Wednesday, January 21, 2009
My adopted sister, Patti died unexpectedly a few years ago. She was taken in the prime of life. Poisoned and tortured by modern medical treatments, she fought valiantly to live. All of us who loved her were devastated by the cruel swiftness of the cancer, the brutality of modern medicine, and the way she was ripped from our lives.
Patti was a pejutawin, a medicine woman. Many who came to her for healing, some with the same forms of cancer that took her life, are alive today. Long before she was ever ill, she told me many times she knew she would be one to help from the other side after she died. I have no doubt that she knew what she was talking about.
Patti was a tall woman, with thick brown hair to her waist. She laughed freely and easily and was generally a gentle person, but, no one dared to mess with her. She was fearless in everything. She met prejudice against Indians head on, and woe to anyone who crossed her children. I admired her courage and the strength of her character. She was a warrior in every way.
Patti and her youngest son came to visit us right after we moved to Spirit Creek farm. She was sleeping on the sofa and I had just turned out the light and settled on the cot across the room. I have no idea what happened, but the cot simply collapsed beneath me, dumping me head first onto the floor. We could not stop laughing. It was as if we were teenagers at a slumber party. It was as if we had always been sisters.
Something she took great delight in, something that made her belly laugh, was my fear of ghosts. While I think I am fairly courageous, things have happened that were deeply frightening because they are not supposed to be possible. While she laughed long and hard at me, there was always a note of sympathy in her laughter. She was simply my best friend.
The Monday after her funeral I was back at work. I was the last person to leave the building. I was trying to accept that she was gone, still trying to cope with the loss. Finished for the day, my mind was free to turn fully toward the sad new reality of a world without Patti in it. I was deeply missing her as I stepped out the door.
The fall weather had turned cold, with a biting north wind even though the sunlight was still strong, gracing the downtown buildings with a golden glow. What I thought was a white-haired Indian woman wrapped in a beautiful turquoise Pendleton blanket immediately caught my attention. She was looking directly at me as she came down the sidewalk. It was such an unexpected sight that I doubted it was a real person and stared intently as I got in my truck. Instantly, I thought of Patti's laughter if I could tell her I saw a ghost in broad daylight in downtown Topeka!
It was not a ghost but a real person, and I had been rudely staring. It was an Indian man and he came right up to the truck window. He was wearing shorts and a thin shirt, so it was good he had the blanket.
"Look here. Look at this." he said, indicating the blanket. It was a beautiful blanket and I admired it.
He told me he was Kickapoo and lived on a reservation north of town. He was not expecting me to know about the reservations. He asked for money and I gave him what I had, which was not much. We chatted for a little bit but it was so cold, I asked if he was warm enough. He answered by indicating the blanket again with a grin, which made me laugh. Anyone would be fine with a blanket like that. I offered him a ride but he was "just going a ways up the road". It was too cold to be walking so I assured him it would be no problem to give him a lift wherever he needed to go. He did not want or need a ride. As he was turning to leave, he reached through the window and patted my arm. "You take care of yourself, Sister."
He walked off toward the south and I pulled away toward home. A flood of emotion washed over me. It felt as if I had just received a message from Patti, delivered by an old man in a turquoise Pendleton blanket.