The eldest elder on the Lower Brule Reservation in South Dakota, 96-year-old Mabel Driving Hawk, was buried today. When I was pastor in Lower Brule, I often stopped by her home to take her communion when Mabel wasn’t well enough to come to church. Mabel always had a houseful of grandchildren, or great-grandchildren that she was looking after. Counting 31 great-great grandchildren she had 151 living descendents!
When big crowds are expected, families often move the services to the larger community center, but Mabel made it clear she wanted to have her funeral in the church that she belonged to for so many years. Fr. Joe led the services, and I just helped out by being there. More than anything else, I enjoyed standing at the entrance to the church hall, where the viewing was going on, and saying hello to her Tiyospaye – extended family as they streamed in. Some were St. Joseph’s students. Many other I’ve had some connection with in my years in this part of the country. Dave and Jean, houseparents at St. Joseph’s Indian School also came. They are close to one of the granddaughters and were asked to be her godparents, so they’ve kept the connection over the years.
Four singers carried and played the drum while leading us all to the cemetery. Afterwards, we gathered back at the hall for a meal and conversations about the memories about Mabel and catching up with one another.
In the evening, I met with a couple to begin their marriage preparation. I still occasionally fill in were needed in the parishes. I haven’t done a wedding in a couple of years, but I’ve done enough that I won’t forget how.