My cousin, Daryl, lives in a small town south of Oklahoma City. His daughter, Daryta, age 43, has struggled over the past year or so with melanoma. It has been a very exhausting journey for her, her husband, Glenn, and children.

On Thursday, we got word that Daryta had died. The funeral celebration was to take place yesterday in a Tulsa suburb. My sister, Dana, made plans to fly to Dallas and she, Patti and I drove to Tulsa for the ceremony.

We made the four-hour trek through Oklahoma, which in many cases reminded my sister and me of a foreign country. Oklahoma is a state of dramatic contrast. Most stereotypical information about Oklahoma focuses on the history of the various Indian tribes that have occupied land in the past or present across the state. There are over 59 Indian nations represented in the state. And, as we make the drive north, it appears that each nation has a casino ready to get financial revenge for past misdeeds of western settlers. Some of the nations that have occupied Oklahoma territory include the Apache, Arapaho, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Commanche, Muskogee, Nez Perce and Osage, among numerous others. As of 2009, eight percent of the state’s population was native American, while only one percent of the U.S. total population in 2009 was native American.

And, the oil. The petroleum industry as we know it today got its start with the Drake well in Pennsylvania in 1859. Well, when that occurred, oil production had already started from hand-dug wells in Mayes County. To this day, pumps siphoning oil out of the ground are as plentiful in Oklahoma as wind pumps are across the Texas plains.

We saw some interesting lakes, land contour and shared some stories of times that sis and I remember living in Oklahoma, when we were very little. I was born in Cushing, Oklahoma and my grandmother lived in Shamrock. Before we moved to New Mexico when I was 8, we had lived in Drumright, St. Louis, Seminole and Bowlegs. Dad worked for Sinclair Oil then. Years later, when I was a teenager, Dad told me that when we lived in Bowlegs, a nearby town was Maud, Oklahoma and the story goes that the “only way to get to Maud was through Bowlegs.”

When we arrived at the funeral home, we greeted the other attendees and we all settled into the pews. There was no minister, no reverential service. Glenn started the service by saying that Daryta did not want tears, but wanted people to share stories about how she had affected their lives. Still, there were tears; there was humor. It was very informal. It was obvious that Daryta was tenderly loved by her family and friends … as it should be. Glenn spoke lovingly of his time with his wife and how much they enjoyed the beaches of Galveston and went there often. Other members of the family told humorous stories of Daryta. Sometimes, these informal sessions can reveal more about us and who we are than stiff, formal ceremonies where ministers speak in obtuse terms about the deceased person that they did not know.

We were spared that.

As I sat in the pew, I was relieved to see the success of such an informal ceremony. As people took the podium to share their stories with humor and love, all I could do was focus on a Longfellow poem that whispered in my ears.

Daryta, I believe you are in a beautiful place now, and free of the pain. For your benefit, dear, here is the Longfellow poem that I thought of during your ceremony.

The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveler hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveler to the shore.
And the tide rises, the tide falls. 

God bless, Daryta.