The long epitah engraved on the tombstone on Ten Bears’ grave was written by Ten Bears himself before his death. Here it is.
The wind blows in my ears like mother’s warm breath in baby’s tiny shell ear,
sighs and moans bespeaking the passage of time and dreams.
I have struggled with the soil, toiled to draw living things
rom beneath its implacable face,
green and growing things celebrating life in
the sunshine of a million summers.
Fall harvests whisper of winter to come,
more sweat and tears invested in the earth to ensure
a tomorrow where hope may take root and grow.
Mother Earth, I sprang from your loins
with a heart singing of the glory of life!
It has not been easy…it has not been easy.
Still I rise and face the sun,
stretching its pale arms above the amethyst mountains,
listen with joy to the songs of a thousand birds waking,
and almost, just almost, I can hear
the celestial symphony that stirs the dawn
to life from its magical slumber.
I paint the canvas of each new day with the colors of my soul,
vivid splashes, my personal palette spreading across the hours,
changing in the light and shadow as day ages.
Oh glorious sunset! Oh mystical twilight!
My colors are muted and washed in the dying light of day.
I rest and rock in the soothing rhythm of approaching night.
I reach my arms up to the stars, embrace the night like a brother
who watches over me. The cool kiss of his lips touches my cheek.
I turn my face up to the blue-black sky and breathe in the stars
ike cold water for a thirsty soul.
I wrap the darkness around me like a blanket
and let dreams come to lead me away.
I dance in the dry dirt, my feet raising little clouds of dust
that swirl and spin like little spirits around my ankles.
I leave the echo of my footsteps in the earth
so that my daughter may listen one day, and know me.
I sing with the voice of my ancestors, weaving my own song into theirs
so that the wind may carry it to her ear one day.
She will know me like a familiar piece of music when she hears me…
when she pauses in the toil of her every day life and turns her ear into the wind,
I will be there speaking to her. I leave her my legacy laced to those of my mother and her mother
and her mother’s mother like a plaited banner of many colors billowing in the breeze
of the passage of time. And where my bones lie to rest I hope to feel the beat
of her feet dancing, catch the sound of her voice singing.
My soul is an old one. I have been here many times.
I have not grown weary of the struggle. I have not grown disenchanted
with the vivid promising hues of each passing day.
I can still stand atop the mountain,
my face to the sun and feel the heat and weight of it upon my shoulders.
It is the weight of time.
I can still spill ribbons of color from my hands into the earth.
I can still sing, though now in a voice evocative of time and ancient souls.
I can still move my feet though my bones creak counterpoint to the beat.
I have pressed myself upon my mother’s glorious face
like a kiss and my memory will linger long.
I am not afraid of the night. We are old friends.
I will look upon the earth until my eyes close one final time
and I will revel in what I see. It is my heritage, my legacy,
my gift to my daughter, this earth. I pray she will respect it.
Everyone as you celebrate the season of Rebirth-
paint the days with your own colors, sing your own songs,
dance your own dances and leave your own legacies for future generations.
Why are you here where my bones lie?
Go to where my spirit is.
It is there you will be happiest.