Photos by Ted Coakley III/Moonshine Ink
Editor’s Note, 5 Oct. 2022: In the “Bird” photo of the below gallery, the wedding-banded hand was added to the caption.
Family, friends, and community of Kiely Rodni gathered at the Truckee Regional Park amphitheater Sept. 10 to honor her life at a soulful ceremony. Suspended amid a smoky afternoon, the stage ebbed and flowed with local music, ceremony, and touching eulogies.
Below is a photo gallery from the afternoon, along with the beautiful and haunting words spoken by Kiely’s mother, Lindsey Rodni-Nieman.
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children. And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
(On Children, by Kahlil Gibran)
I’ve been dreading this task
Locked on a page
Committed to a fate of being spoken aloud.
I’ve been dreading the
Drafting of a prayer
I don’t want to pray
From words that fall flat
The vulgar word
Unworthy of being
The language of grief
A dance, perhaps
Though I am not a dancer
A drum beat
Though my rhythm is off
But there is no instrument
Tuned to my broken heart.
And so I close my eyes
And I breathe
And I dream
Of a perfect harmony.
Of life’s purest balance.
And that dream is Kiely.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about life’s balance. Day and night, song and silence, grief and joy.
There seem to be examples of it everywhere, which makes me know that it’s right, and that we should offer up just as much gratitude for the difficult times in life as we do the good.
The Scottish poet Norman MacCaig captured this beautifully in his poem, Presents:
I give you an emptiness,
I give you a plentitude,
Unwrap them carefully.
-one’s as fragile as the other-
And when you thank me
I’ll pretend not to notice the doubt in your voice
When you say they’re just what you wanted.
Put them on the table by your bed.
When you wake in the morning
They’ll have gone through the door of sleep
Into your head. Wherever you go
They’ll go with you and
Wherever you are you’ll wonder,
Smiling about the fullness
You can’t add to and the emptiness
That you can’t fill.
As I meditate on Kiely’s life, who she was and what she experienced, I find myself holding gratitude for her balanced blessings, for her plentitude and emptiness.
I took her on her first trip to Europe when she was 2. Over the course of her life, we went back two more times, visited Pompeii and some of the oldest neolithic stone carvings in Western Europe in Ireland. She saw the Aurora Borealis in Iceland, swam with marine iguanas in the Galapagos, watched a volcano erupt on the Big Island, and skinny dipped in bioluminescent waters of the Pacific. She spoke with people in foreign lands in their own tongue and played with children on playgrounds to whom she didn’t even know how to say anything more that “hi” and “bye.”
I could go on and on about all of her adventures, near and far. But we also live out in Coldstream Canyon, where we had no choice but to homeschool her through 8th grade. There were long periods of time where we were snowbound and couldn’t leave home. In those two very real, very opposite experiences, there was balance. She knew the freedom of travel, and the helplessness of being trapped at home.
She was the Virgo child who never wanted her hands dirty yet spent her 7th summer bathing only in the creek.
She was the child who hated the winter but would be the first to suggest December pond skating.
She lived exactly half of her life as an only child and half as a big sister. She lived all her life singing songs and telling jokes.
She knew joy and love, tasted the sweetest treats, and drank of the purest water. Her laughter spun from her lips as gold, and her tongue spoke with the quick humor of a summer thunderclap.
This girl who, with the tender voice of a 2-year-old existentially professed that we humans spend half our waking days in hibernation, clearly also knew the beauty in life’s quiet sadness.
She knew heartache and pain, tasted the bitterness of regret, and drank from its well. Anger swelled from her as an ocean tide, and her tongue lashed paper cuts.
Hers was a life brimming with plentitude and emptiness. And as I stand before you on my own, I recognize, too, that I stand among you. And I invite you to celebrate a marriage of joy and grief with me. Joy for having had such a colorful light as a daughter for these last 17 years. For the way she touched my heart in play and anger, love and hardship. And the grief in knowing that the absence I feel now is matched only by the love I have for her. A beautiful symmetry.
Blessed are we, who can accept this sadness cast under death’s shadow. Blessed are we, who feel the rising sun shine light upon us, reminding us that the best things in life are often times the most fleeting. Ice cream melts on a hot summer’s day, the butterfly seldom rests long enough to truly gaze upon, a song is sung and fades back to silence. And just like the song we cannot retrieve, though the melody remains in memory, Kiely will surely remain with us as a reminder of life’s perfect balance.
(She closed by singing a capella We Bid You Goodnight.)