A couple weeks ago, I found out through FaceBook someone I looked up to had passed away. I was surprised, shocked, and stunned. I’d seen Jace the month before and she seemed in good health, so this was totally unexpected. When I last saw her, she told me she was scheduled for heart surgery in November. I said a prayer for her and went on my way. I have no idea but maybe it didn’t go as planned or maybe it was scheduled for too late. I guess I’ll never know. All I know is she’s gone.

I met Jace when we first moved to Spearfish in 1989. Her son and my son were in the same class in elementary school. When her son had a birthday party at McDonald’s, she invited my son to come even though he’d only been there a week. Seems the two boys were friends at school; I didn’t know that. All I knew was I thought it was very generous for her to invite the new kid to the party.

It turned out that Jace was one of my instructors my first semester at Black Hills State University. She taught Lakota Thought and Philosophy. Getting a teaching degree required a lot of humanity classes and this one sounded intriguing. When I first saw her at the conference, she remembered me a little, mostly because of a paper I’d written about Inya (Rock) for her class. We had a good laugh about that, and I told her she’d had a very strong influence on me. In her humble way, she blushed and laughed. In her class, I learned more about spirituality and sacredness in that class than I ever thought possible. I’ve not looked at life the same way since. I learned so much about the Lakota worldview and their ties to the land and the creatures on it. Their philosophies are much, much more spiritual than all the books I’d read. Today’s society could learn a lot about respect and appreciation for nature by learning more about the sacredness of places and living things.

In the modern era, nothing is thought of as sacred, not even life. To me, so much of it is sacred (meaning tied to God) that I appreciate everything more. The first breath a baby takes when it’s born is sacred because with it, that child becomes one of the living. The nourishment that baby receives from its mother is sacred because it helps the baby to grow and thrive. When a mother prepares food, she’s doing a sacred service because she’s providing for the well-being of her family (read Proverbs 31). A father providing a safe home for his family is sacred service.

Mostly, sacredness and spirituality come from our attitude. When we say grace over before eating, we should truly feel thankful that we have food on our table. Rain becomes a sacred blessing when it falls on dry lands because it’s blessing the farmers, the wildlife, and those who rely on it as a water source, so we are very thankful for it and say a prayer of thanks when it comes. Thanking the Greater Power who sends those blessings is how we show our spirituality and saying prayers and walking the good road is the best way to thank Him.

I was very blessed to know Jace. She was a holy woman with the Lakota Tribe, meaning she was one they looked to for wisdom and guidance. Her impacts go beyond the Tribal members who looked up to her, but also extended far into the White community who did too. Her soft voice and humor will be sorely missed, but never forgotten. I won’t forget what she taught me because it made me a much better person.

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