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February 12, 2010

Louie’s funeral was on a Friday. He died on Monday, but initially we didn’t know if anyone from NM was going to try to come or not, so I scheduled the funeral to give them time if it was needed. I had to make so many decisions when I had no heart to do anything. Eventually with the help of the mortuary I bought a burial plot, picked a casket, planned the funeral. Then Louie’s mom and family wanted to bury him on family land in Rock Springs. At first I opposed that, but then I came to see that it was really for the best. That is where his roots were and where mine had grown, where I wanted the kids to return to. I told the funeral director here that the NM mortuary would be contacting them about shipping the body to Gallup. I told the family there that I had no money to pay for the shipping so they took care of it from that end.

We kept the burial plot in the Dover Cemetary and the usual trip to the cemetery after the funeral ended there. The casket was taken there and the final services were concluded there. Then after everyone had gone, the casket and the body were prepared for shipment to Gallup. We only buried a small cedar chest with mementos in it at the grave site. I took Notah and Rachael to the memorial sales room and let them choose a stone to be placed at the burial plot in the cemetery. Notah insisted on a huge stone heart with flowers on it for his dad’s stone. I asked the stone carver to put a yucca plant on the stone instead of roses or some other usual decorative flower. They did a great job. It is the only stone in the cemetery with a desert plant on it. For the next ten years, we visited “Daddy’s grave” there in Dover Cemetery. Both of the kids knew he was buried in New Mexico, but we went there as a memorial. That was the place where they said goodbye to him last.

On Saturday or Sunday following the funeral, we started for Rock Springs and the actual burial there.

When we got to grandma’s house, we stayed in the little pink house where Louie and I had lived while were there. Notah and Rachael slid into desert routine like hands in gloves. They played with their cousins and I sat with Mom. I’m not real sure what Dad did. That is one of the blanks in my memory. I only remember seeing him from time to time.

Fortunately I had nothing to do for this funeral. My sisters-in-law and Mom and the rest of the family planned the entire thing. I only had to be there. Navajo keep children away from funerals because they believe the spirits of the dead come to focus on children and bring evil to them. I asked Dad to take Notah and Rachael into Gallup and play in the park and get them McDonald’s while the actual funeral was going on, not because I agreed with the philosophy but just to give them alternative activites. They had been through a lot of turmoil and emotional chaos during that week at home when I had been out of it and other people had kept house and brought us food. They had had family and friends crying over them and hugging them both in Ohio and in NM. I didn’t think they needed to go through the whole funeral process again. Grandpa took them and Lenora to town and bought them all sorts of loot! I went to the funeral.

The tiny mission chapel was packed full with people even standing along the walls and in the aisle and others outside. Louie was much loved. I asked McCormick if he could arrange for a translator for the funeral message. I know from experience that no matter how well you speak another language, it is always a mental exercise to listen to what is being said in the second language. In times of stress or grief, understanding the second language requires that extra little bit of effort that you don’t have. The salvation of his family had been Louie’s greatest desire and I wanted to be sure the final chance he had to make an impact on their lives wasn’t wasted. McCormick did arrange for a translator and I appreciated it tremendously.

From where I was sitting I was able to watch many of the congregation during the message. I was startled by the reaction when the Navajo minister began translating after McCormick spoke in each segment. i knew they would understand it without any effort, but I didn’t expect it to be the same reaction as to a teacher clapping her hands for attention at the front of the room. The family was all sitting with shoulders hunched, heads bowed and often crying while McCormick spoke, but when the translator began preaching the heads snapped up; all their attention was caught and focused. When he stopped heads dropped again and each one fell back into their pool of grief. I watched it repeatedly during that message and my decision to have a translator was validated. Every single person there learned that Louie had gone to be with the Lord. They would not see him again in this life but they could prepare to go and be with him.

McCormick used the account of David and Bathsheba’s son’s death. He read how David had prayed and fasted while the boy was sick. He prayed so fervently that when the child died, the servants were afraid to tell him for fear he would do himself harm in his grief. Bud David when he knew his son had died rose and called for water bathe and clean clothes. He called for food to eat. The servants asked how this could be that suddenly his grief was ended. David answered them and said, “While he was living there was a chance that the Lord would relent in his punshment of me and allow the child to live. Now he has gone to be with God and I can only prepare to go and be with him.” He emphasized that Louie was gone from us. His spirit wasn’t wandering in the desert (as the Navajo believe) but it was with God. Every one of us who loved him could only take definite steps to be sure our lives were prepared so that we would also go to be with God when we die. That is where Louie is. That is how we can meet him again.

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