Learning through Loss

The ones that love us, never really leave us. ~ Albus Dumbledore – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I have been absent over the last several days due to the death of my son’s best friend. Patrick’s family allowed Tony to be a part of the services as a pallbearer. Typically, this would not seem like a big deal, but Patrick’s family is Native American, and they have their rituals and traditions that are sacred to them. It was an honor for our son to be allowed to participate in the ceremonies and funeral proceedings. My husband and I both attended the three days of the wake in support of our son and my friends, Patrick’s mother and sisters.

We attended the dressing ceremony first, here the men entered the room with the body, and kindly included my son, although he was not a tribal member. Here they performed a ceremony, I believe, intended to cleanse the body spiritually. I have been unable to find any information in my research about this, and those I could ask are still in mourning, so I do not want to disturb them at this time.


After the cleansing ceremony, Patrick’s mother requested we pray. We prayed a dec or decade of the rosary and then were allowed to see Patrick in his casket.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Patrick had been in a motorcycle accident. His knuckles were scraped up, and the right side of his face severely bruised, I said a silent ‘Thank you’ to Patrick for becoming my son’s first and best friend when we moved to the area. And then turned around and went to his mother for the first of many fierce hugs.

I went to sit down in my pew at the funeral home, while a few others viewed the body and consoled his mother. Finally, his family went up, and my heart broke all over again watching my friend sob uncontrollably over her youngest child.

The casket closed and the pallbearers began to move the coffin, a simple pine box with rope handles, but beautiful in its simplicity. They solemnly walked down the aisle and towards the front entry where they began turning the casket in circles; again I can only speculate on the significance of this action.

The remainder of those attending walked to a back table where a bowl with rose water was placed to cleanse our hands. A member of Patrick’s family explained to me that this was for protection.

The casket was then loaded into Patrick’s father’s truck and secured, where four pallbearers, including Tony, rode in the back with Patrick from Omak to Nespelem, a 41-mile drive with an escort consisting of 2 Natural Resource Enforcement Officers and 1 Police Officer and the attendees.


The wake began once we arrived in Nespelem at the Community Center, the first night belonged to the family, so we took our leave for the evening. The wake ritual can last any number of days, in this instance, the wake lasted two days, during which at least one family member stays with the body at all times.

Before we left Tony and his friends had talked Patrick’s mother into allowing his ‘Rick & Morty’ hat to be in the coffin with him as it was his favorite. She consented, and the ‘Rick & Morty’ cap returned to its owner.

The following evening was the public rosary. More of the community was there, including our several co-workers and the Chief and Assistant Chief of the Police Department. It warmed my heart to see more of our co-workers there to support Patrick’s mother and sisters.

Tonight most of the kids that had gone to school or had been friends with Patrick were there. The hardest thing was listening to those big tough boys breaking down into sobs, or a lifelong friend sobbing, she had just that morning attempted suicide due to the loss. Thankfully she did not succeed. All of this and my memories of Patrick had me in tears for most of the night.

We prayed the full rosary and watched a memorial video put together by Patrick’s middle sister. The video portrayed a mischievous young man with a love of family, fun, and most especially cake!

The family stayed for one more night of the wake, and the following morning the funeral mass was conducted with another showing of the memorial video, a final viewing, and goodbye to the young man who took my son under his wing in a new place and befriended him.

After the mass, but before the final viewing, two men came in and performed the drum song; this was so heartbreakingly beautiful. I had never heard anything like it. I’ve listened to native songs through recordings, and others live at graduation ceremonies, but this was different and very hard to explain. There were times that I felt my heart beating in time with the drums. It just seemed to be a part of everyone in the room.

We offered condolences to the family one more time, and I held my friend, who said if she ran low on hugs, she would know where to go. To which I replied, “you know where to find me.” My daughter and her husband, who were only able to attend the final service, offered their condolences followed by my husband. As my husband approached Patrick’s mother, she started tearing up. And my husband, who always tries to lighten the mood; said: “Nooooo, no crying on me, I’ve been doing so good.” Making her smile and hug him tight.

As the casket was taken back out of the building for transport back to the funeral home for cremation, we all gathered outside giving comfort to one another and watched as he left with a smaller escort to send him to his final resting place.

Later in the evening, my husband and I hosted a group of the kids that had been friends with Patty, as my son calls him, for dinner. It was nice listening to the kids tell stories about Patty, and laugh in remembrance of some of the things he used to do. It was a welcome ending to an exhausting week.

In memory of Patty aka Panda, aka Patty Melt, etc. The Panda and Potato (Tony) are no more, only the Potato remains.


(Note: Tony has been calling himself a Potato for years, and shortly before his death, Patrick purchased a Panda cover for his motorcycle helmet, hence the nickname Panda. One day at work his mother and I were laughing and said that Patrick and Tony were now the Panda and the Potato.)

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