Alaska Shorts: "Tending to Our Own" and "Baptized" by Kristina Cranston

Tending to Our Own

In death, we turn over our loved ones,
ourselves, to strangers; our lifeless corpses vulnerable to the preparation and
attention of professionals in sterile, chemical environments.

In death, we’ve grown accustomed to the removal of useless organs and the
drainage of once vital blood, replacing with embalming fluid preservatives,
fighting decay, even in death.

Washed and dried, oiled and waxed, combed and preened, dressed in our best, we
lay ready for our final viewing, disinfected with the promise of delayed

Gone are the days we tended to our own, mothers and daughters, sisters and
aunts, friends and neighbors working together, washing remains with loving
hands and scented soaps, bodies touched by salty tears and clean smelling

Gone are the days we gathered together in intimate fellowship, in homes and on
mountain sides, celebrating the transition from life to death, saying goodbye,
guarded by our men, our brothers, our families.

Tending to our own has become a lost art, a lost humbling opportunity for
reverence, a lost process and forgotten practice; the new way has become a
silent empty space in our culture, societal bonds even more broken.

I welcome the rain, nature’s shower,
accompanied by the wind, carrying stories and songs and hints of conversations
from some other place, some other time.

The cold droplets speckle my face if I dare to look up, to face what’s coming.

Coupled with Wind, they nudge at my heart, my steps, and my mood.

Pushing me gently with soft pressure, much like my great grandmother who had
lost her strength, but still held her power.

Clouds release their bounty on us below, cleansing, opening pores, washing away
secret sins and screaming blemishes.

I am baptized in the rain, no witness necessary.

Cranston is a 43 year old Alaskan mother, grandmother, sister, auntie, and
daughter. She is part Tlingit from Haines, and belongs to the Eagle
Moiety/Thunderbird Clan. She was raised in Mountain View,
a diverse neighborhood in Anchorage, and spent her
summers in Haines and Klukwan, balancing the two worlds of village life and
city life. Kristina helps her significant other run an art gallery in the
beautiful seaside community of
. She has been writing since she was a teenager,
and has learned to embrace life and what it offers through this process.
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