about page, lifeisaprettyword.com

My name is Lena Kay Rufus. Since March 28, 2003, I no longer live on Earth. On that day, I unexpectedly died from meningitis.  

During childhood, I enjoyed being around farm animals as well as living on the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Northern Wisconsin. I played Suzuki violin during first grade. I loved going to school and excelled in my studies. 

Although my life was short, my accomplishments are many. I was active at Washburn High School where I studied diligently. I was able to spend much of my senior year enrolled in courses at Northland College. I played the clarinet and after learning French, traveled to Paris. I served as an officer in several high school clubs and associations. I was a Stanford University student at the time of my death. Education was a crucial aspect of my life.

On April 1, 2003, my life celebration ceremony took place on my home reservation. I said goodbye to hundreds of people I loved dearly. There are too many loves to mention except for Mom and Dad, who supported me in all aspects of my life. On this date also, the tribal elders honored me with the Ojibwe name of Ogitchidakwe, warrior woman. 

Look for the "Lena Speaks" area of this site for selected pieces written throughout my life. Mom thinks I was a good writer although I never thought so. She has released Hoofen Floofen Island, a children's story I wrote about adventure, love, happiness, and accomplishment. 

 about page, lifeisaprettyword.com

My name is Monica Sword. I am Lena's mother. As a writer and artist, I show others how they may mindfully find their way to a more fulfilling existence. 

My life was not always this way.

Three family members’ deaths at an early age caused me great sadness, especially the death of my only child, Lena. I struggled to balance home life with a challenging career. Physical manifestations and discontent from this imbalance contributed to losing my way. I yearned to create a deeper connection with the beauty in nature, people, and the universe. 

I tried everything from happy pills to talk therapy. Important life relationships started and ended. My library was full of self-help books. I tried going back to school. I set up a basement studio hoping I would make time for creativity. While these activities kept me busy and much was learned, nothing seemed to make a difference. 

Then I discovered the problem wasn’t with my work ethic or what I thought people expected of me. The problem was how I was applying my conscientious, high-achieving style. 

Once I saw that honoring my passions, being mindful of my emotional reactions to life events and devoting time for self-care can restore a purposeful life, a creative mindset developed that helps me do my best work.  

My grief experience will not end and yet my life can be a wonderful flow of writing, painting, drawing, and connecting with others.  


You are here to risk your heart.
— Louise Erdrich

The Lena Kay Rufus Memorial Scholarship Fund

The Lena Kay Rufus Memorial Scholarship Fund is managed through InFaith Community Foundation. The fund provides scholarship opportunities meeting a variety of needs. To date, the following organizations are fund recipients: 

 In Faith Community foundation: click to read how a Mother keeps her daughter's memory alive with a new book

In Faith Community foundation: click to read how a Mother keeps her daughter's memory alive with a new book

Here is the "story behind the story" of the children's book "Hoofen Floofen Island." This storybook, originally written by 10-year old Lena Kay Rufus, will delight you and your little ones. Monica Sword, mother of Lena Rufus (deceased at age 22) talks about the motivation for publishing "Hoofen Floofen Island."

A sculptural tribute to Lena, commissioned by Joe Russo, created by Sara Balbin of Dragonfly Studio.