I live and write on Lingít Aaní, and gratefully acknowledge the past, present and future caretakers of this beautiful place, the Jilkaat Kwaan and Jilkoot Kwaan.

It’s Advent, and almost Christmas time, and we always put up the tree following the annual holiday parade. I didn’t much feel like it, but Chip kind of suprised me and insisted, gently, on it. He cut a tree, then put it up, and then he asked if I knew where the lights were. On Monday morning he carried down the boxes of ornaments and other decorations and set them on the couch. He knows I don’t like the look of old cardboard and disarray, so as I made phone calls for obituaries, and fed Papa Bob breakfast and later lunch, and attended a burial at the cemetery, I trimmed the tree. I know, it is such odd timing. I have even decorated my little office on the landing, something I don’t usually do, but it helps to have Mary and Jesus at my back as I work.

On Saturday we did have the holiday parade, with Santa on the fire truck, the Snow Dragon, and the families and friends of Janae Larson and David Simmons walking silently by us all in their memory with candles and little lights. It was good, and strange, a mix of joy and sadness. A celebration of community and the season, and a public outpouring of grief. At the end of the parade there was a vigil down at the harbor. I did not want to go. I thought it would be too hard just now, but I’m glad I drove over with Papa Bob. It was very simple, quiet, and in the dark, and with so many masks, we could be private with our feelings and yet somehow with each other, and that felt good. The Davis family sang a verse of Amazing Grace, and one of Silent Night, and pastor Matt Jones spoke of the four losses this week– Janae and David in the landslide, but also young ( well, 40s– but always young and cheerful in my mind) Johnnie Willard of Klukwan from a sudden illness, and Phil Reeves, a pillar of the fire department volunteer EMT team who died suddenly of heart failure following days of involvement in the search and rescue and answering other ambulance calls. It’s all a lot to take in. I am working on some of the obituaries for this week’s paper. Not all of the families want one, or are ready, that’s okay too. I don’t want to cause any more pain.

Just like all of the events of late, reading the Chilkat Valley News was heart breaking and heart warming– I loved the letters last week:

The fire department buried Phil with all their honors in a pine casket Joanne Waterman built, just like she had for her mother Nedra and father Wes a long time ago, and that Phil’s wife Nene, the vet, had friends write last notes on with waterproof markers. She tucked  a bottle of scotch and a tumbler in it with him. There were bells and sirens and a last tone out for “Red 33”, Phil’s code name, on the radios all the firefighters carry all the time. Ready to run to help us. The service ended with taps on a trumpet echoing off the hill and winding through the tall spruce trees.

I’m still thinking about what Deacon Vince Hansen (and HVFD member) said as he prayed for Phil : that Jesus asked us to love our neighbors, and Phil did that better than just about anyone he knew.

God is with us.

I also want to tell you that on the way home, I drove behind a yellow school bus that stopped to drop off little children, and one wore a santa hat as she jumped off the step, and into the falling snow and then skipped down a white road toward the lights of home.