what I wore that day…I have no idea…though at the time I was trying to embed it in my memory)
The night before Sean told me I needed to get a car for Bob at 3 something. This was because Sean, Bob, Keenaan and Tahan were to meet Jonathan to drive to the cemetery to dig Mikaela’s grave. At first, I was frustrated because I knew I was going to be in meditation…I also knew how vital it was to take care of each other so while chanting, I got the Lyft, and went with the flow. There were so many gifts that started from this moment. I had a white sheet over my head because it was the only white I had for a head covering (the Kundalini yogi’s wear white to amplify their energy in their connection with spirit). I can’t imagine the site I was, and I didn’t care. I had to pull on all of my practices, all of the teachings that were part of my journey until this moment, I had to pray in this way to get through THIS day.
Wah Yantee…Kay Yantee….I kept chanting. Bob walked in and somehow things felt even more perfect. I finished one mantra…he said, that was beautiful, I said…wait there is more. I kept going. His presence brought serenity.
As is my life, I f’ed up one more thing…that was totally perfect in hindsight. Sadhana begins with a chant called Long Ek Ong Kaar’s. I forgot. They always ground and help us to settle into the rest of the process. I remembered at the end. No mistake. I explained a bit more about this and then, in some beautiful perfection, we continued. At 4:30’ish this beloved boy (the man who captured my daughter’s heart completely) and I…were together…moving through this last meditation…this grounding mantra. At 4:48 we finished.
Cherry and Aziza were there and waiting. Those women, angels. No other words to describe them. With the gentleness and love that flows from one mothers’ heart to another, they quietly were present and ready for the next step. They moved Mikaela to one side of the bed, so I could lay down next to her. I put on Akaal by Ajeet Kaur and ensured it was on repeat. Akaal is a chant that the Sikh’s recite when a person is in transition to help the soul journey smoothly to the other side. This version is beautifully powerful in its words and perfect.
We had been told by the doctor that it was hard to say how long it would take for her heart to stop once we took her off the respirator. She estimated 10-20 min but no way to know exactly.
As an aside, it is interesting to note as I reflect back on that time, Sean and Bob were meant to be in a car heading towards Ekone. It was just going to be Mikaela and I as she left this earth. I knew I could do it because it has just been my mother and I when she died. I’m deeply grateful it wasn’t. All was in divine order that morning…better than anything we could have planned.
The respiratory therapist (a kind soul who works at Children’s Hospital a lot) came into the room and all 3 waited for us to get situated. Bob pulled up a chair and sat next to her bed holding her hand. I carefully laid down in her bed and put my arms around her. One hand on her heart, one around her head and getting as close to her as I could so she could feel my love to know she would be okay. Then Cherry and Aziza stood next to the bed behind me. I felt like they were holding me up, giving me the strength to take the next step. Knowing in their hearts what was needed. We were ready….and yet NOT ready at all for what was coming. The kind RT man looked at me, and whispered “are you ready?” I looked at him and I said “no, but she is so it is time.” He turned off the ventilator and took the connection off from her trach. I can never describe in words what those next 15-20ish minutes were like. I’ll share what I can and know that if you ever have the opportunity to sit with a loved one as they transition from this earth, it is a deeply powerful and moving experience. It is also hard as fuck and in this case, I knew I had to help her let go and ensure her spirit moved smoothly to her next place. So this is how it went…
I could feel her heart racing as her body became deprived of oxygen. I kept talking to her, letting her know it was okay and it was her time to leave her body. Her grandmother would be there to catch her and help her on the other side. She didn’t need to be scared or worry about leaving us. It was all going to be okay. We would miss her terribly and we knew that this is how it needed to be. More times than I can remember, I reminded her of how loved she is and how that love would hold us all. Somewhere in this part of the journey I felt someone touch my foot. I looked up and it was Sean. He had walked in shortly after we had removed the ventilator. Then I knew things could and would move better. Now she was held on all sides by the people in the world her loved her the most.
Keenaan was with us in spirit and we honored that this part of the journey was not one he could make in person. He sat downstairs and waited with Jonathan which was a grace and gift.
At a single point I couldn’t feel her heart beating anymore and thought she was gone, the wrenching on my heart felt like its own death. I held my child sobbing and then there was this stillness and peace. I looked at the monitor to see that her heart was still beating just slower and quieter. This is how we proceeded through the rest of her transition. Holding her, encouraging her, reassuring her, then being quiet and present to her so she could leave this earthly place. The music continued to play and this energy was held to do all we could to help her in this journey only she could make.
Then it was complete. Her dying from this place, her body no longer held life force energy. My child was dead. We all just held her. Devastated.
We held each other, we cried, we looked at her and each other still not fully able to fathom this new reality. Our world without our sweet Mikaela.
Then it was time, the boys needed to get on the road and head south. They were in charge of preparing the space for her body’s final resting place. To return her to the mother. I was in charge of her body and all that went along with preparing her and getting her to the final resting place. The masculine and the feminine working in parallel, working in the sacred energy of grief and deep loss, to honor her and each other in the ways that we could.
As I write this, it is brought to my consciousness that I held the feminine motion and Jonathan (my spiritual partner in crime) was guiding the masculine motion. With our individual spirit work, we have individually always worked primarily with the same sex in doing our ceremony work. I suppose it is fitting in this, the greatest ceremony I would ever be part of, that I was partnered with a dear friend to bring our individual gifts/paths together along with the group of us who held all the moving parts that got us to the end of this day.
After the boys left, I sat with her body for a short while and then started to think of all the tasks that needed to executed based on our planning from the day before. I finished packing up the hospital room. Aziza got me a large cart to load up all our final items. I asked Cherry if the doctor could remove her trach and any other ‘lines’ since this wouldn’t be done during the autopsy. When all the ‘work’ of things was complete, it was just her and I, in her hospital room.
Our friend Chuck was going to come and get me from the hospital at 7:30. That was the time the transport was to move her back to the morgue at the First Hill campus for the brain autopsy. I was assured they were on top of this last piece of business, so she would be at the morgue in time for her 9am appointment. Sort of funny that a dead girl still had one last appointment before her body’s journey was done. By the time Chuck arrived, if I am totally honest, I felt like I needed to get out of that room. Not because I wanted to be separate from my child’s body, mostly because the excruciating nature of this new reality felt like more than I could hold. After Chuck briefly went in to say goodbye to her, we left.
In my plans, that meant that by 11am I would be with her body again at the Islamic Center where they were to perform the washing and shrouding. 3.5 hours was all the time we were to be separated. I didn’t want her body sitting in a morgue and left to be around people who didn’t know her let alone love her. Well they say the best laid plans. More on this soon.
We loaded up Chuck’s car, I got in and as we drove off, I fell apart. This was only the 2nd time I had left the hospital since arriving. I wasn’t supposed to leave without her. I was supposed to live in that hospital in her room until she woke up and started improving. I was determined during her illness that I would not leave her side. It wasn’t an option because it was my belief that the sheer magnitude of my love for her would support her healing. This and so much more just hit me so I kept crying and then realized there was still much to do so I better hold it together.
Chuck took me to my father’s hotel down the road. My father, uncle and sister were finishing breakfast and then we sat in the lobby. Cherie and Kim were to meet us here with their respective tasks in place. Kim was driver of my relatives and was to stay with us all day as we moved from place to place. Cherie was bringing my car with flowers and greens to help decorate the back to transport her. While I waited for them, I received a phone call regarding donation of her brain for science. It was so out of the blue that I was a bit terser than I should have been and confused as to what was happening. The gift was this, a friend formerly from Microsoft, heads up an organization that handles cornea transplants globally. She learned that we couldn’t donate Mikaela’s organs and knew that we wanted to honor Mikaela’s wishes around giving ‘some part of her’ to science for study. She was reaching out, via one of her people, to give us the info around donating Mikaela’s brain to science. Not only were we able to donate her brain but it turns out this neuro-pathologist is an amazing person and did the autopsy himself. I didn’t understand at the time but ultimately this turned into a gift for which I will always be deeply grateful.
After this phone call Cherie arrives with Falcor (that is the name of the 4 Runner and super fitting since Mikaela loved the Never Ending Story) which was packed to the max with amazing greenery and flower. In the entrance of the Silver Cloud hotel in Capitol Hill (literally right in front of the doorway under the overhang…because it was raining) we unloaded all the goodness and I began to make her chariot beautiful for this final ride. Cedar, ferns, daffodils, tulips and other beautiful flowers and greens. One could only imagine what the front desk people must have thought watching this show unfold in front of them. Buckets filled with greens and Cherie and I laying down plastic, then white sheets, then her handing me the requested items and allowing my dance of creation to unfold. Every bit of who I am and my love for her, breathing into the life the vision of my heart.
With the back of the 4Runner sorted, I shoved the remaining odds and ends into the car that we needed and returned to the lobby. By now she should have been at her appointment and things should have been progressing. Thanks to Cherie for ensuring we checked in to see how that was moving. She even offered to go to the hospital to ensure they were sorted and on time. She had done so much for us since the time Mikaela went into the hospital, I assured her it would be okay and she didn’t need to go. Well, I was super wrong and she was super right to offer and gently encourage me to check in. I called the head nurse of all ICU at Swedish (yeah because I had her number as my point of contact for the day for all things regarding Mikaela until she left the hospital). Turns out transport was late picking Mikaela up and you guessed it…she missed her appointment. Ugh. We were assured that they would be starting shortly. At this juncture it dawned on me that I should have just stayed with her body until they came to move her. I also should have gone to the First Hill campus and checked in to ensure this was all happening in a timely manner. I didn’t do that either.
Keeping in mind at this juncture, we are on a timeline. I was insistent that we bury her within 24 hours of her dying. Our goal was to have her to the cemetery and be burying her by sundown. With a 3.5 hour drive from the Eastside it was vital that we be on the road by a certain time to make this happen. Not to mention the women who were waiting at the mosque to perform the Ghusl Mayyit (ceremonial washing of the body) and shrouding of her body. Not to mention the small group of people traveling that same distance from Seattle. Lots of moving parts that needed to synchronize to make this all happen.
Kim arrived, he took Cherie back to the ferry as we were trying to sort what was going on. Upon his return, I decided we should head to Redmond and wait at the Islamic Center for the transport to arrive there with her. My father and I got in my car, Kim with my sister and uncle and off we went. From Capitol Hill across the 520 and to Redmond. As I was driving on the 520 I realized me driving probably was not an awesome idea due to lack of sleep and shock. As that realization hit, an Eagle flew overhead. The eagle bolstered me and reminded me of the strength and endurance required for new beginnings. Then I immediately drove to one of my favorite coffee places to get a strong americano. As I pulled into the parking lot, I received a call from the funeral home transport people. Mikaela’s body wasn’t ready and there was no ETA. UGH!! For those who know me…let’s reflect on the fact that it is now 11am and I have not had a single sip of coffee since I woke up. My daughter is dead. I’m on a timeline to complete all tasks so that we can bury her. There are women waiting at the mosque. There are a group of people waiting on final timing so that they can meet up and catch carpools from a park n ride in Issaquah. Jonathan is sending updates on their progress. My project manager hat is in full processing despite no coffee and little sleep. So now what?!!?
I call the head of ICU nursing again. Asking for an update. I get my coffee, we get to the Islamic center and find the lovely women who are waiting for us and Mikaela. They insist on getting us beverages and food. They will not take no for an answer and shove (kindly) food in front of my sister, father, uncle and I. Somewhere earlier in this writing I think I mentioned that Jonathan and I agreed to fast from the time we learned of her death until we buried her. It was easy for me since the last thing I felt like doing was eating. I politely took a bite then slowly moved the sandwich toward my father. 😊 He had to take this one for the team as these were his people and I wanted to be respectful but only had so much left in me to hold it together. Or so I thought. My phone rings, it is my Swedish contact again. She explains there has been some mix up and challenges since the appointment was missed and they are sorting it out now but cannot tell me when her body will be ready. It is now almost 12. I look at my sister, who is a trauma surgeon, and say we need to go back to the hospital. We left my father and uncle at the Islamic center with the lovely Muslim ladies. I called Kim to come and get us, realizing I definitely shouldn’t drive, and away we went, back down to where we had just come from. I’m now freaking out and upset. Yasmin to the rescue, she starts looking up phone numbers and calling people from the back seat. Then she is in full doctor mode and telling people (I have no idea who these people were) that their answers were unacceptable and explaining exactly what she needed and expected would be done asap. We still didn’t know if they had started the autopsy or what the status was. Kim and I looked at each other with a bit of awe and were deeply impressed. We also decided in that moment, we did not want to get on the wrong side of Yasmin in a situation like that. She kicked ass and thank god she did. In her epic phone escapade, she found THE person who handled coordination of transport from the morgue and this was also one of 10 people who had been on an email thread the day before as the doctors and nurses helped us coordinate transportation, etc. for Mikaela based on original wish to transport her ourselves. After driving all over First Hill, we finally found the main entrance. Yasmin and I jumped out and went in search of the morgue. We were directed down a hallway where we literally ran into the woman Yasmin had just been speaking with. She was kind and invited us into her office, reassured us that she would help get us sorted. She called the morgue, no answer. She was able to get the head of nursing in that area to go down and check on status. This woman was also so very dear. She came in, hugged us, expressed her condolences and let us know they were just closing up and Mikaela was ready for transport. I called the gal who was waiting and she, after what seemed like forever, arrived at the main office to get the paperwork and pick up Mikaela. I think it was almost 2pm. The stress was easing a tiny bit but I knew we were way off schedule and based on timing, there was little to no way we would get to Ekone by sunset. Ugh the best laid plans.
In all this, all I kept worrying about was that she wasn’t with us. That she had stayed in the morgue too long and I couldn’t have her separated from us for so long. This may sound odd to most, but it was my intention to care for her body as much as we could on our own as a family and with extended support. This was my child, she grew in my body and I gave birth to her. There was no way I was going to allow strangers to take care of her as I had to return her body to the earth.
Kim picked us up, we headed back to the Islamic center. It seemed like forever until the young woman arrived with her body. By then we were all ready inside the washing room. As the car drove up, I felt like it had been eternity since I left her at 7:30 and now she was in a bag, she was cold and dead and all of the reality sunk in again at a whole new level. The ladies were lovely and asked if we wanted to help. I couldn’t because it seemed beyond my ability to wash her again without any sign of life in her. This is when the craziness of our day set in again and Yasmin, once again rose to the occasion with the fierceness that was needed in that time.
When they sewed up Mikaela’s head, they didn’t do a great job so her head was bleeding. This wasn’t going to work since they were wrapping her in a white shroud. It took me a bit of time to understand what was happening. The ladies trying to wash the blood away, trying to perform the ceremony and prayer of washing her body. Yasmin and I stand and watch and then all of a sudden the organized chaos has gotten to be too much for her. She sees my stress, she knows we are on a timeline and she steps in to help. She holds Mikaela’s head and checks out what the issue is. She needs something to sew the wound closed in a better way. They have nothing. Then the comedy of the situation starts. What are we going to put on her wound so it doesn’t bleed everywhere? I won’t step into those details but just use your imagination about items that are highly absorbent for other bodily purposes. Oh Mikaela, you knew I needed a comedic pause in this horrible situation. Thank you for giving us that. If anyone had seen us at that point, the vacillation between tears and laughter…I’m sure crazy would have been their word to describe me. Again, thank god for Yasmin who took control and helped get the organized chaos to be just organized without the chaos piece.
As this is going on, I’m also trying to text with Seraphina who was coordinating folks. Most people had already headed to Ekone. Jonathan had sent pictures of the space and their progress. All that was left was the small group waiting to meet me and my crew to head out. My father was to be gathering the people at the center to read the funeral prayer. This prayer is to support the soul in its transition from this earth (sound familiar). Muslims believe that the more people who read this prayer for the dead, the better it is for the transitioning soul.
So now my sweet girl is wrapped in white cloth. She is ready for transport. They have her wrapped from head to toe and her face is also covered. My father and uncle come in to join us. My father asks to see her face one last time. He says goodbye. I find these small moments of quiet throughout the day and this one was so beautiful and yet painful. A grandfather outliving his grandchild. Blessings on my father for his fortitude to stand with me in this journey.
Now I’m getting super anxious again because this prayer needs to be said and we need to get on the damn road. Nobody is gathered. People are meandering about. She is wheeled into this gymnasium space from the washing room and I’m telling my dad, we need to hurry and do this NOW. The imam (at least I think he was one) starts to wander off to find more people, remember the more people the better the journey, the more blessed the soul. I basically spurt out there is no time and we need to do this now. He looks at me in a bit of shock, returns to standing in front of her and leads the prayer. Yasmin and I stand behind everyone and try our best to pray too. Then the task master goes into action and I’m okay…let’s go. As we are wheeling her body out to the car, the Muslim ladies start to chase me down. The eldest of them tells me to google a mosque on the way and stop, make a donation and have them say this prayer for her again. More people. It is important. I nod politely and thank them again…then keep moving. The young woman who transported her body waited so we could use her gurney to get Mikaela into the car. She was wonderful and I only wish I could find her again to thank her and give her the promised tip I had talked to her about for waiting.
Now we are outside, Kim, this young woman and I. We open up the back of the 4 Runner and proceed to slide her into the car. Kim at the side door trying to slide her up toward the top and us moving her from the bottom. Once we got her in, Kim and I very quickly realized that ‘straight up and down’ she didn’t ‘fit’ and her feet were hanging out the end of the car. As quickly as we noticed, he grabbed her from the top and I from the feet and moved her at a diagonal. Looked at each other and breathed a sigh of relief. She literally barely fit. Her feet were pushed up by the ‘trunk door’ but she fit. Thank goodness.
The lovely women from the Islamic Center also made us food to take with us on the trip. It was the grace and kindness that they showed us that entire day that will stay with me for the rest of my days. They were amazing and generous and thoughtful and loving. They were mothers and though they couldn’t imagine my situation, they honored me from one mother’s heart to another. I hugged them, said thank you and goodbye. Yasmin and I hopped in my car, Kim with the elders behind us and off we went to Issaquah.
Traffic sucked. Everything felt like it was taking an eternity. It was after 4pm and now I knew there was no way we would get there before the sunset. I had told the Issaquah contingent to leave and we would just drive straight there but they insisted on waiting as their wisdom was greater than mine at that stage. I was frazzled and was stuck in my planned schedule and hadn’t yet remembered that sometimes the plan you make is not the ultimate plan that needs to be executed. That sometimes these things are all out of our hands and going with the flow of the river is all we can do. We went to Issaquah, met the rest of the small group waiting for us…Seraphina led the group, Leslie was to drive with Mikaela and I, Yasmin back with Kim, Loren, Ananda and Seraphina in another car. I insisted on driving the first part of the journey….still thinking I could get there close to our planned time.
We were off and over the Snoqualmie pass we went, her physical self on its final journey in this world. Kim kept up with my speeding which went on at that same pace for almost 2 hours. We lost the other car. Driving has always had a cathartic effect on me and in this case, I think I needed it because the reality of what I was doing hadn’t fully hit me. The weight of this journey was more than I could carry so my body and mind did its own thing to ensure I could make it. I’ll forever been in deepest gratitude to Leslie. She had food, she had beverages, she was present and grounded, and she knew how to hold the space we were in when I couldn’t do it. She held Mikaela and I in this trip. She had been coordinating since the day before to help ensure we could fulfill the wish I had for ceremony during the burial. Leslie and Sandy are my teachers and my sisters. They are part of my tribe and have been for many years. They taught me how to fire tend and they helped me learn and lean into the ceremony of sweat lodge amongst many other things. Through the years their gifts of support, listening, holding, caring and simply being present have been a grace that they give freely to others in their world. In this hardest moment, in this need to embody the sacred in all ways, these two women began to create the container for this final ceremony while I moved and stressed and floated and pushed through the worldly stuff which got us to this juncture. Driving my white 4 Runner, with my child’s body settled gently on the bed of earthly beauty I had made for her in the back, Leslie my co-pilot (with Sandy a phones reach away) and guide into the most deeply sacred ceremony I will ever be part of.
About 2 hours in it was time to stop for a quick bio break. At the Starbucks we all stretched our legs and had a moment to connect. Kim, as he ever is, was upbeat and ribbing me about my speed. He was also sharing funny stories about being in the car with my uncle. I swear Kim is a saint, a 4 hour drive in the car with my family is not for the faint of heart. LOL Leslie was sorting some items with Sandy. I just stood outside the back of my car, glancing over at her. Wrapped in white, surrounded by beauty. Had to keep moving so we did. Leslie took over driving and our journey continued.
It was growing dark. We were trying to sort arrival times and where to meet and what was needed. Jonathan still our planner and manager at ground zero knew where Seraphina and their group was and had given us the scoop on everyone who had already arrived. He had sorted everything for the late burial with the staff onsite. He reassured me that it would all be good and perfect. As Leslie turned off the main highway and we began our last leg of the drive on the back roads heading to Ekone, all of a sudden it got harder to breath and I started to not feel well. That pit in your stomach that is hard to explain, the scariest, hardest, most dreaded thing is approaching, and you know you cannot do anything to stop it. The feeling isn’t something you can escape or wish away. It isn’t going to go away. It is only going to grow. Leslie held my hand and I tried to keep taking long, deep breaths. In that time, I think I went into another place, that place of the sacred, that place where all ‘thinking’ ceases and all that is left is a motion from your core, your gut, your spirit. I knew as we arrived, I couldn’t see people or talk to them. I couldn’t ‘act’ like what others may be comfortable with. I couldn’t do the meet and greet. I couldn’t do anything but be where I was, the way that I was, with my child. The only other thing I wanted was to see my son. The other heart outside of my body. Poor soul had been in the same clothes for 3 days. (We did bring him clothes that day but somehow that was missed in the days leading up to the burial…ugh the things that go sideways are too numerous to mention when life take a giant sledgehammer to your life)
Jonathan met us as we arrived. I explained that I couldn’t see anyone and I can’t remember much else from that conversation. I remember Sean coming out. Getting an update on the road/drive up the hill to the cemetery entrance. What awaited there for the rest of the ceremony and some other misc. logistics. Many people had already started to walk up to the burial site because the only cars that could get up the road were 4 wheel drive. It was very cold that night. I had only reached out to a very small group of people to join us that evening. This time was for her and for our smaller family. It was not a ‘funeral’ like most are used to. It wasn’t meant to be. It was hers and mine and her fathers, her brothers and Bob’s. It was meant to be a ceremony of the most sacred because we were doing the unimaginable.
It was agreed that Kim would drive my family and a few others, Jonathan would bring my teachers up the hill and Sean would join Mikaela and I. I put on Akaal and slowly began to drive. Mindfully, aware of every bump and puddle in the road. Focused entirely on the fact that this was it, the end. The end of my walk with her on this earth. This child who grew in my womb, whose big brown eyes filled the hole in my heart left by my mothers death, this child who took me to the brink of sanity and delighted me like no other human I have ever known. How were we here? How did this happen? Why, dear God, was I burying my baby girl. 22 years old and full of life with such an amazingly bright future ahead. She had far exceeded every wish I had for her in her short life. Why was I driving up this road, with her body in the back of my car getting ready to bury her?
We slipped and slid around on the very wet road and finally made it to the entrance of the cemetery. As we drove up, I saw everyone standing to the right, waiting and witnessing our arrival. It was dark. The only lights were their flashlights and headlights from our cars. Then I just sat there. Poor Sean was almost manic from lack of sleep and the deep grief. He had to keep moving and all I could do was not move.
I waited for the group to keep walking. The amazing people who ‘are’ Ekone were there to help throughout. They led everyone to the grave. They were quietly present to help throughout while also standing in the shadows so that their presence was gentle in the space. I will never be able to tell them how grateful I was for their help and support throughout the process. This was the first night burial they had ever had. It isn’t their standard and yet they were beyond willing to accommodate us based on all the things we had requested.
The larger group left and there we were. Leslie, Sandy, Bob, Sean, Keenaan, Jonathan and me. In the still cold night, clear skies, stars brighter than I have ever seen with a gorgeous crescent moon. The men setup the cart where we would lay her body and complete our ceremony before wheeling her down the path to her grave. Leslie, Sandy and I were sorting some logistics (well they were, and I was doing whatever was needed) and pulling some items together. Then it was time to begin. Sandy smudged us all with blessings and incense. We stood in a circle and Sandy spoke to the sacred, great mystery, spirit calling in all directions, calling in our guides, our support, our ancestors. As we had done in ceremony so many other times, like our ancestors had done for thousands of years before this and yet this wasn’t like anything else. This ceremony was a closing of this life walk and so its flow was a little different. I surrendered and moved as I was guided. Sandy and Leslie would ask me something and give me options to choose, I would and then we would continue.
Mikaela’s medicine blanket was placed on the cart with the cords we would use to bundle and hold her. It was the blanket she was gifted when we held her rights of passage ceremony not that many years earlier when she was a teenager. The time where her tribe of women acknowledge her transition from child to young adult. Where they bestowed wisdom upon her and small sacred gifts to help carry her into adulthood. This blanket was covered in animal fur, it had holes chewed in it by our old dog Meera, it was loved and filled with the medicine of her life. I have endless memories of her walking around the house dragging this blanket (oh that drove me nuts…picking up every spec of dirt and fur on the floor) and then wrapping herself up and finding a cozy spot. Christmas, sitting and studying, traveling places in the car, it was never far. In the Cherokee blanket ceremony, she would be wrapped in her medicine blanket and given sacred herbs as offerings for her journey into her next life. In the way I was taught, we make offerings of sacred tobacco, cornmeal and sage to give gratitude for the gifts, support and help to teacher who give so willingly.
We continued. The boys moved her body from the car to the cart on top of her blanket. Sandy guided us and slowly we started. In the North and moving backwards (counter clock wise) closing the directions of her earth walk. There was a depth and beauty to the ceremony I couldn’t explain in words. I honestly was in an altered state so what I remember is how I felt and what came through at every motion we made around her. We each folded in an end of the blanket, from each direction. Moving from the North, to the West, to the South and then finally, in completion to the East. Honoring her, her life walk, her gifts to the world in this time and sending her off with love and grace into the other place, on the other side of the veil. We were the sacred 7 holding her in this blessed way. Sean, Bob, Keenaan and I saying goodbye. Sandy, Leslie and Jonathan…saying goodbye. Then we all took one of the cords and slowly, gently we tied them. I gave her the bundles she needed for her journey. We took all the flowers and greens and laid them around her body. Then this part was complete.
Leslie and Sandy stood on either side of me and we led the procession. Sean and Bob set themselves to pull the cart. Keenaan and Jonathan walked behind them. In the cold of the night, in the dark with only a small flashlight and the stars to guide us, we walked. We walked towards the dim candlelight that was off in the distant. Slowly, with touches of humor and deep sadness. It was then that it occurred to me how perfect this whole thing was. The timing. The night. The dark. The stars, the moon, shining the brighter than I had ever seen in my life. The darkness forces us to go inward. It urges us to sink into those places that aren’t always easy or simple and yet they are the most brilliant gifts if we just take the time to BE in that place. This was Mikaela’s doing. All my stress was her final lesson to me. Let go mom, let it be what it needs to be and it will be better than you ever imagined. No need to stress, trust me, I got this. She was a wise soul that girl. Her hands were all over this last day and in those moments as we walked…my momma brain thought for sure she was going to fly off the cart just from hearing the rattling and bumps in the path. Again, she knew me and she brought these miniscule moments of levity into the dark depths of my sorrow.
The group was waiting by the grave in silence.
In reflection with my dear Loren months later she gifted me with what had occurred at the graveside while we were in ceremony with Mikaela. Everyone had walked in silence to the grave. Then for approximately an hour everyone stood in total silence waiting for us to arrive. In the freezing cold, in the dim lighting of candles Jonathan had setup, finding their places to stand among old downed trees and bushes. Still, silent, listening, watching, waiting. This alone was the most tremendous gift to my child. The love and caring of this small group, honoring her and us. Loren told me that seeing the light in the distance as we walked towards them was one of the most beautiful things she had ever witnessed.
*Thank you my sweet sister and friend…you who have cared for my family since Mikaela was 6 and helped me deliver my son. Who has been in lockstep with me and us every step of the way over the past 18ish years.*
The night we buried Mikaela was stunningly beautiful and exquisitely painful all at the same time.
I have never experienced something so deep and sacred while also feeling the deepest pain imaginable.
We came to the entrance to walk into the site where her grave was made. There is a whole story I haven’t written about the digging of her grave. I wasn’t there with the boys and that was their yang to my yin so to speak. They prepared her final resting place and I prepared her body. Here I have shared the pieces of the story I have and hopefully one of the guys will write their part of the story so I can share it in the future.
The burial site that Bob (who oversees the Ranch and Cemetery) had picked at Ekone was beyond perfect and closer to the canyon which was one thing I had requested. The funny thing is that my request never got to Bob. Coincidence? Doubtful…again, she had her hands in so much. The boys unloaded their tools, Jonathan smudged everyone and created the sacred space for them to do their work. Through wind, rain and cold the guys dug. Pick axed, shovels and a myriad of tools, they worked tirelessly, with intention and a beauty of souls that no words can explain. It was so cold at one point that poor Keenaan, in his all cotton clothing, asked Jonathan if he could go sit in the car to warm up. Jonathan said, of course and Keenaan just needed to grab the keys when he wanted to go. Then a few minutes later Jonathan told me he turned around to find Keenaan in the hole digging harder than ever, stating that he could warm up by working harder. It took them hours and 4 of them to pull out the largest stone which now sits at the head of her grave. Tahan, Bob, Keenaan, Sean and Jonathan. They worked and created grounding by being with the earth and preparing her space in the same sacred love that had carried us through the days leading up to this point. They cleared the bottom of any stones and bumps as best they could. They laid down a bed of straw, Sean added seeds that he had saved of various types and he laid a line of cornmeal around the top edge of the grave. The boys made it beautiful and put so much of who they are into that space. To hold her body, to make the land even more sacred than it already is.
So we stood, the 7 of us at the entrance that led to her grave. With everyone standing in witness. The men carried her body to the side of the grave. I can’t remember which of them was doing what. As I stood by the head of the grave, what I saw broke my heart wide open with hurt and love. Sean took her shoulders, Keenaan her feet, Bob the straps that were to be used to lower her down. Sean got into the hole. Then Keenaan jumped down at her feet. Ever so gently and with the most sacred love I have ever witnessed, these three men lowered her body into its final resting place. As a mother it was beyond words to watch my son hold his sister in this way. Beyond words. Of course, in my final momma moment for her, I told Sean to watch her head. 😊 I couldn’t help it. Then the 4 of us stood over her, looking down and I knew we would never be the same. We had just embarked on the hardest journey 2 weeks earlier not once feeling or thinking she would die. We were just going to get her through this horrible thing that happened. It wasn’t to be and we were never going to be the same.
It was in this next moment that I realized we hadn’t planned anything else for this part of the burial. It was quiet and each of us were left with our thoughts. Then I asked if anyone would like to say something, share thoughts, etc. It was wonderful and perfect that Bob who spoke first. Standing next to me. He pulled out his notebook and began to read what he had wrote about Mikaela. He began with her favorite Shakespeare quote “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” He spoke of how amazing she was and how much she would be missed. In this moment, I knew whatever we did after he spoke would be perfect and just as it needed to be. It wasn’t ‘us humans’ who were doing this funeral thing…this was a motion of our souls, dancing and mourning that one of us had left this earthly plane to be the embodiment of spirit in another dimension and place. My memories of this time are like short snippets. I think Sean spoke and maybe a few others. I spoke. Then I asked if anyone wanted to offer up prayers or any other blessings. My uncle so beautifully walked up beside her grave and began to recite an Islamic prayer. See that night we were not of one religion or race or belief system. We came with our own practices, our own ceremonies, our experiences and our ways in this world. Then we wove a tapestry for her, with her, in honor of her. Offered up sacred tobacco for any prayers to be added to the grave. We laid a sweat lodge stone next to her (thank you Leslie). We honor these stones and the grandmothers and grandfathers that carry all the earth wisdom over the ages. Leslie brought a staff with a hawk feather tied to it. This was Mikaela’s totem animal that Leslie experienced when doing journey work to help support Mikaela while still in the hospital. This staff and feather were to be her tools for her journey. Then Jonathan passed around a bowl of dried flowers for giving more prayers and blessings…also sprinkled over her.
I had to once again giggle, because at one point I leaned in next to Jonathan and said…what should we do next. He said, I’m not sure, what do you think? I said I’m not sure either? (I think no food for 3 days had taken its toll on us both. LOL.)
In between there were moments of silence. We were both spent w/o food and sleep as were the rest of our small crew who had been tirelessly working towards this time for days. I was told the temperature was below freezing that night. I can’t say I felt the cold at all.
In the cycles of moving through ceremony graveside, I asked one last time if there was anything else anyone wanted to share, bring forward, place in the grave…anything at all. “Are we complete?” Silence. Then after a long pause it was time. Sean handed me the shovel. I walked to the pile of dirt, scooped up a shovel full and let it fall upon my child’s body. I did this a few more times. Then handed the shovel to Sean, then to Keenaan and Bob. We invited anyone who wished to come up and do the same. My father, my uncle, my sister, Tahan and I’m honestly not sure who else. I sat at the foot of the hole and then the boys went into action. They began to fill in her grave with the dirt they had just removed less than 12 hours earlier. I began to sing. I remember some of what I sang. I asked others to join or offer up songs. I reached into the bowl of sacred water behind me only to find a thin layer of ice on the top. I broke through the ice and sprinkled water on her grave as they continued to add more dirt, then stones, then dirt. We sang Kundalini mantras and I sang the one song that came to me which was prompted by Seraphina’s post to FB….”may the long time sun shine upon you.”
May the long time sun shine upon you sweet girl. I didn’t sing it to any tune I knew. It just came out…over and over again. I sang her home until her grave was filled and they had moved the large stone to the head of her grave. Then everyone laid flowers on top of her grave. Cherry blossom branches is what I remember the most. The time of spring and being born again. She had been born into her next journey and life. She had bloomed and grown here and though we wished for far more time, her dark time here had arrived and she was returned to the earth to grow and blossom anew.
We said goodbye. The most beautiful and sacred thing I have ever done in my life and at the same time the most excruciatingly difficult thing I have ever done. I tell you this story and yet I am at a loss for words to fully share with you what that evening was for us.
It was midnight, we were complete. She was finished here.
There were hugs, thank you’s and tears, then everyone made their way back to the warmth.
It was just Sean and I standing there. Bob, from Ekone, greeted us as we were leaving the space.
I was numb to my soul.
I walked quietly from her grave back to my car.
Part of me buried in that beautiful earth with her.
Never to be the same.