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.

I mean this with all due the respect. Evelyn Arbuckle’s memorial service out at the Covenant Life Center farm community center was great. The whole morning was, from the drive out the highway in the spring sunshine, crossing the bridge made famous on Gold Rush Alaska, waving at the snowmachiners getting ready for a run down the Porcupine Road, then heading down the still snow covered, high-bermed Chilkat Lake Road to the farm itself with the cozy steep roofed residences on winding lanes to the mutli-use tabernacle in its center. It is a church, dining hall, and all around everything important place to the Christian community who settled out there and made it a home free from urban distractions back in the 1970s. (They are fairly private, so I had never been there before.) Inside, with it’s wide bright hall, lined with windows looking out over the valley and the mountains where heli and cat skiers had tracked the slopes and cross country skiers and snowmachiners recreate, it felt like an Olympic village or ski resort, except with a lot of flower arrangements because of the service. Evelyn was not an “in lieu of flowers” kind of person. Even when she lived in a barn– literally upstairs above a dairy farm– she made sure there were  hanging flower baskets on it.  At first everyone was sitting quietly reading the obituary in the program, or thumbing through “Amazing Stories”, the Alaska survival tale book that Evelyn’s plane crash adventure was featured in. She survived a small plane crash back in 1976 which killed the pilot and her husband by living on berries and rainwater for three days while she and another survivor hiked out for help. Which was another good reason to celebrate her 94 years. Also, since she had been bed bound for nearly four years,  hovered between life and death for a very long time, had been a devout Christian,  and her family had cared for her in their home all that time– death really did not have a sting.  So when Maria began the service smiling and singing an old time-y hymn that sounded to me like it could have been a Carter Family standard — something about this is the day that the Lord has made and being happy, glad, or whatever– with that backdrop Sochi television crews could only dream of — well, I was with her, and so was everyone else.  Spring in Alaska feels like what Mary Oliver meant when she wrote that the morning sun is the best preacher there ever was. Also, the eulogy by Evelyn’s grand daughters about how much they loved her singing and the fancy dresses she sewed them, was warm and good– and her son’s wife said she had never seen a mother love a son like that, or a son love a mother so, and how the last four years caring for her in their home and been hard, but left them both better people for it, well who wouldn’t tear up for good reasons after that? But then they sang one more happy hymn  and we all had lunch. The only regret one friend had was that they hadn’t baked a chocolate cheesecake, there were just plain ones with fruit toppings, and Evelyn loved chocolate. Oh well. I think she would forgive them that.  As for me, I sang all the way home, something about being glad for this day that the Lord hath made– and I meant it.