The processional left the church on foot and worked its way toward the gravesite a mile away. Someone led carrying the wooden cross. The pallbearers followed with the casket high on their shoulders and relieved each other without a word. They placed the casket next to the grave. Opposite stood the earth banked against a sloping sheet of plywood. When all were gathered, the man was lowered into his resting place and volunteers began to cover him. Many took their turn at a shovel and as they worked, a woman somewhere in the crowd raised her voice in song; others joined her. Children played unaware of the solemnity of the occasion. When the grave was half full, men lowered the wooden cross to the head of the casket and the wife held it in place as the men finished covering her husband. Afterward, family members placed flowers and mementos and gifts above the man. And then the work was done. It was marvelous to me! In my culture we watch like spectators and after we go and our loved one lies alone, some stranger comes and covers him or her with a backhoe.
A great potlatch awaited the village at the family home. There was freshly killed moose – a moose always gives his life to feed the mourners. Salmon, pasta dishes, black bear ribs, goose and duck, beans, potatoes, rice, salads and soups, things I recognized and things unknown to me, and lots of sweets. There is no potlatch without sweets.
Nor is there life without death. This man has passed on now, but if there is life after death and if God exists, then the two have many things to talk about.