Spirits in Bronze

A mother grieves her loss through sculpture

Story and photos by PATRICK RECORD

A sculpture honoring three children lost in a plane crash 20 years ago sits at the entrance to the St. Ignatius community amphitheater. For its creator, Lila Fayler, the work is so much more than a statue.

The children were hers.

Fayler says that beyond commemorating her children and their uncle, who also died in the crash, the sculpture serves as a tribute to the St. Ignatius community, which came together for 10 days to search for the victims.

“I’m very blessed to be there (St. Ignatius) when this terrible thing happened,” Fayler says.  “I was surrounded by very loving people who stopped working.  Kids stopped going to school, just to go out and search.”

Fayler created a smaller clay version of the sculpture a month after the accident.  For her, the hardest part was capturing her children’s personalities as she molded their faces.

Ten years later, the artist’s miniature memorial became a life-size reality with the help of other sculptors.

Now living in Charlo, Mont., Fayler goes to St. Ignatius to run errands and purchase groceries.  She laughingly refers to the community’s grocery store as a “black hole” that swallows time. By the times she finishes catching up with friends and neighbors, there’s a good chance three hours have passed.

Today, she continues to work as an artist, focusing on the on the human form, which she finds fascinating.

“I’m human, we’re all human, and it’s our body,” Fayler says. “For me, working with the human form brings me closer to my humanity. As a message to other people, I hope it would bring them closer to their humanity also.”

Looking over her yard, Fayler has a view of the Mission Mountains, the same mountains where the sightseeing plane ride went terribly wrong. The crash site was discovered just 15 miles southeast of town.

Fayler describes St. Ignatius and its surroundings as spiritual ground. Before there were churches, it served as a spiritual gathering place for Native American tribes. The area’s beauty has an aura about it, she says.

“If you have to die, St. Ignatius is one of the most spiritual place I’ve ever been,” Fayler says.  “I would say it’s a place of great spirituality in every sense of the word.”