As I do almost every day, I read the obituaries in the Rapid City Journal this morning. It probably sounds a bit morbid, but I really do it to keep up with the families I know on the Pine Ridge Reservation. I have often learned of deaths in the families before getting a phone call or finding out in a round-about way.
This morning I read about the death of a 79 year old man, Vincent. The fact that he lived to be 79 in a place where the average life expectancy for a male is 48 years makes him exceptional. Other than that, however, I know nothing of this man other than what was listed in the obituary.
Obituaries today are fairly bare bones unless the family has enough money to pay for additional information. Most rez families do not. So why am I choosing to write about Vincent.
I write about Vincent because his obituary was lengthy without putting in additional information. The listing of his family tells me much of what I need to know.
Vincent’s survivors include:
- 5 sons
- 32 adopted sons
- 27 adopted daughters
- 24 grandchildren
- numerous great-grandchildren & great-great grandchildren
- 4 brothers
- 7 sisters
Yes, I actually sat here and counted. I was amazed. In a close-knit community like the reservation, Vincent had a huge presence.
When we die, it is not only our relatives who mourn. When we die, we are like a pebble tossed into a pond. Our passing ripples out, touching many other lives than our immediate family. Perhaps people we never even knew will be touched by the fact that our presence is missing from among the living.
Imagine, as I am, the ripples from Vincent’s passing. The inner circles deep with siblings and children spread to touch the next circle of grandchildren. As ripples move outward, they touch succeeding generations. And friends. And acquaintances. And friends and acquaintances of the siblings, children, grandchildren, and on and on . . . Even I, 2000 miles away, am touched. And now, so are you.
Vincent’s passing will touch a large community of people. Vincent will be remembered.
When I die, I hope people will be able to say the same about me. Will they be able to say it about you?