Most of the time I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. I have a great family who are very supportive of the road I have chosen. I have wonderful friends who guide me and care a lot for me, and everyday is a gift. One of the most difficult things for someone like myself who was born and raised in a remote First Nation community is to adapt to an outside world that is very different, extremely competitive and much more complex. Thankfully, for the most part I have met some incredible people in my move to this outside world. They had made all the difference in my adaptation to an unfamiliar life.
Like many First Nation people, my first interaction with the outside world was when I left Attawapiskat to fly south to Timmins to attend school. I was excited but also terrified at being uprooted and sent off to a world that I had only known on television. My brother Mario and myself were very fortunate to have been accepted into a boarding home in Timmins that was like a home away from home. I have fond memories of this time as we were accepted into the home of Carmen and Linda Locke and their sons, Shawn and Keith. All of us teenagers from communities up the coast were boarded with families in Timmins and I am proud to say that we became part of this family for a while.
Much of the credit for our adaptation to this strange new world must be given to Linda Locke, who went out of her way to make life easier for two apprehensive, anxious and vulnerable Cree students from Attawapiskat. Linda made the effort every day to take the time to sit with myself and my brother just to give us the chance to communicate how we were feeling and to discuss any problems. She wasn’t just providing a roof over our heads. She was caring for us the way any good caretaker would. Linda was wise and kind and I really believe she gave us a positive introduction to a world we were not prepared for.
Life moves on and over the years I have taken many different paths but I have also stopped along my way to think about those earlier days when Linda made things a whole lot easier for myself and my brother. Often, I thought about dropping in to see her but I always was in such a rush. Recently, I got word that she passed away and it hit me hard. At the same time I was able to have a visit with the family and I know that their lives will continue with her presence very near. I am so tired of losing people and it seems that this last year was especially hard. I am learning, though, that all the people I lost are only a memory and a prayer away, and that helps a lot.
Today, I am heading out for a hike with some friends and I know that when I get back, I will be surrounded with good people and in a safe and nurturing place. I will try my best to live these moments to the fullest. Tonight, as is my weekly custom, I will call mom and dad and I am looking forward to hearing their voices with a fresh appreciation for simply having them around. When I head to bed tonight, I will have one more wonderful person to say a prayer to. Meegwetch, Linda.