Niki Sawyer: A Celebration of the Life of an Extraordinary Woman

Niki's Obituary
Published in the Newark Courier-Gazette on Dec 30, 2006

Niki and Sophie, one of her favorite children Kathryn B. "Niki" Sawyer, age 62, of Fairville, fell ill suddenly on December 23, 2006 and passed away at Newark-Wayne Community Hospital on Christmas Eve.

Niki was born on January 24, 1944. An intelligent, attractive and warm-hearted woman with a passion for learning and a zest for living, Niki and Thomas A. Sawyer were married in Lubbock, Texas in 1985 and moved to Fairville, New York. Together they founded 50-acre Hound Heaven Farm on Route 88. Both she and her husband were active in search and rescue work, bloodhound rescue, the Fairville Volunteer Fire Department and other community activities.

A multitalented woman with a vast knowledge of country crafts and animals, Niki managed a large flock of sheep, whom she regarded as family. She was a master handspinner, beekeeper and natural dyer who made her own yarn, roving, soap, perfume, maple syrup and much more. She taught her skills to anyone who asked, without expectation of remuneration. A wise and illuminated spirit, Niki was devoted to her family, friends and her flock. Her loss is deeply felt by all who knew her.

She is survived by her husband, Thomas A. Sawyer of Fairville, her father A.C. Bowden of Lubbock, Texas, 3 sons and stepsons, Shane Belleville of Locust Grove, Georgia, Erik Peterson of Plymount, New Zealand, and James S. Sawyer of Las Vegas, Nevada, 2 daughters, Tracy Brown of Camp Wood, Texas and Terri Herring of Meadow, Texas, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, father-in-law and mother-in-law Robert and Dorothy Sawyer of Webster, New York, brothers and sisters-in-law William and Carol Sawyer of Skaneateles, N.Y. and John and Lisa Sawyer of Ontario, N.Y.

Characteristic of her generosity, Niki donated her organs at the time of her passing, saving the lives of both children and adults in our community and elsewhere throughout the U. S. Family and friends are encouraged to contribute to the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network in her memory (585-272-4944). Remembrances may be sent to Murphy's Funeral Home in Newark, NY.

Laying Grief to Rest

BookWriter Professional Niki used to say that "self-pity is the most pernicious of vices" — and she was correct. As I write this, it's been 22 months since she passed away. It feels like 22 years. Much has happened in that time — and little has changed. I am damaged, and I know it. Time does not heal all wounds. I have no adequate words to convey the nightmare that re-inventing myself has been.

It's very hard to be honest with myself. There is much I feel compelled to say, but on reflection I realize it's merely a desire to make myself feel better. Grand words aren't so grand when they're hollow. There's no point in saying things I don't really mean, especially if momentary gratification is the only possible outcome. If one's own words fail to convey the ring of sincerity, they should not be written.

At this moment, Niki's ashes are in a container on the wood bin in the kitchen, in front of the window, next to her statue of Pan, surrounded by some of the special things she had collected. The wood stove was a happy place for her. It has given me some small comfort for the past 22 months knowing that a part of her was still with me.

Perhaps you've also had the privilege of spending a good portion of your life with a truly extraordinary person, one who taught you more than you'll ever know, someone who connected with you at a level you never imagined possible. And perhaps that person was suddenly taken from you — leaving you with an awful emptiness and despair without consolation, without shelter or safe haven. If so, you know that your future, once bright and beckoning, suddenly became dark and foreboding. You looked forward to nothing. You looked only backward.

Yet, there is the possibility of resolution. The future can once again be a source of hope.

You must start by realizing there are no survivors on this Earth. At some point, we must all pass into the great unknown, returning to that from which we came. Whether or not we'll be back depends on what you believe. I personally believe there is more beyond the veil than we can begin to imagine, and that anything is possible if you believe it to be so. I believe we shape our world by our perceptions of it, and of ourselves.

But for now, in this lifetime, I must survive. I must conduct myself as the impeccable warrior I profess to be. That is the duty of all who live: to respect the gift of life and to honor it by clinging to it, tenaciously, with all our might.

This is tempered by the knowledge that we must also be realistic. We must choose our battles wisely, because some can be won and some cannot. We must do more than take one day at a time and live in hope. We must also remember that we have great power. How we use that power allows us to manifest our own destiny. We do that by taking conscious, deliberate steps to make it happen. These are called "choices."

As I look over my inventory of feelings and the compartments into which I have placed them, I realize that my grief is still alive, and that it is a serious handicap. It is an open wound. It may not be possible to heal that wound, but it must be closed if I am to survive. I can try to hobble my way through that which is yet to come, but I don't think she would have wanted me to do that.

I can never be free of the feelings I have. They will always be a part of me. Thus, I choose to acknowledge them. I can never be the person I was — so I will be that which I am. I will fly free.

Thus, I consciously choose to lay my grief to rest. I choose to go on. I choose to honor her memory, to treasure the joy we shared, to keep her secure in the special place in my heart in which she lives, to feel the privilege of having been her husband, and to look to the future with hope and anticipation — unhindered by loss, and strengthened by resolve.

I choose to do this by letting go of my last physical fragment of Niki — her ashes.

I will scatter them in a special place, one that was a special, happy place for her, where we shared good times and memories. I will not keep any of them, I will scatter them all — because in doing this, I am easing my grasp of the physical. I am consciously placing my foot upon a path that leads into that which is yet to come.

I am letting go of the past, in order to have a future.

It is time for the student to become the teacher.

- Thomas A. Sawyer