Friday, July 27, 2012

Sending Taanya on her Earthly Journey

It might sound a bit out of the ordinary to dispose of a loving one's remains 37 years after her death, but it now seemed appropriate and so that's what we did.

Taanya was born August 25, 1973, in Ketchikan as a Tsimpshian Indian of Southeast Alaska.  A month later she became a member of the Saxowsky as Taanya Rhea with brother Darron and parents Gail and Denvy.  A half year later Marc became a second brother.  On December 19, 1975, Taanya died of spinal meningitis and was cremated.  In June of 2012 the family agreed to dispose of her ashes around the Yellowstone Park where three major river basins originate.

The first stop was a tributary to the Snake River.  The parking area was empty and we walked to the green bank of a wide slow flowing river.  Darron took the first handful of ashes and gently cast them onto the water.  Marc, Gail and Denvy followed doing the same.  Each seemed to quietly step back as if remembering the two-year old we knew decades ago.

The river was named the Nez Perce after a tribe of native Americans who avoided the US military under the leadership of Chief Joseph when they were to be moved to a reservation.  This in itself was a needful connection.

At the baptism of Jesus, it is said a dove appeared.  In our case, moments after the last ash started down the river an elk appeared in the river with a calf still spotted.  Her appearance, of course, attracted a crowd with cameras.  She carefully and patiently stood in the water watching the gathering crowd before she invited her calf to follow her from the far bank.  After she gave the all-clear they crossed to our side of the river and headed up the bank toward us.  Moments later after passing the crowd they trotted through the same grass we knelt in minutes earlier as we sent Taanya on her way.  This appearance transcended coincidence and the mother/child relationship left a lump in our throats.

Halfway between Yellowstone Lake and the Upper Yellowstone Falls we repeated the same ritual.  Again the river itself was spiritual and moments later we were observing both the Upper and then the Lower Falls knowing that at some point the ashes would pass over those falls and travel on to the Atlantic Ocean via the Yellowstone, Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and the Gulf of Mexico.

While in the Green River basin south of the park, we were looking for an appropriate stream when we realized we were soon to leave that drainage that ultimately lead through the Grand Canyon and into the Pacific Ocean.  At one stop the banks were too steep so we drove on but within seconds we found a turnout with a small gentle stream of clear mountain water flowing through a grassland.  This time everyone including Dominic, Riley and Angelmary lay ashes into the stream.  They too wanted to be a part of Taanya who would have been the aunt they would never know.

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