Prayers for Our Ancestors
Have you ever needed to pack an overnight bag and get away?
That is what I did last weekend. No destination in mind—only the need for uninterrupted quiet and solitude. My journey ended in Bingham, Maine, a small town, fifty miles from the Canadian border, inhabited by hunters at this time of year.
I obeyed an inner calling from my heart to climb to the top of Moxie Falls, in Bingham, Maine. I spotted the rock I wanted to sit on from below the falls and negotiated the fallen trees and bushes that obscured the path to reach it. I seemed to be under the spell of the big bolder as I climbed the cumbersome trail. I felt like the huge brown rock had chosen me and I had no idea why. However, I trusted that if I relaxed, opened my heart, and listened, I might learn more.
Once I sat on the rock, and flung my legs over the edge, I surrendered to the passionate pull of an unspoken prayer. Although I was not aware of whom or what I was praying for, I sensed that forgiveness was the focus. I do not own a watch, so I had no clue how long the prayer lasted. I only knew I was finished when I felt tears running down my cheeks.
When I opened my eyes and looked down to a big pool of water 85 feet below, I spotted a tall, slender man staring up at me. I was not sure if he belonged to the expanded dimension of my prayers or if he existed in every day reality. Then he waved his arms and cupped his hands to his mouth. I arched my body closer to the edge of the rock in an attempt to hear him. Maybe then I could figure out what dimension he resided in.
He shouted. I could not hear all the sounds. More syllables echoed over the whooshy sound of the waterfalls. I repeated fragments of his words to myself. Louder still, he hollered,
My body trembled in recognition. I first learned that Indian word when I lived in Taos, N.M. twenty years ago. Native Americans use it to begin and end prayers. It means “All my relations.”
Without thinking, I stood up on the rock, cupped my hands to my mouth, and repeated, “Mitakuye Oyasin.”
“May I have permission to approach?” he hollered.
His request seemed to me like he was speaking from another time and I again questioned what dimension I was inhabiting. I nodded.
As I watched him nimbly climb the rocky trail, I wondered if I was making a mistake. Nobody knew I had driven to Bingham, Maine and spent the night in the only motel within a fifty-mile radius. He could push me off the rock and I could end up 85 feet below. I breathed and unhitched myself from my worried imagination and asked my body for a vote. I sensed no anxiety or stress. Too late to make a different choice. My inner story was interrupted by the man’s voice asking, “May I join you on this rock?” I moved over a bit and he sighed.
“Thank you, thank you,” he said with tears in his eyes. I sensed he was not just thanking me for moving over and sharing my rock with him.
“My great grandfather’s spirit is now free. He can move on now.”
I shook my head, feeling as though I had walked into a movie midway through.
How long have you been watching me?” I asked.
“Since you came into the clearing and started climbing up the trail,” he said quietly.
“Why did you come here this day? I inquired.
“My heart ordered me to be here, he replied.
I gasped, “Mine, too.”
“I watched you pray and I listened to your prayers and I knew my great grandfather was free. My family’s prayers are finally answered. I can tell them this is a good day," he replied.
“But I did not pray out loud,” I said, as if grounding myself in my present reality.
“My heart heard your prayers," he replied.
“Let me tell you the story of my family. A long time ago there was a battle between your people and my people. My great grandfather killed a white woman—a grandmother. My great grandmother buried his bones beneath this rock and since I was a small boy I’ve heard the story that his spirit could not be free to return to the ancestors until a white woman prayed for him.”
My hand clutched my heart and I began to cry understanding at that moment the meaning of my passionate prayer. Within the same moment, I also understood that more people had died and appreciated that they, too might be moved on in their journey by prayers even though their bones were not buried directly under the stone on which we sat.
Would you be willing to offer prayers to the others who died in that skirmish?" I asked.
He nodded and invited me to begin and assured me he would add his prayers when I had no more words. This time I knew our prayers needed to be spoken out loud. I began.
When I had no more voice, he continued. Intuitively I knew when he had run out of energy and I took another turn. I felt like we were singing a finely crafted and practiced duet. The power and peace of our mutual prayers gave me full hope that any spirits that might be hanging around were now free. He prayed for the land and asked that the earth be healed now and for all future generations. I asked that our prayers extend to the stars, remembering that Native Americans often refer to stars as campfires of their ancestors. Our prayers encircled us until we both knew we were finished. The sacred hoop was complete. For the first time, we smiled at one another.
May I walk with you down the mountain?” he asked.
I nodded, knowing in advance our walk would be completed in silence.
He walked me to my car. We shook hands formally. Then he asked me my name.
“Rosalie Deer Heart,” I said, and we both laughed. I had no idea why and I have no need to understand any of the coincidences that conspired to create the blessing of that day. All I know is when I follow my heart' s directive, I often visit other dimensions and other times. Then I feel like a bridger and a midwife and my heart leaps with joy.