A unique celebration in the Native American tradition
In Speaking Out, Ryan Campbell, a chaplain at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, recalled a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer and wished to have a Native American service celebrating her life. Campbell prepared a spirit-sending ceremony, which her family and friends performed after her death. Below is a description of the ceremony.
Opening Prayer and Invocation
All: Life is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of the buffalo in the winter. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. Amen. -Crowfoot (Blackfoot)
The Spirit and the Four Directions
Great Spirit Grandfather, I send these words to you, hear my prayer. For these are my words, to Father Sun, to Grandmother Moon, to Mother Earth, to all my relations that have been Created as I.
To the Four Winds that bring us the Seasons of Life. To the East where Father Sun rises, bringing to us a new day, a new meaning of life, a light in which to see the path before us. To the South where the warm air comes to us bringing heat and warmth, the seasons of spring and summer. To the West where Father Sun goes to bring to us darkness, so that we may see the universe and search for the questions of our life. To the North where the cold winds come from bringing to us the seasons of fall and winter.
Oh Great Spirit, hear my words. For to you I offer my heart and soul. You made me what I am. Great Spirit Grandfather, let my heart, soul and mind be always strong with Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding. Great Spirit Grandfather, hear my words for wisdom so that I may open my eyes and see all that is good around me. Great Spirit Grandfather, hear my words for wisdom so that I may open my ears and hear all that is good around me. For I am humble before you. I seek the strength to continue on this path that I travel on before you in a most Sacred manner. Great Spirit Grandfather, hear my words for they are words that come from the Heart, Soul, and Mind, and are filled with Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding. Great Spirit Grandfather, my words are for you to know and understand that in a most Sacred manner.
I honor and respect the life you have put before me, I seek the strength to forever continue upon this Sacred path. Great Spirit Grandfather, upon the four winds are my words for strength for they come from the Heart, Soul, and Mind; words I send to you in a Sacred manner. Great Spirit Grandfather, let all the Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding be my strength to continue on this path that I travel on before you now and forever. Amen. - Larry Kibby
Circle of Remembrance and Honoring “Native American Name”
All are invited to share, remember, celebrate [the person]’s life and life to come. All memories, stories, poems, prayers, hopes, gratitudes, and expressions of love are welcome. All tears, whether of grief or love or joy, are nourishing. All sharing is life-giving.
Communal Prayer with “Native American Name”
All: Great Spirit, God, Creator of All, I welcome You into my heart, mind, body, and soul. There is always room for You here. Grant me the wisdom to heed my inner voice and the strength to stay grounded while I sing my sacred song. Guide me down my chosen path and give me the courage to pursue what is available to me. I am thankful for the lessons and grateful for my struggles; I have not forgotten what has brought me to where I am today. Open my heart to the healing wholeness of nature; we are all related, and through this I will find serenity. Great Spirit, God, Creator of All, cleanse my spirit and wash my soul. There is always room for You here. -Laurel Singing Water Cat
Blessing with Sage: Preparation for the Journey
Earth, teach us stillness as the grasses are stilled with light. Earth, teach us suffering as old stones suffer with memory. Earth, teach us humility as blossoms are humble with beginning. Earth, teach us caring as the mother who secures her young. Earth, teach us courage as the tree which stands alone. Earth, teach us limitation as the ant which crawls on the ground. Earth, teach us freedom as the eagle which soars in the sky. Earth, teach us resignation as the leaves which die in the fall. Earth, teach us regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring. Earth, teach us to forget ourselves as melted snow forgets its life. Earth, teach us to remember kindness as dry fields weep in the rain. “Native American Name”, teach us these things, for you are of, with, and in them all! “Native American Name”: You are of, with, and in us all. Amen. -John Yellowlark Ute
Sources: Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding by Larry Kibby; Earth,Teach Me to Remember by John Yellowlark Ute (North American); Great Spirit God, Creator of All by Laurel Singing Water Cat; Thanksgiving Prayer, Iriquois Prayer (adapted)