Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy Birthday, Rae. July 2, 2015

July 2 is Rae's birthday.  She would have been 78 years old.  As a tribute to her I wanted to share a bit of our memorial that we had at Cuyamungue Institute in May.  I wrote about my plan to complete the circle of Rae's life in an earlier post titled Here Comes the Sun .

Most of you know that Rae was a board member at Cuyamungue Institute in New Mexico.  She was the vice president.  The Institute and the land were a part of Rae's life.  She loved the land.  Rae, Stephanie Stephens and I conducted many workshops at the Institute so we have many fond memories.  There was an empty space at the board meeting this year.  We all felt the loss of Rae's wisdom....but her deep laughter was missed most.

As a board, we watched Rae's Memorial Service from Park of Roses in Columbus, OH, that I had recorded.  Everyone was fascinated but not surprised at the many people who attended.  Rae touched so many lives.  I won't repeat what I had written in Here Comes the Sun but you can click on the link to read about Rae's activity at Cuyamungue Institute.  I just want to tell what we did to honor Rae and what our plans are for her memory.

Monday morning we met at the Labyrinth to greet the sun.  Rae was thrilled that one of our members, Julie, offered to build the Labyrinth with stones from the area.  Rae was determined to travel to Cuyamungue last June, even though she was weak from chemo treatments.  We were having a Centennial Celebration and members from around the world would be at the gathering.  the Labyrinth would be finished for all to see.  Rae was not going to miss this, and I am so glad she was able to see and walk the Labyrinth.

Waiting for the sunrise at the Labyrinth.

So this year, at the Labyrinth we each walked quietly along the path and remembered our times with Rae.  We sent her our love.  Some of us hummed quietly.  Julie played Rae's drum (Rae made a drum many years ago and wanted me to donate it to the Institute.)  We gathered in the center of the Labyrinth.  I had some of Rae's hair that I had gotten from one of her brushes.  We had a small fire in the center and burned the hair....sending the energy into the wind and having the ashes of the hair remain to be part of the land she loved so much.

Beginning the walk.

Paul and Laura Lee

There were many tears, but also joy.  Each of us had a small pinch of tobacco that Stephanie and I got from the American Spirit brand of cigarettes that Rae smoked.

We offered the tobacco to the six directions and blew the rest into the wind.  Paul lit one of the cigarettes and we passed it around...each taking a honor of Rae.  I have to admit....I don't smoke (in fact, I don't think any of us smoke) so my puff was small and shallow.   Paul played a flute...the pure, clear tones were carried by the wind.

Here Comes the Sun!

Sunrise at the Labyrinth

Sunrise at the Labyrinth

We walked out of the Labyrinth, following the path, Julie still drumming Rae's drum.  The sun was shining reflecting off the dew and making the spring flowers sparkle.  The path took us to Thunder Bird Lodge....another one of Rae's favorite places.  The huge drum, sitting in the center invited us to beat on it.  We each picked up a drum stick and began pounding the drum softly....softly...and slowly the beats were louder and faster.  With each beat I was able to release a bit of sadness...a bit of anger...a bit of frustration.  And then, the beating began to slow down....became softer....softer....until there was silence.
Walking the path to Thunderbird Lodge

Ceiling at Thunderbird Lodge

Paul walking into Thunderbird Lodge

We stood in a circle, shoulder to shoulder.  No one had planned the one had planned an ending....what do we do?   I heard a raspy voice sing in that low voice...begin..."Mother, make us a ____________.......Mother, make us strong."  This is the song Rae, Stephanie and I sing at the end of our workshops.  Each person takes a turn to name something (often and animal) that makes them strong.  Everyone sings the whole song...but where the blank is....we take turns and each states what makes us strong.  In this case....we each picked animals that Rae often talked about.  "Mother, make us a dolphin.....Mother, make us strong....Mother make us strong."  The words of strength were turtle, bear, raven, wolf, sun, wind and others.  It was the perfect ending.  We held each other and sang and felt Rae was with us.

Jackie, Stephanie, Julie, Laura Lee and Cynthia

Later that day, Stephanie and I headed to the three casinos that Rae loved...Cities of Gold, Big Rock, and Buffalo Thunder....and we each played $5 for Rae.  We actually won enough money to buy us dinner at the Turquoise Trail Restaurant. Thanks, Rae, for being part of our lives...for touching so many with your love and joy...for your strength when things would look bleak...for your thirst for knowledge, and for encouraging so many people to go beyond their expectations. 

We are going to build a permanent shelter for an area that Rae called "The Firefly."  This is a table and chairs outside the Student Building where people are allowed to smoke.  Every evening it was a gathering spot for everyone...even the non-smokers.  Right now there is an umbrella for protection from the sun....but it gets damaged and is often we are building  a patio type shelter and naming it "Rae's Firefly."

Since I am unable to get on Rae's memorial page on Facebook, I have made my own for her.  I welcome all to follow it and write comments.  I am still in the process of creating it, but it will always be a work in progress.  I have lost all of the touching comments that so many wrote on her Facebook when you learned Rae had died.  I ask you to check out the site and write a short tribute to how she touched your lives.  It would mean a lot to me.  The Facebook site is Memories of Rae LeCompte . (This is what I have named her memorial page.)

Jackie, Stephanie and Rae on the Ridge

This was taken before Thunderbird Lodge had walls.  It is one of my
favorite pictures of  Rae and me.

Happy Birthday, Rae, my friend.  I miss you.