Setting up the altar on Mom’s casket. Photo by Rob Thompson
Photo by Rob Thompson
Photo by Rob Thompson
Photo by Rob Thompson
Sun Dog made a beautiful ceremony. Photo by Rob Thompson
Thank you to the Hyde family for honoring mom with song. Photo by Rob Thompson
Writing notes… Photo by Rob Thompson
…and sending those notes off for her journey. Photo by Rob Thompson
Mom’s grave after the burial.
We buried mom on Thursday
Thor’s Day, God of Thunder
Ruled by Jupiter and Sagittarius
Fitting for the Warrior she was
Defender of Earth
Her body, dressed in the splendid purple silk Autumn bought her years ago and
Unpolluted by fluids meant to preserve her flesh
Laid to rest in a simple pine casket
Handcrafted by a Colville man
Lined with a Pendleton blanket
A cedar filled pillow for her beautiful brain to rest on
Tucked into her time capsule were special stones
Her feather and staff and
The dragon box she cherished, filled with farewell notes of love and gratitude
Her community gathered
Friends, allies and
Hearts filled with gratitude for her tireless optimism in the fight for Justice
They spoke of her journalism
Her quest for Truth
Her penchant for framing conversations in a way that can be heard by those in power
Her commitment to Community, also
Barter Fair committees, the Tonasket Co-op, the Tonasket Community Cultural Center, Annual International Mother’s Day March for Peace
The list goes on: co-founder, board member, advocate, volunteer, ally
They spoke of her commitment to our Earth and
How she inspired them to take up action, that
Each citizen of the planet can make an impact, that
Everyone shares responsibility to keep our home for the next generation
She was honored by the Similkameen People of Canada for her dedication in
Helping restore ceremonial rights on the River
For helping them understand how to fight the Okanogan PUD in the US in
Their corrupt bid to build a new damn and
Destroy the sacred salmon run
This honor is great, as
Mom deeply respected the Indigenous Peoples, and yet
The white environmental community has historically not
Aligned with the needs or ways of
She was honored in song by the Hyde Family and
Upon Mom’s request, everyone sang Amazing Grace
I was overwhelmed by, and also grounded in,
The women, my Aunties
Those who had grown the food,
Made the birthdays and weddings and so many parties, and
Rituals of Life happen, they
Came together and made the wake, funeral, and meal afterward happen
The men, my Uncles, they
Carried the casket, set the site, made the prayers and
Many quoted her in saying
“It takes a village” and
All honored Mom
Builder of Community
James did the rope science and tied the knots and
That way we didn’t need a machine so
We hoisted her into her Beloved Earth
Clutching the ropes tightly
Bracing our legs, we
Gently touched her down into that 10 foot hole
We shoveled the dirt
The huge mountain of dirt
So much dirt on top of Mom
Forcing myself to shovel and
Knowing it was only her husk, still
Fighting every moment to not yell
“Stop! She’s gonna suffocate in there!”
I continued to shovel with my brothers and my dad and sister and
As we slowly made our way home
I kept the panic at bay
No, we hadn’t forgotten Mom under all that dirt
That’s now her Forever Home
Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
Friday morning dawned bleakly, what
Would I do with myself now that 7am wasn’t the time to get mom up and dressed?
I binge watched Netflix
“She’s Gotta Have it”
While drinking pots and pots of tea
At 4:30 am
I worried most about Rick
Lover, Partner, Husband, Coparent, and Ally of 35 years
Inseparable from almost the first day they met, together he and Mom
Raised children, founded and published a magazine for 20-plus years, made bread, stopped a mine and saved a mountain and a watershed, grew food, sued the Army Corp of Engineers and won, canned pickles, taught on the Colville Reservation, cared for and nursed many loved ones through death, volunteered in the community and
Loved each other passionately
Now, still young and healthy at 79
He mourns the love of his life
A love few are blessed enough to know
He is the strongest kind of man there is
The embodiment of feminism and
True Equality for All
A male who supports the females in his life
Not just with words, but actions and
Supported Mom in all ways, including
Nursing her during her six year battle against cancer and
Always protecting her right to make her own choices
Mom’s love of and study of geology went far beyond
Simply learning how to read an Environmental Impact Statement
Everywhere we traveled by car Mom would explain and
Recite the geological formations and processes of the local landscape
She was enamored with stones and
Collected a few thousand pounds of rocks
During her 34 years in Chesaw
Delighting in the geology everywhere she went, she
Surrounded herself with stones and
People gifted her with stones and
Her favorite stone, a granite erratic boulder
Uncovered during a backyard excavation project
She had placed upon the hill behind her house
Her Sitting Stone
She chose it for her Headstone
Friday, after rising
All in a daze
We made plans to clean and decorate Mom’s grave
We collected some of her stones and
Headed back to the cemetery
In tears we raked and built a mound of the remaining dirt
Brainstorming how to make her gravesite
Insisting that it had to last a couple of hundred years I
Wanted Mom’s descendants to know who she was
When they came looking for their ancestor
Chris took the biggest of stones and began digging them in
Building a rock fortress around her edges
We worked at it for four days
Collecting rocks from the house and yard
Loading the truck
We brought at least a thousand pounds of those rocks to the cemetery
Amongst the hazy fog of grief and shock we
Discussed and ideated
Hugged and cried
Drank booze and smoked ganja
All the while steadily, but without a clear plan, moving forward
I like plans
I need plans
Plans make me feel better
We couldn’t make real plans without the erratic in place
Late on the third day
We had just placed the stones the erratic would rest on when
We spied Leroy rolling down the road with
The erratic in the bucket of his tractor
Of all of the days he could have delivered it
Like a miracle it showed up just then
Sometimes plans are less than Flow
On the fourth day
Still without a plan
We collected and delivered the
Mother Lode of stones
James and I bickered
Still no plan
I just wanted to collaborate on a plan that
Incorporated everyone’s ideas, meanwhile
Rick began to place stones with his usual quiet gentleness
Randomly placing with Intention
He led us as
One by one the rest of us followed him
We picked up Mom’s beloved rocks
Stone by stone we
Placed the rocks mom had collected
Circling inward with each stone we
Built a Cairn
An ancient Irish burial mound
She was very happy with our work
Covered in the rocks she loved
The rocks and Mom
Nestled between the mountains she loved and fought to protect
Now in their Forever Home
The building of Mom’s cairn was centering and
The process we needed as a family to bring to a close
Our collective journey in Mom’s disease and
In the nine weeks we spent together helping her die
A beautiful, dignified death
Now the five of us are bonded in
Our shared experience
Our collective grieving
Our love of Mom
Uniting us from her side of the veil
Where we shall all pass one day, but
For now we live and carry on her work
All of us
In our own ways
Day 1, Friday we started making the grave pretty.
Mom lies in the the Chesaw Cemetary, a very small cemetary in a very wild place.
The first day, we focused on leaving it pretty, even though we didn’t know what our ultimate design would be.
Our first collection of rocks seemed so big when we loaded it in the truck that first day.
Mom’s Forever Home is nestled between Buckhorn and Bonaparte mountains, with the Canadian Okanagan Highlands to the north.
James and Chris added a thick layer of beauty bark so that whatever we planted would grow well and to keep the weeds out.
No longer just a flat spot.
Mom loved her glasses of wine. So we made sure she had one for the journey.
James carefully raked the beauty bark, just as he did in Mom’s flower beds at home.
We left the cemetery feeling good that Mom’s grave looked lovely.
Day 2. Kari unloads the rocks we collected.
Chris dug those rocks in deep.
Our pile of rocks grew much bigger by the end of Day 2, but we still didn’t know when the erratic mom had chosen as a headstone would be delivered, nor where we’d place it, or what in the world we’d do with all of these rocks.
Day 3. Going big.
We carried the biggest rocks to the cemetary on Day 3
Chris lays the rock we believe the erratic will rest on.
Moments after getting the resting rock and flanking stones in place, we spy Leroy coming down the road in his tractor, what timing! Time to clear the area.
Our pile of rocks on Day 3.
Erratic in Leroyr’s tractor bucket.
Feeling immense joy, relief, gratitude and wonder that the erratic shows up when we most need it.
So much excitement.
Dropping it in place.
And there it landed. perfectly.
Thank you Leroy!
The flanking rocks, the biggest on our property, which James had brought home for mom, fit the erratic’s position perfectly. Amazing.
No that we had the erratic in place, things felt better.
We made it as pretty as we could for the night.
And of course, left some wine and flowers.
Like a huge pillow.
Day 4. Stone by stone, we built a cairn befitting a hippie environmentalist homesteader.
We decorated the cairn with the petals of the flowers.
James is an excellent rock balancer.
The “womb” stone sits in the center, surround by mom’s most precious stones.
We cried, we laughed, we loved.
With Bonaparte in the distance. I said goodbye to mom before leaving on my long journey home the next morning.