Death and Renewal

In the Medicine Wheel as it was taught to me the west road is the way of death and renewal. It is also the way of the masculine, our fathers, our emotions and air element. Over the past week as I assisted my father in his journey down the west road I was conscious of these things. It was just a year ago that I assisted Craig Marvel down the same road. As we prepared for Dad’s funeral services we got word of the passing of Gordon B. Hinkley. Though their lives were very different all three men shaped me in many ways that I am not fully aware of. I love them all dearly and am looking forward to more associations in this life and the next.
I subscribe to a world view that allows for limited contact with those who have passed beyond this mortal life. These experiences are usually brief for me but very real. People talk about a ’sixth sense’. I have felt that and it is real. To quote Bob Marley, “Who feels it knows it.” THere is usually some meaning or message associated with these encounters. Up to the week of my father’s passing I sometimes wondered if these experiences were only in my head. Things that happened in the Freeman Hospital in Joplin Missouri removed those doubts for me. Dad and I shared an experience that left me convinced that it is real. I am glad we had those moments of confirmation and that we both knew it. Death is not the end but a portal into the wonder of eternity.
As a person with my father’s condition approaches death they become increasingly hypoxic. Hypoxia as I understand it can lead to hallucinations. This would seem to make those often reported end of life visions of departed loved ones easy to explain away. I was not hypoxic or under the influence of any known hallucinogen. We both had the experience. I am satisfied of that. This was a couple of days before Dad’s last mortal breath. As he came closer to that portal those who loved him gathered from both worlds to celebrate his graduation. If there was a degree to be bestowed it would be measured by the quality of the lives of the 106 (2 more on the way) descendants he left this world. As my wife’s grandfather was wont to say of his progeny “There is not a scrub in the lot.”
I think that a big chunk of this life’s work, at least for a lot of us, is to idealize and worship our fathers/mothers, see the human failings they all possess, become dissillusioned and perhaps angry, to learn to see them as they really are, forgive their imperfections and finally embrace the whole of who they are. The operant verb here is forgive. Without that we pass through this life unfulfilled, having missed the greatest thing because a heart occupied with resentment for the very source of our existence can not embrace the creator who granted our parents the power to give us life through their bodies. It is a simple matter of the free flow of divine energy or love as we call it.
This was my course. I lived it all, at one time thinking my father was a god, an idiot, a tyrant and finally a loving man who only did for me what he thought I needed, and, in a very real way, gave me what I needed to stumble on and climb over to find myself. How can one argue with that?
The past week has been the most compressed and intense learning period of my life. I have heard others speak of the passing of a parent and wondered what that would be like. My experience was tender, powerful, faith affirming and very instructive. Dad’s last teachings for me were among his greatest. I was accompanied by a feeling of love, peace and joy that brought great comfort. There were times when I cried hard which is a good thing to be able to do, but for the most part I was upheld by a profound sense of joy to be able to witness his passing and assist him as I could. I came to appreciate my immediate family more that I already did. I was especially glad to have my three daughters there with me as we laid him to rest. This event only comes once and I feel like I got my money’s worth.
Before Dad passed I heard him say “Hoka Hey” which means in Lokota “It is a good day to die.”

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16 Responses to “Death and Renewal”

  1. Alyssa Says:

    Hi Joe,

    You have been in my prayers and thoughts very regularly since we talked last. Thank you for sharing all that you have. I am so glad this time was deep and moving for you. I held my mother’s hand for almost all of the 24 hours prior to her passing (25 years ago in December of 1982, when I was 19). Immediately after she left her body, I had 2 amazing experiences that affirmed for me what you shared above about the spirit world and our connection and the portal to a new day. It is good to remember those and good to hear of your recent expansion of all of that knowing. Many of us in Spring City look forward to seeing you soon. You’ve been missed.

    With love, your sister,


  2. Mary Lois Says:

    Amen to that. You have stated it beautifully.

  3. John Potter Says:

    Well said.
    Our prayers have been with you and your family, and we lifted Pipe smoke for your Dad and his journey.
    To him we say, “Giga waabamin, minowah”…….”I will see you later.”
    Blessings to you and yours, Joe.
    - John

  4. Lou Chatterley Says:


    It was wonderfully said. Your family is not the only ones who was touched by this great man. Many times I learned at his knee, also. We were great friends and I long for the “Good old days” once again. It will be a marvelous day when I can give him another “big brother” hug. Tell all hello from the Chatterleys. We love the bunch of you.


  5. Janet Bennion Says:

    Our dad wanted to come home from the hospital to die. He wrote in his journal that the grass was green and the cows looked great. He then died in his sleep. Is it possible to believe that he died happy? I believe so. I miss him fiercely, and look forward to the day when we can see him again. I miss the manure mixed with sage smell on his clothes and the tenderness that he had in his eyes when he looked at me.

    How can we live without our fathers? I guess the only way is to keep them in our minds and hearts daily…and repeat the stories they told us to our own children. It warms my heart to see the Native American element in our father’s lives. It must have been grandpa’s way, too. One day, perhaps in the next life, we can all discuss great things in a sweat together with Owen, Colin, and the rest.

    Thanks, Joe.

  6. paul larsen Says:

    good on you joe. we love you.
    A P I

  7. Paul G. McKean Says:

    Joe, thanks for sharing your experience. Life is sacred and it is good to share and know that leaving it as we know it is too. I am glad to have had Uncle Owen for a loving example in my youth and early adult years. Thanks again.

  8. Judith Cannon Nelson Jardine Says:

    Is it alright if I forward this to Nonie and Marian and Fielding?
    Of course it is alright. JB

  9. Jenny Mauro Hicks Says:

    Dear Joe,
    Here’s a great big hug from the five of us. Thank you for writing this and for sharing this. As I get older I am finally beginning to realize that the advice from our elders is sacred. It’s a privilege to hear your thoughts on the matter.
    All the best.

  10. Julie Prince Says:

    Dear Joe,
    Thank you for your thoughts about your Dad. I have very fond memories of him growing up and always loved his big smile. He was a great uncle to all of us. I just wished we could of been there to see all of you together.



  11. scott marvel Says:

    sorry i havent known him but i know he had to be blessed in this world and to have a great son like you you and your family ,you will always be in my thanks,craigs son scott

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