Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wilma Pearl Mankiller, Rest in Peace

There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. I Corinthians 15:41-42

Today, I want to give thanks for Wilma, who passed yesterday after a long struggle with grave health challenges. She was always good at struggling for the good of all and she was known for her ability to change the way our people worked together. She was a pearl of great price and she gave her life so that so many of us could thrive.
"Prior to my election," said Mankiller, "young Cherokee girls would never have thought that they might grow up and become chief." I was one of those young Cherokee women that took courage from her leadership, her willingness to go where no other woman had ventured. And she ventured with humility and grace, making sure she was taking the girls and the boys, the men and the women, and the elders with her into a better life together.

Shortly after I was elected bishop, Wilma called me at my home. Wilma wanted me to come to Oklahoma, to Talequah, right before Christmas. It was November of 2001, so soon after 911, and our hearts were on the ground as a nation. She wanted me to come and bring a word of hope, and help lead a interdenominational prayer and healing service. I couldn't say no, not to Wilma. It was the right thing to do, and I knew it. She invited me to bring my mother with me. It was a moment of tremendous love and healing for all of us gathered. Wilma couldn't be with us that day. As it happened she was very sick and hospitalized, and I had to get right back for Sunday services. Her dear husband Charlie Soap and family came. Principal Chad Smith, his wife and so many others treated us with such love and welcome. We were home among our people and all healing together. And that was Wilma's way -envisioning for everyone possibilities and heavenly bodies, despite feet of clay and the daily challenges of life. She was a gentle warrior, and a fierce friend. In her sixty four years she changed the world, especially for our Cherokee tribe, and for native men and women everywhere. She saw our hope when we had none, she knew our possibilities when we had stopped dreaming.

May we all keep Wilma’s family, especially her husband Charlie and her daughters, Gina and Felicia, in your prayers. She shared her love with her people and the world, but she treasured them, and they her, with the tender love and gentle care. She was a pearl of great price and they have lost a wife, mother, and best friend.

May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, in the mercy of God, rest in peace.

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