I think I am writing this for myself as much as I am for anyone who wants to hear about our ceremony last Saturday night. First, thank you for all your comments, emails, texts, pictures of candles lit, people telling us all over the country that they were holding some sort of prayer/meditation for us. We felt so supported.
Pulling off this ceremony was no small feat. The more I saw how involved it was to put this together, the more shocked I was that my sister made it happen in less than two weeks. Sometimes these ceremonies take 6 months to a year to pull off. People came from Maryland, New Jersey, New York, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado..most of them driving. And even my sister didn’t know many of these people. You must be wondering why? Why drive 30 hours for someone you have never met, know nothing about? That’s what Lance and I were asking ourselves. The answer is simple. That is what these people do. If someone is suffering or sick, they come and pray. Maybe they have suffered in the past and they want to give back. We can relate to that. They have the purest hearts and the best intentions and that became clearer and clearer as the night went on.
I started realizing the day before when my sister arrived with some friends how much was going into this ceremony. They (meaning the people involved to make this ceremony happen…and trust me when i say it was a lot) pray on everything…how they prepare the food, how they put up the tee pee, how they tie the polls, how they cut the wood, the water, the fire, EVERYTHING is full of intention and prayer. At one point, Lance was helping prepare the food chatting about this and that while my sister and her Native friend were dead silent. I quickly filled Lance in on how you are supposed to be preparing the food in silence, with intention and prayer. He was silent from that moment forward.
Saturday night. We arrived at 7:45pm. All I could see besides people milling about in the dark was this enormous tee pee pitched outside with a glow of a fire being started inside (no matches were used). It looked a lot like the picture above only there was the whole front range of snow peaked mountains behind and the night was clear with Venus and Jupiter shining brightly in the sky. When we went into the tee pee, we had very specific places to sit, next to the person who conducts the ceremony and his wife. I cannot express enough how meticulous everything is run with such a specific protocol. I was a little ambivalent about what I had gotten us into mostly because this was a 12 hour ceremony, sitting up all night long. I like my sleep! There were approximately forty people sitting all around the tee pee and at least half were Native Americans.
Lance was asked to speak of his story from day one, all the details that we have been through so that these people knew exactly what was going on and what to pray for. Then I was asked to speak which was really through a lot of tears but they understood.
The most crucial and well attended part of this whole ceremony was the fire. The fire is everything. Well the water is too because without heat and without water we cannot survive. Tending the fire is A LOT of work. One person is appointed to tend to the fire but others help. The fire is a prayer and an art form in itself.
Without going into all the details, there is drumming and singing all night long. The songs are Native American prayers. In between all the singing and drumming, there were very specific prayers made to Lance and I sometimes spoken in English and sometime Navajo. People would share stories which helped us understand why they would come all this way for someone they had never met.
I can’t really explain the whole process of the tee pee meeting (as a Native said to me…you can explain all you want but you really need to experience it) but there are a lot of rituals and prayers and cedar burning. There were children 13 and 14 years old that sat perfectly still, sang the most beautiful songs and just kind of blew my mind!
Around 5AM I heard a rooster crow and I have to admit, I was like, “Oh Thank God this is almost over.” (I was uncomfortable and getting restless). Little did I know this was hours before we were getting out!!! I had a moment of panic and whispered to my sister, “I can’t do the sweat lodge after this!” and she looked at me in her still position that she had been in ALL NIGHT LONG and said to me, “What are you worrying about that for? That’s not for another 4 hours. You should be in the moment.” Point taken but 4 more hours?!!
After the ceremony and after the 2 hour sweat lodge, there was a feast organized by my friend Roxanna. For a moment, I thought, “I can’t believe I invited people to come here.” I wasn’t exactly feeling social. However, it was incredible when they all came, how naturally they all fit in and how they all commented on the love and peaceful and inviting feeling that was just emanating from the place.
It was a magical and moving night…one that we will never forget. We were so touched by the intention of these people. We are so grateful for everyone who participated near and far. Our gratitude is deep, our hearts filled, once again we are humbled.
Hágoónee’ (that’s goodbye in Navajo),