Donors are at the heart of InFaith Community Foundation and we’re continually inspired by their generosity. The story of one InFaith donor was recently shared in her community’s local newspaper, The Bayfield County Journal. Monica Sword, InFaith donor, created a scholarship fund at InFaith in memory of her daughter, Lena. Proceeds from Hoofen Floofen Island, written by Lena, make the Lena Kay Rufus Memorial Scholarship Fund possible. We invite you to read and be inspired by the article that appeared in the Bayfield County Journal below.
A MOTHER KEEPS HER DAUGHTER’S MEMORY ALIVE WITH A NEW BOOK
<<FROM BAYFIELD COUNTY JOURNAL>>
By Hope McLeod for the Bayfield County Journal, published by permission
When grief knocks at the door it’s never a welcome visitor. But for Monica Sword, co-author of “Hoofen Floofen Island,” (July 1, 2017), that knock became a doorway to a tropical island where joy abounds in this delightful new children’s book.
Described by Sword as a 125-word journey from gloom to gladness, this slender book was written by her daughter, Lena Kay Rufus, when she was 10 years old. Rufus, who grew up in the Chequamegon Bay area, unexpectedly passed away in 2003 at age 22. Fourteen years later, her mother painstakingly turned her own gloom into gladness by self-publishing this charming book.
“The story itself is all her words,” says Sword, also a writer who initially experimented with extending the book, but ultimately decided to keep it as is.
Sword did everything else. She power-learned InDesign for the layout; added a discussion guide; and enlisted Lisa McGinley, a former Washburn resident, to illustrate it.
And she’s promoting it like crazy. The book is available online and at Barnes & Noble.
One of the many beauties of this little treasure is the major participants donated their services. This includes McGinley, creator of the whimsical pen and ink/watercolor drawings, and Joey Meyers, a graphic artist who runs her own business. Both women knew Rufus.
“Part of their reason for doing this is their love of Lena, but also knowing that all the proceeds are going to benefit the Lena Kay Rufus Memorial Scholarship Fund, which we established within the first year of her passing,” Sword said.
That fund is part of InFaith Community Foundation and the scholarships help students like Rufus, who was attending Stanford University at the time of her death, achieve their wildest “Hoofen Floofen Island” dreams. In this way Rufus continues to sail on and on with her positive influence, like in her book.
The story opens with a gloomy child, who unexpectedly wins a free ticket to anywhere in the world with whomever she wants to take.
“I could take a whole army if I wanted to, but I didn’t,” she says. Instead she invites everyone she knows and loves on a seafaring journey away from sorrow to a palm-tree dotted island in the tropics.
Reading and rereading these powerful words, Sword decided it was time to take her own journey away from perpetual grieving.
Sword was fumbling with a charm necklace jangling from her neck – something she assembled in remembrance of her daughter. “I bought this one in Bayfield for Lena, who was Bear Clan,” said Sword stroking a silver disc engraved with a bear paw. “She was planning to go through a naming ceremony but died before that happened. This was going to be my gift to her.”
Rufus, whose father is a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, was given her Native American name posthumously at her funeral feast: Ogitchidakwe, Warrior Woman. While growing up, Rufus spent half of her childhood on the reservation with her dad and half in the Finn Settlement with her mom, as her parents separated when she was young. She attended Head Start pre-school on the reservation and completed K-12 in the Washburn School District, graduating in 1999 with high honors.
“She was a very smart girl,” her mom said. So smart she was accepted to Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., where she was working on a B.A. in international studies before contracting meningitis, the cause of death. After Rufus passed away her Stanford friends also held a memorial. “We flew out there and one woman gave me this charm,” said Sword, stroking a tiny silver hand. “I think it’s called a Fatima, which is like a helping hand. Fatima was the beloved wife of a certain prophet. It’s supposed to offer protection.”
Sword was given another charm when she became a godmother to her step-grandson, Isaac. “Though it’s not directly related to Lena, I wear it because he’s a special little guy,” she beamed.
Sword’s turning point involved participating in Nanowrimo (national novel writing month). “You pay $50 and for one month you write 50,000 words (2,500 words daily). It’s a way to force you to just sit down and get it all out,” she said.
She began writing about her grief, filling copious journals. Next she took a “Writing Your Grief” 30-day course with Megan Devine, which segued into Sword starting a website, “Life is a Pretty Word,” something she found scribbled in one of her daughter’s notebooks. Since then Sword has written dozens of grief-focused stories and poems, which have attracted a sizable audience and helped a lot of people. “After doing the grief writing on ‘Life is a Pretty Word’ for a couple of years I think the culmination for me was a poem I wrote called ‘The Day the Music Stopped,’ which was about the day we buried Lena,” she said. “It’s a powerful poem of release.”
Following this release, she was ready for a big change: publishing “Hoofen Floofen Island” and embodying the positive messages her daughter left behind. “One of Lena’s big messages was inclusiveness. She wanted everyone to be included. In her book she takes everybody she knows along with her, which I think is an important message especially in today’s world where there’s so much exclusiveness,” Sword said.
As Sword shifts from gloom to gladness, lines from “Hoofen Floofen Island” point the way. “Then my mom came forward and said ‘Lena, you have traveled very far and I’m proud of you. Now let’s party.’ Everyone went surfing and everywhere you could hear the laughs of us.”
To learn more about “Hoofen Floofen Island,” Monica Sward and Lena Kay Rufus, go to: LifeIsAPrettyWord.com.