Yesterday morning SSM Health Care hosted a memorial service for the late Marcella Sali Grace on its DePaul campus. Her father, my dear friend John Eiler, is an SSM executive. Sali, tragically, was found raped and murdered in a village outside of Oaxaca, Mexico, at the end of last month.
During the service, I drew sketches to keep my mind off the pain, something I've been doing a lot of lately. This is the DePaul Choir director Pat Allen leading "Amazing Grace," the poet K. Curtis Lyle reading his magnificent elegy for Sali, and pastor Steve Corgan delivering the homily.
I hope eventually to post up Catherine Eiler's moving tribute biography and the photo montage edited by Sali's father, which revealed the breathtaking scope of the girl's brief life. In twenty years she worked on animal rights issues, protected the Redwoods, initiated recycling programs, hiked the border desert delivering food and water to economic refugees from Mexico, and finally - fatally - she bore witness to an indigenous rights movement in Oaxaca.
That leaves out the banjo busking, the Arab dance, fronting the Mexican punk rock band, and the earliest years of girlhood, which must haunt the father and mother the hardest now.
As a fellow traveler and lifelong activist - another who has hiked the backroads and deserts, raised funds for the Zapatistas, earned a spot on an African dictator's death list, and screamed my way through a punk band with a banjo player - I too knew the spirit of this girl and am humbled by how far down the most interesting roads she traveled in such a short time.
I once set to music a set of Lakota songs and titled the composite after one of the phrases in one of the songs, "Short Life":
Am I a fly?
Something sweet and difficult
I am making
Am I a honeybee?
I'll think of Sali when I sing this song from now on.