Remembering Riki

Today, I pay tribute and remembrances on what would have been my daughter Riki’s 41st birthday.  As we near the seven-year anniversary of her passing, I observe that losing a child to death at an early age tends to stay fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday.  Riki made such an impact on those around her, and her tight friend group, “The Village” continues to honor her on her birthday.  The Village, also, continues to offer emotional supports to the children left behind by the premature death of their mother, my daughter.

I loved watching Riki connect to people.  She always paid special attention to those who were, perhaps, less fortunate.  At her funeral, during reflection comments, a man stood up to tell about how she made him feel special when he met Riki for the first time.  Many told similar stories. What made her special? She loved to laugh, and she had a quick and clever wit. Riki loved to engage in deep discussions with her friends.  Before “google,” she would call us for answers to questions in these deep discussions.  Mainly, the call would be for us to affirm her points of view.

Riki knew how to make moments special even in the most mundane of tasks. She directed nutrition in school food programs.  Riki loved to prepare and share food with friends.  Her children consider her “the best cook ever!” On Wednesdays, Riki used to prepare a “taco bar” for the Village.  This year’s “Riki Celebration” will feature a taco bar for friends and family paying tribute to her memory.

I took the day from work to pay tribute. My 92 year old mother and her 85 year old husband are visiting. My mother and I took the day to prepare a lovely meal of grilled steak, asparagus, caprese salad, and fresh cucumbers. We offer a toast to my daughter and my mother’s great granddaughter, Riki. We prepared foods loved by Riki.

We could have enjoyed a lovely meal at a local restaurant, but Riki loved to cook and bake, so Mother and I prepared a meal that Riki would have loved: steak, asparagus, caprese salad, and fresh cucumbers. A nice bottle of cabernet sauvignon rounded out the meal, and we had a lovely slice of peanut butter cake for a crowning glory to the “good eats!”

As Indigenous tradition would have it, at least for my tribe/nation, we sing songs and give thanks to Mother Earth and the Creator for what we have and for what we love. We built a roaring fire to which we gave sage and tobacco. We felt Riki’s presence. It was a great honor to be Riki’s mother. She gave all to those who were around her.

To that point, I received a lovely note from one or Riki’s high school friends. Joey thanked me for bringing Riki into the world, and he shared in honor in knowing her. That lovely note came at just the right time to give me a great blessing. Thank you, Joey.