Manataka™ American Indian Council
By Grandmother L.Cota Nupa Maka
When my mother and father passed into spirit in 1985 it was a dark time in my life. Living on the East Coast and them on the West, we had only been together twice in 25 years. We had however written and called each other but that was not somehow the same as a face to face hug and visit. Or one of those good old fashion gatherings of the clan around a holiday meal with music, dancing, and singing.
The words from an old ballad of the three Mary’s of Scotland, come to my mind as I sit here thinking of the space and time that has elapsed.
“Little did my Mother think when first she cradled me, the lands I was to travel in and the death I was to die.”
We never know what will happen or when we will meet again from the time of separation, be it a day, or many years. The years passed after that and faded into distant memory. The longing for home that was at first so sharp and painful, also passed in time, as I made Maine my second home. I came to be at peace with the rugged coast line and the cold Atlantic waters. The trees that filled the land for miles and miles with no break they went on forever. Lakes and lush green fields separated with the ever present stone walls. I came to find a connection with the land and the animals along with the healing plants that I found there.
I never totally felt at home and a deeper part of me still longed for the open prairies, coyotes singing, and purple sage brush against the distant mountains. Late at night when my husband was off driving truck, I painted this picture in my mind when I was lonely for my family. Somehow sitting there wrapped in that old star quilt that held the smell of home, I could feel this surrounding me.
It would be twenty five years after my departure from that wilderness ranch in Wells, Nevada before I would see my Mother and Father again. Although promised that I would be able to return home to see my family when I wished this never happened.
That cold gray morning in January, I packed up all my belongings in the truck and placed my daughter in my Mothers arms for her blessing. My mother wrapped my daughter in a star quilt and handed her back to me.
I had remarried after the death of my first husband and this man was from Maine so off we went to live on that distant coast. As my new husband watched me say good bye to my parents, he grew impatient with our long drawn out departure and wanted to get on the road. I knew he did not understand our ways but still I must leave my family with the blessings and proper prayers.
My Father sent smoke for our safe journey on that long road through the winter snow to Maine. With the words from my mother to always remember, “ you are a human being”, we started the long journey east. Little did I know on that morning the lands I was to travel in, or the pain and disappointment I was to find at the end of the journey to Maine.
The next meeting with my family would be in Maine on the day my last daughter Lisa was born. My Mother and Father, who had never traveled that far on a plane, had been in Ohio for my Uncles funeral and decided to come and see me. This was a big adventure for them to undertake and it was such a joy to have them there to see at least one of my children when they were born. My Mother and Father stayed with me for a week and we had a grand time.
The next time my mother and father entered my home it was in 1984 and would be their last journey on this Earth together.
My Mother was diagnosed with ALS and I went out to California to help her and my Father. By the time I got out to California to take care of them they had reduced the house hold to three small rooms in an apartment.
I entered that cold and empty apartment and it did not smell or feel like home to me.
Nothing of our old life was left all had been given away as was our custom. After a month of being in California we decided to take Mom back to Maine, this way I could at least manage my family and her care.
The final day my brothers and sister and all of her remaining brothers and sisters came to wish her a safe journey. They all knew she would never see them again on this Earth and it was sad to know that I too would never see them again in my life time.
During that year my Mother and Father passed into spirit; with five of the aunts and uncles, who followed them.
On the last day of my Mother’s life I sit at her bed side, she was in a coma and had only hours to live. I had nothing much of her life to hold on too but thought of all the things she had gifted me that were not material items. The wisdom of her life and the wisdom of my father’s life were held in my heart as the most precious legacy that one can receive. During those last few hours of her life I spoke to her, and trusted that in that place of peace and passing she could hear me. I thanked her for giving me life and for helping me be strong. I thanked her for the knowledge she had passed down to me from the plant medicine.
As I sit there I remembered her as she was in those years before she was so ill.
The strength she had when all else was in darkness, she was never afraid, and went on no matter what the dangers were. Her hands lay folded now on the covers so at peace, the same hands that cooked cleaned, scrubbed the laundry on the wash board, until they were red and swollen. With these same hands she made my clothes and delicate lace and fine crochet work. Those strong hands that held a child or brought one into this world were the hands that offered food and shelter; she helped others even when there was so little. To follow in her foot steps has always been my focus in life as it is a good way to live.
I still hear her laughing; her clear voice singing the old hill songs as she worked in her garden. I see the birds sitting on her shoulders, or hear her talking to them in the garden when no one was around to witness. She sometimes danced in the garden like a young girl weaving in and out of the corn rows as she sang to the plants. I silently stayed in the shadow of the tall vines and watched her closely learning her dance.
She once said she was born on the day when all hearts were at peace. She said this was St. Valentine’s Day, so no one could ever forget her birthday. Perhaps the most wonderful gift she gave to me was the shared knowledge of my people, and that we were and still are a strong nation of healers.
Today as I think back, there is so much more she gave me besides life. If I had to say what one thing was the most treasured gift, then I would say the knowledge that I am a Human Being.
Many Blessings Grandmother L.Cota Nupa Maka
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