I think of that young Anishinabeikwe they found today in the river in Winnipeg. It's with great sadness, but also it deeply reminds me of my baby sister. There were so many times she ran away and I couldnít find her. Those moments were scary and stressful. Whatever she though or whatever she was doing didnít matter. It only mattered that she was out there and ok. I donít know if she ever thought about that. But I certainly did. I was lucky that she has incredible good luck, strength and the most stubborn determination Ive ever seen. She survived her youth and now is a young mother of two beautiful children. I feel lucky since I always seemed to find her, hear from her or get word of where she was at the time. Sometimes when it was just to scary, Iíd get a plate of food and offer tobacco to call her spirit. It sounds extreme but it was all I knew to do. Usually within 24-48 Iíd hear of her whereabouts.
The reason I feel so emotional is this couldíve been any one of my little sisters. Found like that. My sisters grew up hard. They were often in and out of care. Many times neglected or dealing with surviving drunken parties. They grew up and are the picture of resilience that lives in our people. They have struggles as all of us do but they have their own families and are blessed with beautiful children. Which I donít know if I can be thankful enough that they survived their childhoods to become parents greater than our own.
I think back to the first time my baby sister came to be with me. They brought her directly from the foster home she had been in. She was covered in scabies, lice and eczema. I was so angry that this was the state she was allowed to be in. She was eight years old at the time. We would have daily fights before she went to bed about brushing her teeth that would escalate into her crying, sobbing that she was ugly. I truly believe that those people abused her and punished her. It broke my heart to fight with her and for her. It was the ugliest thing to see someone you love believe that they donít deserve it-love. I donít know if I can forgive those people for how they treated my little sister, she was only 8 years old. A child is supposed to be our greatest gift in this life and she deserves better than that. She deserved a childhood were she was loved, cherished, embraced and comforted.
My baby sister has had a hard life. She's survived more than I know. Iím proud of her and all that she's accomplished in her short time on this earth. The hardest part about loving her is watching her make choices in life and suffer the consequences. Its not about judging her at all. Its about having to accept the choices she makes even when they are ones that will hurt her in the long run. She has this crazy stubborn stream, which means she doesnít care to listen and just does. I think we are like that really though each in our way. What is hard is not being able to do anything, but do my best to try and support her. I know she struggles with many things but like I said Iím proud of her no matter what she does. Thats the hardest part is loving so hard that it just hurts sometimes. When I canít be there or things happen and I canít do anything to make it better.
I think about the man they pulled from the river. He was so kind and giving. He reminds me of my mom. She chooses to live with one foot on the streets and one that barely gets by. She knows how to work every part of the system, where to get food on any given day, how get by. She's an expert at surviving some of the meanest situations. I donít know or canít even begin to understand all that she's been through in her life. I know she carries a ton of pain, heartache and hurt. Its what drives her to continue to be addicted to covering the pain, masking it with different substances. I think the thing that hit me hardest about the man they found in the river was how kind he was in his life. He didnít have much, but gave what he had back to community. That reminds me of my mom. She will give you the shirt off her back, if you need it. A place to stay if you have no where to go. She's a kind woman. The kind that you donít see everyday. I think of her often when I realize how selfish a person I am and I should be more like her. Caring and giving. I donít hear from my mom much and neither do many of my relatives. Its scary not knowing if she's okay, how her health is. In talking with my kokum today, its about making our lives better, being better people, dealing with our hurt and pain. So that we can be useful, help ourselves and help others. Its about giving like my mom does. But at the sometime its about not existing in a place of hurt and despair. Which is easier said than done. Facing our pain is probably one of the most difficult things to do.
My mom got sick a couple years ago. Our family gathered to doctor her. The one clear thing that stood out from this time is you have to want it-a good life. You have to be willing to fight for it. Thats what the ceremony kept saying. Through dreams of each one of us, in the sweat. It was all around us, ďI want to live.Ē It was ironic too, since my mom didnít think anyone would show up for her. I donít think she thought we loved her. It was a family miracle, to have almost all my aunties, uncles and her children show up for her. I think it was one of those times in my life where the love my relatives had for my mom beat the arguments, in-fights and disagreements; it was beautiful and humbling. Because I love her and I love my relatives, it hurts when they suffer, when they are sick, when bad things happen. Again, its about the choice though, to want a good life and to fight for it. I canít make choices for my relatives, I canít make them love themselves but I can see the good in each of them, and love them no matter what.
So it is with great sadness for those families left behind in Winnipeg, facing the loss of their relatives. It just reminds me of what my own relatives teach me and what I could lose if this were them. To my relatives, I love you. Please live to fight another day.