These days I awake in the morning in a state of loneliness sitting in my living room or at the kitchen table. Recently, as some of you may know, there have been losses in our family. Two of my closest friends – my father and my brother – passed on. My brother Sinclair died on December 27, 2009 in a shelter in Val-d’Or and my father Malcolm on January 8, 2010 in a hospital in Chisasibi. The timing of their deaths was so close together that it this staggered me. I could not sleep and I was in a daze for a long time. What I knew about death and dying was easy to overcome, but it is overwhelming when it’s your own family and someone who was close.
I speak on my behalf my family members who have had their own experiences. You know they say you see a mountain with differently when you are in the south, north, east or west. I have known Malcolm and Sinclair all my life and now they are suddenly gone. What they left us is now up to me to continue on my own path in this world for acceptance and understanding.
The first time I saw their lifeless bodies in those coffins, I felt every memory we experienced in our lives going through my mind. All these memories emerged and the emotions were strong. The life they experienced is the end of an era.
The wisdom and knowledge of hunting, trapping and fishing and the ways of the land are diminished for this generation. I feel that their spirit that leaves our family is a difficult journey to go through because they long for us, and we long for them. For those they will meet – like my ancestors who left my mother, brother and grandparents who left– are ahead of us.
It is said when a limb is severed from the body, you can still feel it. When a person leaves the physical realm, you can still feel him or her. I experienced this because the next morning my brother was sitting in the living room and for just a brief moment I saw his figure. In the months before he died, Sinclair was regularly dropping in for breakfast. While he waited for me to get up, he’d be on the couch or at the kitchen table, especially weekends.
I felt at times he wanted to live the good sober life as I am doing. I know he lived quietly with pain. He expressed it in subtle ways. His visits were more frequent in the last month of his life. As usual my work keep me busy. I was on the road with meetings and trainings. I never could have guessed that he wanted and needed help.
When I visited our dad in hospital in Val-d’Or or Chisasibi, he always asked for Sinclair and I knew he worried about him. I knew my dad wanted him to be well from the sickness of alcoholism and other complications. My dad too was nearing the end of his days. It seemed like a hopeless and helpless situation to see both of them in that state.
I can now comprehend within the lives of our people there is always a teaching of what they leave us with. By now a relative or a friend has passed on in your life, the strongest gift they leave us with is love.
Both my dad and brother went to residential school, which meant a family break-up occurred early in their childhood. From the late 1930s to 1980s which is 50 years of residential school syndrome and attendance in my family. Between my dad and my brother we have not allowed a chance to say we love each other or hug each other. That is something else in our family that is mine to deal with. I have a difficult time to admit and say I did hug them but only on their journey to the spirit world. I think that effects of family break-up from residential school issues I am connecting to my own children today. I loved my father and I loved my brother. I have learned that we can all reconnect to family if we want to. Let us not wait until our people are on their deathbed.