I’m never comfortable hearing someone praise another who has passed but whom they, personally, did not know well. Which is why I have fought all day with this blog.
Because I really didn’t know Michael Alley, except through friends. To one, he was a tribal brother by adoption; to another, a respected colleague in the Native American effort to preserve a heritage and protect a future.
But I would challenge anyone who has chanced into a pow-wow where Mike was the emcee or seated in the drum circle to not feel some affinity. This was a big man–tall, broad, with great presence–and his vocal power streamed through sizable crowds with ease. A security guard by profession, he was as natural a leader as I’ve seen.
At the memorial for my friend Gail two years ago, Mike’s tribute song was both haunting and holy. It came from a sense of personal sadness, but also, it seemed, from a place where people have mourned many losses.
Today, I watched as Mike’s Facebook page filled with note after note from family and friends. They thanked him for his guidance, his laughter, his kindness and his contributions to the Native community. Our mutual friend Karen posted this:
“What moves through us is a silence, a quiet sadness, a longing for one more day, one more word, one more touch. We may not understand why you left this earth so soon, or why you left before we were ready to say good-bye, but little by little, we begin to remember not just that you died, but that you lived. And that your life gave us memories too beautiful to forget.”
If I did not already believe in an afterlife, I would choose to believe in times like these. Because this is a man I would like to talk with more.
Or as several of his Native friends have written, toksa ake. Later, again.