The Passing of AISES Elder, Horace Axtell

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to a cherished member of our AISES family. Horace Axtell began in his final journey on September 7, 2015 at the age of 90. As a longtime member of the AISES Council of Elders, Horace provided wise counsel and leadership to AISES for many years. We have heard stories and tributes from so many AISES members who were inspired by him. He was above all a man who loved his people, cherished tradition and gave of himself to others. He will be missed and will remain forever a part of our AISES Family.

Please feel free to send your memories or stories to Lisa Paz at We will compile them for a tribute during the National Conference in Phoenix this November.

AISES will be creating a named scholarship in honor of Horace. We will announce the details of the scholarship and honor Horace at the National Conference.

Finally, we share with you the beautiful words written for Horace by Jerry Elliott (Cherokee/Osage), one the original founders of AISES -

Wednesday, September 8, 2015

Sooner Or Later . . .

Heartache comes to all of us. Each of us will walk through the valley of grief. “Broken hearts” are a fact of life. Something hurts. Deep ties have been severed. You have been wounded by your loss. Deep emotion swells up. You need to deal with it, but don’t know how.

Grief is a journey, a pilgrimage—something we pass through. It takes time to make the pilgrimage, because we must pass through certain stages along the way. Grief is the by-product of love. It is Creator that touches us in so many ways to heal where it hurts. Creator heals through time.

What we must know is that Creator is on both sides of the grave. Death is not really death at all. It is a movement from one dimension of life with Creator to a deeper dimension of life with Creator. It is an awful thing to be caught in a crisis and not know how to handle it. Expect a letdown, but watch out for those guilt feelings. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t blame anybody. Guilt feelings make us look for scapegoats. We may blame it on Creator or someone else, or even ourselves.

Death comes to all people, all things. Sorrow and love go hand in hand. Mourning is the by-product of love, and therefore, when someone close to you dies, it is important to pass on your loved one’s best qualities. When you lose someone you love, the best way to express your love for that person is to pass on his or her influence—to take up and live your loved one’s best qualities, keep them alive.

When someone you love dies, remember the meaning of life; remember that life is too short for bitterness and wrong priorities. Whether we live or die, we belong to Creator, and nothing can separate us from Creator—not even death. Death is the entrance into a new and larger dimension of life with Creator. All we need to know is that Creator is there.

Often, what we need most when we are hurt is a sympathetic ear—someone who cares enough to listen, encourage, support and affirm. What people need in sorrow is a good listener.

So I say, “Tell me what happened. Let’s reminisce together about your loved one. Let’s remember together his best qualities.”

Our duty is to find the strength and courage to meet life with steady eyes. When hurt, crying is not weakness or selfishness. It’s normal. It is Creator’s cleansing gift—a healthy way to express painful feelings. Remember that Creator loves us and will bring us through the valley to the mountaintop on the other side.

Creator says to us, “In case of a sudden death, in case of a broken heart, remember that I love you . . . and I will see you through!”

Others and I have had the same perplexing questions that are never answered . . . Why?
Why do good people suffer?
How do you mend a broken heart?
Does Creator bring healing?
Why did this have to happen?
How do we handle the demoralizing experiences of life?
How do we make it through the lonesome valley of the shadow?
How do we grieve productively and suffer creatively?
How do we deal with the emotional and spiritual pain that accompanies a broken heart?
Why does Creator permit such things to happen?
Has Creator forsaken us?
Doesn’t Creator care?

We cry out: It’s just not fair, Creator!

Truthfully, even the wisest person in the world cannot answer the question completely. Why? Out of frustration, we sometimes we deny the reality of the terrible thing that has happened to us; or we deny the reality of grief. These emotions need to be expressed, or they will fester within and poison our soul.

Sometimes we suffer because we live in a world of risky relationships. We know that almost every joy in life involves the element of risk. We love another person accepting the risk of love; accepting the risk that he or she may also die and abandon us. Should we not love for the fear of abandonment? Is the risk of loving too great for us? Is the consequence of loving too overpowering that we cannot accept the risk of suffering that accompanies the abandonment? Only we individually can ask answer for ourselves.

We are relational people. Creator made us so that we are not merely separate, isolated individuals, but are woven together by loyalty, love, mutual need, and interdependence into homes, friendships, communities, businesses, churches and nations. This fact of ‘inescapable fellowship” is the source of our greatest joy—and our deepest hurts!

We know that almost every joy in life involves the element of risk.

If I choose to love you, I am running the risk that you may reject me and break my heart, but love is worth the risk. If you make a new friend, you run the risk that your friend may be false to you; but friendship is worth the risk. If you have children, you run the risk that they may cause you heartache and sleepless nights; but children are worth the risk.

Risky relationships are woven into the very fabric of life. The more deeply we love, the more deeply we can be hurt. Much of the suffering in our world comes from these risky relationships between persons and groups and nations. An ye, we would not want to miss out on the joys of love because we are afraid of being hurt. It’s worth risk!

We suffer because we live in a world that gives us freedom of choice. Creator did not make us helpless puppets, dangling from strings. Creator gave us free will—freedom to choose our own way. Sometimes we make wrong choices, bringing suffering on others and ourselves.

Our greatest gift in life is the gift of freedom, and my, how we have misused it! So much of the suffering in the world comes from the ignorant or wicked or confused or selfish misuse of our freedom, our free will.

We are not alone. Creator is with us, enabling us to suffer creatively; enabling us to turn our defeats into victories and our sorrows into triumphs. We can trust Creator. We don’t have to be afraid because nothing can separate us from Creator and Creator’s love.

Yes, grief hurts, but grace heals. When death or broken hearts from broken relationships with those we love or have loved confront us, the secret of life is how to use our circumstances rather than be paralyzed by them. We don’t have to be victims of our pride. To live, to really live, we have to die to some things, and one of the things we have to die to is pride. Only then can we be reborn as Creator’s servants. Pride keeps us from grace.

We don’t have to be victims of our circumstances. We don’t have to be imprisoned or enslaved by any situation. We can, with the help of Creator, rise above adversity. We don’t have to be victims of death. When death comes, we have Creator—the Creator who is the Lord of the living and the dead, the Creator who is on both sides of the grave, the Creator who is our best friend. When we believe it, it sets us free. It resurrects us. It raises us above our circumstances, above our pride, and yes, even above and beyond death.

"Death is not the end to our probe of the mysterious, but merely an extended opportunity to further explore and discover."

Said this day . . .

J.C. Elliott High Eagle