Sukie Rice Has Passed; Invitation to a Vigil

From her husband, Lee:

Dear Friends,

Sukie passed on at noon today. Her last hours–from early this morning forward–went quickly. Even though she was unconscious, or turned deeply inward, during much of that time, there was a determination about those hours, a focus, like that of the long-distance runner who will not stop or be stopped till the finish line is crossed.

 Her last days–there have been eighteen of them since she ceased eating and drinking–were punctuated again and again by the surprising and generous idea, the loving suggestion, the gentle imperative, and the general putting in order of virtually all things within her reach (of course, because she’s never hesitated to call upon others to lend a hand, her reach remained very long indeed). 

As most of you know, Sukie staunchly believed in the reality of a spiritual world. She did not have a fear of death, perhaps intuiting, as Walt Whitman said, 

            “All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
            And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.”

As I sit here writing this, I find myself convinced that some confirmation of that intuition can probably be found in the radiantly peaceful, beautiful expression on the face of her body–which, thanks to Sarah, Pat, and Joan, lies freshly washed, dressed, and at rest now under a purple Kenya cloth in the next room.

But enough. Other than to let you know that the end of her life happened today, I have no more important thing to say than this: She loved you. You enriched her life. She was profoundly grateful for that. And she wouldn’t mind my adding that (as I think some of you may already have been reminded by her) not only will she not miss you, she will be with you, now and in times to come.   — Lee

From her friend, Sarah Hyde:

Our dearest Sukie crossed the threshold today [July 17]. She took flight with such beauty and courage!  

Now we begin a three-day Vigil in which we honor her passing, her extraordinary life. We welcome you to come and visit her body in her home for the next three days. Our experience in being a part of a vigil is to visit, to come and sit at her kitchen table, laugh, cry, share your stories of Sukie and what you loved about her, Then, if you wish, go and sit with her in Silence, prayer, singing a song she loved, reciting or reading a poem or scripture… .whatever you are moved to do with her for 5-15 minutes. We consider this Vigil a period of time that helps to carry Sukie across the waters to the next world. Someone will be at her home throughout the day- the Chisholm family at night, Pat Chanterelle, Joan Mueller and I will be there during the day from 10 am-7 pm. We welcome anyone who would like to visit with Sukie.

We ask that you please wear masks and dress warmly. Though it is supposed to be quite warm this weekend, we will have the room very cold with an air conditioner to help her body and its 3-day passage. We have made a Google Doc  that you can use to sign up for a specific time slot identifying when you would like to visit. Here is the link.  Thank you all for your kind words and support of Sukie throughout the past few months. She looks beautiful and peaceful; she’s heading home.

Below is a description written by Lee with regard to a 3-day Vigil- it is beautiful. If you would like more information beyond this click on the link he offers- it is very helpful. Much Love and Reverence for Sukie and this very sacred time together, — Sarah Hyde

The Three-Day Vigil

As many of you have heard, Sukie and I all this winter, spring, and summer have been feeding—and watching—the birds. Just as each species has its own look, flight pattern, song, so too each also has its own way of eating at our bird feeder. My personal favorite is probably the chickadee. Nothing greedy there. The little fellow alights, takes one plump seed, pauses (just for a second), and springs into the air, gleefully victorious, with its prize in its beak.

That may be a helpful image—chickadee version—of a brief time that follows death. Sukie and I believe that, with the last breath, the soul detaches from the body, but it does not simultaneously or instantaneously detach from its life. Indeed, all the people, places, things, and events it has encountered during its life lie before it—or so we have come to believe– in a vast panorama.  A panorama, or tableau, that one experiences over the course of approximately three days…and from the fruits of this experience, one takes (makes, shapes, and creates as well, perhaps) a “seed.”

If all this is so (and many a cultural tradition as well as the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, who founded among other things the first Waldorf School, say that it is so), these three days are very special. Vigil or no vigil, each of us who knew Sukie—who have brought to her (and I quote her last letter, “great happiness as you have traveled your journey intermingling with mine”—is clearly a part of that retrospective tableau.

And during the vigil—whether you sit for a time in the room where her physical body rests or, from a distance, picture her as you knew her in life, and think of her (or read a poem to her,  sing to her, remember something you did together with her, speak to her of what she has meant to you in your life, etc—you help her. You support her. You become as if part of the pole or perch upon which the chickadee pauses, ever so briefly (three days is not a long time where eternity is concerned), before it springs into the light-filled air with that seed in its beak.

For more on the three-day vigil from another’s perspective, check out Nancy Poer’s article from an old issue of Lilipohhere.