Updated: Sep 26
Along with what people say or do, we invite everyone to bring water from their travels to pour into the center, and this time, we had the water from Jerry’s travels. Danny found several bottles with water that Jerry had collected from the Southwest, his home state of Minnesota, and within and beyond Kansas. His daughters brought a box containing baggies of his cremains we could scatter right in the center, out in the prairie, or in other places.
The skies danced panoramic of storms to come, and the prairie was alive with blossom and sharply-green grasses. Jerry’s family, superb at both speaking from the heart and self-organizing, instantly started coming into the center, from the oldest to youngest siblings and their families, then his oldest to youngest daughters and their families.
Then friends and other family member stepped into the center. One sister invited us to turn to the person next to us and dance for a moment since she had promised Jerry they would go dancing soon when he took a short-lived turn for the better in the final days in the hospital. One of his daughters asked us to open up our arms to the sky as she had seen her father do countless time. Some people told stories, like how he attached a camera to a kite, bringing together two of his passions, to get some aerial photos. One friend sang out the word that speaks to her most of Jerry: sweet.
At the end, many of us scattered ourselves through the prairie to leave some of his ashes or say our own goodbyes. I didn’t realize how incomplete his leaving was last December until I watched his family and friends fan out across the luscious green and blooming prairie, and earlier, right at the end of the circle, how we all called out, “Jerry on the Prairie!” This is where he is, and he’s also right here with us, alive in the stories we told later at the Unitarian Fellowship for a celebration of his life and spirit, the next day on our porch that he built, and for many days to come.
Our porch that Jerry built with a heaping portion of his sibs and friends.
Jerry loved the wind, and as I write this, back on the porch, I’m surrounded by wind, birdsong, frogs are chirping, and one owl just called out, just like the one owl we heard while in the water ritual circle on Saturday, singing to us despite it being the middle of the day. We’re now in the after of Jerry on the prairie, landed in beauty, loss, sweetness, and something beyond mere knowledge that my friend Kat Green wrote so perfectly about in this poem:
Sometimes knowledge is not enough.
Nor is knowing in your bones.
We make our choices.
We live or die.
We scattered Jerry’s ashes at Aiken Prairie,
The crest of a hill by the Aiken family cemetery
but not in it.
We encircled his large family with unfamiliar ritual,
his ashes in the center.
We cawed, three times.
They looked a little uncomfortable.
But then we began the water ritual.
Dan had found a bottle of water
Jerry had collected on his travels
throughout the Great Plains:
Minnesota, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico,
The Texas gulf and other places.
We took turns stepping into the center.
We spoke from our hearts
took a little of his ashes
and poured a little of the water.
His brothers and sisters stepped into
the circle with their families
from oldest to youngest.
Did I mention many of them wore cameras?
His daughters and their families spoke next.
Two of Jerry’s sisters and one marvelous brother-in-law o top of the world, or at least Wells Overlook near our place to see the aerial view Jerry loved.
We remembered a stubborn, kind man
noted for leisurely and complete story telling
and exquisite photographs of the natural world.
We surged into the center of the circle and back
out, three times
~ Kat Greene