This story came to us in mid-December, yet it is what Christmas is about. It changed my life.
In the early morning hours I meditate, preparing and asking for guidance for the participants in the ceremony that opens the day. The ‘Elder Honoring Ceremony was given like a gift from under the tree. So clearly I saw what to do and say. This is to be a very special day.
Art G. is coming from northern Montana. He has come here 7 of our last 9 seasons. Art is 95 years young and every year he says, “this will be my last year.” How wonderful to honor him today!
Jayla is 9. She gets to skip school to be here with Art too. She is Don’s (guide and program director) daughter who has come every year to be with Art. They have a special bond that her father honors without question.
A neighbor usually drives Art down but this year it is Lacee who brought him. She has been with him each visit, always standing quietly in the background. So quietly I barely knew her after all this time. She came through the door first and I could not take my eyes off of her. The quiet, shy teen is gone, now a woman. Her greeting is soft and filled with a kind of ‘grace’.
Art came in, smile first I like to say because he radiates kindness and joy. His eyes always twinkle, has a short white beard and you want to hug him. I always do. I am always in awe of him. He has lived and witnessed nearly a century of life! I wish I could drink more deeply from his cup of wisdom and learn the sweetness and generosity he spreads everywhere he goes. I thank him for coming and he interrupts me with, “oh, I thank YOU! I love the Buffalo and the way they give of themselves.” He tells the story of his last visit with such passion and emotion I am fixed on every word.
We gather for the ceremony honoring the Circle of Life, all Life and those who are participating today. I share that today there will be a special honoring of and for Art, our Elder, to show and express our gratitude for him in our lives but also to let him know he is seen, his life deeply matters , we respect and honor him. Each of us take our turn, sharing our words like offerings at an altar. I can feel the reverence and sincerity like a presence in the room. Little Jayla stood firmly in front of him, gathered herself and spoke of love and sharing and how much it meant to her to be here with him. She gave him a picture she drew for him.
Then Lacee spoke. Her grandfather interrupted and said, “tell them.” Lacee looked up at us and shared that she married her high school sweetheart in June and that he drowned in August.
This kind of news sucks the air out of a room but not this one. It was Lacee, her face was so serene, calm, soft. Her eyes, large deep pools of soft gentle light. The eyes we see in great art of the Madonna. Where was the anger, hurt, grief? She spoke softly but clearly to her grandfather. “You picked me up at the hospital when I was born. You walked me down the aisle on my wedding day and you held my hand when I said good bye to him. You have always been there for me, taken care of me. Now it is time to let me take care of you…” . It wasn’t just her words, how she spoke or her angelic tear less face, it was his face too, his eyes, his serenity. Love was a current in the room, it was pure and magnified to infinity. It spilled over on to all of us as a wave consumes a shore.
This is my Christmas story gift to you. Love and compassion, gifts exchanged unconditionally…seen and unseen…every day of your precious lives.