Well it is over. I never thought I would be around to bury my younger brother, Mark, but on Saturday, February 21, 2010, we did.
My sister, April, who had discovered Mark's body, mentioned when she found him, he looked really peaceful. Mark had really struggled with his demons the last couple of years, and it showed on his face this last year of his life. When his casket was open, and I went up to view the body, I thought he looked really peaceful, too.
After they closed the casket, Mark's preacher conducted the service, and he mentioned how he knew Mark during his (Mark's) better times, and he talked about how Mark struggled with his problems the last couple of years. As preachers tend to do, he said there was a lesson or a message in how Mark died. When he finished, I stood up and spoke:
I mentioned how various people talked about knowing Mark at different times in his life. "But, I knew him my whole life... his whole life," I said. There were ten of us in our family. I was the fifth one, and Mark was the sixth one. We had shared a single mattress together, which we had to sleep sideways on up in the attic of our log cabin. We ate oatmeal, cheese... commodities together. I talked about how we had the same sense of humor, how we read the same books; we liked the same food... People would come up to me and mistake me for Mark all the time. "I am not Mark," I would say. "I am not 6'3", I'm 5'11", and I don't weigh 300 pounds I weigh 225 pounds. Maybe, it is because we share the same Spirit or our Spirits are so close that when people look at us they are seeing his Spirit mingled with mine and mistake me for him," I said. I mentioned how he helped me out when my son, Joel, passed away several years ago. He would let me talk for hours on the phone with him during that time. He was very generous with his time. I mentioned his generosity toward my son, Marshall. Right after Joel died, he gave my son, Marshall, two to three hundred dollars when Marshall had to go on a trip (Today, Marshall's mother, Leona, reminded me that Mark gave each of us $200 when our son, Joel, passed away. "He must have been one of those quiet ones who never tell anyone when they help someone," she said.). Finally I said, "People have talked about the circumstances of his death, and at first it bothered me, too. But, you know what? One morning, I woke up and realized it didn't matter, not knowing how he died (or why) because knowing would not lessen or increase my grief for him. It doesn't matter to me anymore," I said.
After I spoke, my nephew came to the mike and spoke. He recalled how Mark went all the way to Carlsbad, New Mexico, to pick him up -- just like that -- when he needed a ride to North Dakota. Next, a lady stood up and spoke fondly about Mark. Then, two members of the drum group (one who is our relative) came up and sang a beautiful prayer song in front of his casket. Then, Mark's sister-in-law spoke about how Mark came into their family. Then, the mother of a man who Mark pulled from a burning car at the risk of his own life came up and said a prayer. Finally, a Marine who is a member of the local VFW club said a prayer for Mark in Dakota.
Several of Mark's wife's family drove from Bozeman, Montana, and a couple of them came from Minnesota, which I thought was very nice.
During the Giveaway, we made sure all his wife's family who came down received a gift. We actually had enough gifts for everyone. After we had given away all the gifts, we had a round dance, and almost everyone participated in it, even the White relatives from Minnesota and Montana. It helped lighten everyone's mood. I have to say, us brothers and sisters put aside our petty differences, and we worked together planning Mark's wake and funeral. We showed each other a lot of mutual respect and love, which helped us cope with the hurt of losing Mark. And, I was so proud of my children (especially my daughter, Angie), and my nieces and nephews. For those of you who have not attended a Native American wake and funeral, there is a lot of work that needs to be done prior to the services. Our children are all young adults, now, and their help in getting ready for the wake and funeral was invaluable. They did a lot of the legwork for us older ones. I have to say, they respectfully listened to us elders and did what we asked them to without complaint. In spite of burying my beloved younger brother, Mark, it was a good weekend in some ways.
Now on the first of every month, when I pick up a rose and go out to my son's grave, Joel's grave, I will be taking two roses with me -- the second one will go on my younger brother's grave.