When I lived in Tofino, I was privileged to work with and among the beautiful First Nations people. I related strongly to their ancient culture, loved the fact that, while their lives contained so much pain, they laughed so often and easily. One of my lives must have been as a First Nations, because during the pipe ceremony, and when their drums beat, I felt it deep in my core: a recognition.
The white dance curtain with the black figures was stretched across the front of the room, which was filled with people. Most of the village had come to support the family in honoring the memory of the twelve-year-old girl, killed by accidental gunfire on the beach in front of her small village, two years ago. She had been crouched down behind a log. Some boys had been shooting targets down below, not knowing she was there. The gun went off, as Katina stood up. Devastation all around, including the young man who held the weapon. All were closely related.
Before the curtain, a framed photograph showed her, smiling and confident, young and beautiful. It was incomprehensible she had been snatched away from all who loved her, the promise of her future cut short in one horrible and accidental moment.
Many people smiled and chatted, greeted each other, exchanged hugs. My eyes followed the children, their innocent faces alight with smiles, their dark eyes warm and flashing. Babies and toddlers tried to evade firm parental grasp, escaped to rush down aisles, and were gently returned by the security men. Katina had been just such a laughing, brown-eyed baby once. I sought out her mother’s face. The words being spoken were all of putting grief away, but with a mother’s heart, I knew there would always be a corner of Mary’s heart where Katina lived, a pain that would always be there.
The drums began to beat and men’s strong voices rose in song, as from behind the curtain four dancers leaped, each wearing a huge carved wooden mask of a wolf.
They leaped and whirled. From their headdresses, white feathers flew into the air and wafted through the room, to every corner. I watched them swirling gently in the air over everyone’s heads as the dancers wheeled and turned to the strong beat of the drum. Everyone craned to watch their every move. While my heart responded to the power of their dance, my eyes were drawn to the center of the crowd where a soft curled white feather spiraled gently down towards a tiny uplifted child’s hand, reaching up to catch it as it fell.
The hand glowed as if surrounded by light and for a moment it was all I saw in the room: the white feather drifting down, the small hand reaching up, a symbol of hope, of the promise that life goes on, during the dance of farewell to one who now lived in the spirit world.
I thought of Katina’s spirit, so beautiful. And carried away that vision of hope and promise: the white feather falling down into the tiny hand