The ‘I AM A HUMAN BEING’ book of poetry is finally in my hands. Wayne Odjick and Sid Cooko of Anishinabe Printing at Kitigan Zibi delivered 39 boxes of books to my home on November 23.
I AM A HUMAN BEING is an anthology of poetic perspectives on the topics of love, death, support, honour and other emotions contained in the human heart. They are offered by established poets, by folks who dabble at poetic wordsmithing and by deep-thinking high school students from Ottawa schools. And may I proudly add, include 24 from the Kitigan Zibi School.
Readers will find that this book will bring forth a powerhouse of emotions, reaching to the depths of your soul. Your heart is in for a treat. I am so impressed!
There will be a book launch on Sunday, December 18 at 3 pm at Christ Church Cathedral, 414 Sparks St., Ottawa. If you can’t make it to the book launch, you can purchase the book through my website: http://albertdumont.com/books/i-am-a-human-being/
All proceeds generated from sales of this book will go towards promoting poetry as medicine, bringing healing to those finding themselves in emotional distress.
This initiative could not have happened without the support of Verse Ottawa. The ‘I AM A HUMAN BEING’ book of poetry is/will be recognized I’m sure, as a major legacy of mine as English Poet Laureate for the City of Ottawa.
3 samples for your perusal are:
Floating by Lionel Whiteduck
Floating to a new world Gasping for air Afraid – I cry Needing care Finally grown up I seek to express my feelings Thirsty for water Thirsty for life Yearning to procreate Heart is floating Love appears Then growing old Heart beats slowly Thoughts become hazy Gasping for air My thoughts float away My breathing stops I travel to a new world I am a human being
Scraped Knees by Dawn Steiner
Air whooshes out of me I try to breathe Girls in boxed pleated tunics Surround me I begin to cry
I cry into multiplication tables Into mid-afternoon story time I cry when my pencil breaks When a breeze gentles the papers On Miss Sutherland’s desk When a chickadee lands on the windowsill I cry for the gerbils caged At the back of the classroom For Tommy who stutters For my dog I cry for my aunt who is dying For my cousin who hasn’t been told I cry for all the sadness In my mother’s eyes
I am a Human Being by Papegabiisa
I am young Watching my father slowly die But the feeling you have Watching a loved one die Is like the world falling apart A 20-pound weight on your chest And breathing is like a chore
Having to prepare for despair No one can prepare for that Having to go about your day Not knowing Whether your father is alive or dead
Having to continue on your day With a mask, pretending That everything is fine when it is not No one knowing what is going on Going through it alone is enough to feel hopeless
Always wondering When was the last time you hugged them Or said I love you Knowing you may never say A proper goodbye
The idea of writing a poem I would call “One Man” came to me on a recent sleepless night. The poem would tell the tale of one man who believed himself above God. Such an outlook is strange to me. A world where the hair colour, the eye colour, the skin colour of a human being is accepted by the populace in general as a statement of who is and who is not capable of high intelligence, is a world where oppression and hate will run rampant. When we see the stranger next to us as less, in productive worth and spirit, we are dishonouring ourselves as a human being, one of Creator’s most magnificent of creatures.
The one man of my poem, John A. Macdonald, a white supremacist, the likes never seen before on First Nations lands is guilty of genocide. Even the Pope acknowledged it! Canada’s first prime minister, the cruelest and most cold-blooded colonizer to ever set foot on gentle Turtle Island needs to have his true identity revealed. The history books are wrong, he is not a hero.
This one man of my poem would see in trees and rivers of the lands of the First Peoples, nothing of sacredness but looked upon them as things only present on the land for men such as himself to enrich themselves with. This one man would rise to power and create laws and policies in Canada generated to do here what it took generals and countless military campaigns in the United States to do south of our border, hammer the “Indians” into a defenceless state and then place them on reservations! Germ warfare, starvation, residential schools and other forms of outright oppression were normal tactics used by Macdonald as Canada’s first prime minister. Atrocities for sure. Yet somehow, he earned a knighthood from the British while doing so.
As a boy, I had this belief that a knight was a hero. A belief, no doubt brought to my young mind by the 1950s TV series “Ivanhoe”. In the series Ivanhoe roamed the countryside performing good deeds, always coming to the aid of damsels in distress and saving folks being tormented by tyrants. He was likeable and chivalrous. “I want to be like Ivanhoe when I grow up,” is what some boys would say. Then in later life, on a school trip to the Parliament Buildings, I saw a statue of Sir Galahad, a knight known for his kindness and gallantry in the protection of women. Needless to say, I imagined knighthood as the biggest honour the Monarchy could ever bestow on a man (there were no women knights). So I guess it was natural for me as a child to see in John A. Macdonald a hero of the highest calibre. He was a knight after all. I convinced myself that the British Monarchy saw in Macdonald a man of courage with a heart full of love and compassion for the poor and downtrodden. If Ivanhoe deserved knighthood, then why not Macdonald? I admit that I never liked Macdonald’s face (kinda funny looking I thought), but I liked him. I liked him very much until I got old enough to recognize the facts about him as they really were and I finally saw this one man for the monster he actually was.
I wonder now why knighthood was ever bestowed on such a man. He was a killer! My God, thousands of children are dead because of what Macdonald did. The identity of a People is in tatters to this very day because of Macdonald’s actions.
The time has come to demand that King Charles revoke John A. Macdonald’s knighthood.
I herewith announce the intention of my granddaughter Kyrstin and I to lead a campaign whose sole purpose is to fight with all the force of the sun to erase the honour of knighthood away from John A. Macdonald’s name. I ask that all who read this statement will take the time to write to Governor General Mary Simon, demanding that she speak on your behalf to King Charles of your hope that the King will revoke John A. Macdonald’s knighthood. When this one man brought innocent children into his scheme of genocide, he became one man who went way too far. No knight would do such a thing. Macdonald is not deserving of the title of knighthood he received in the 1800’s.
Macdonald believed that God made a mistake by placing the Indigenous People on Turtle Island. This one man had a plan to fix God’s error. “Killing the Indian in the child” was part of that plan. It is so damn sickening!
The monarchy revoked the knighthood of Conrad Black. Did Mr. Black kill children? Did Conrad Black perpetrate genocide? He did not, yet he lost his knighthood. Macdonald needs to be stripped of his too!
Soon after Friday night’s restful hours began for me, I collapsed onto my bed where I promptly fell into deep, peaceful slumber. The events of September 30, the closing of the SJAM Parkway for a couple of hours, the hundreds of people who somehow through the blessings of the good spirit, were able to bring their hearts together spiritually, to offer to Creator the music of one beautiful gigantic heart while all the time a hawk watched from a nearby tree branch – these things, put a smile on my face and delivered me into dreamland.
A few minutes after 3 AM that night I awoke, the memories of the ‘Every Child Matters Parkway’ and the ‘Acknowledge the Truth Walk’ again brought joy to my heart. Wow! What an extraordinary day!
Today, my dear TEAM members are openly sharing their feelings about how rewarding the ‘Acknowledge the Truth Walk’ was for them, too. There exists in the fibres of life’s web, mysteries that will never be really comprehended by human beings. The fact that a spiritually enriching moment in one’s life can take an iron-hold on the spirit, blessing it with a seed from which a beautiful flower will grow! The person it is attached to feels it and knows that the energy coming through their bodies, like the currents of a mighty river, will be part of their spiritual selves for all the remaining years of their life. Know with all certainty, my friends, that the strands of your life’s web will surely become stronger because of it. We will never fully understand what is going on with such an energy transfer. But are 100% aware that it was the honourable deed we took part in which created it. Friday was such a day. All of you who were present know what I am talking about.
I want to identify some people who, if not for them, the walk we were part of on Friday, would never have come to pass. All of these extraordinary people are equally deserving of being honoured. They were and are dedicated beyond measure to actions of reconciliation. What a joy it was to plan and then deliver, alongside them, something as great as Friday’s walk. I begin:
Sylvia Smith, retired school teacher and founder of Project of Heart Dr. Lisa Howell, former teacher and Ottawa University professor Pamela Naymark, mother, perpetual optimist, health equity advocate, lover of food, travel and cultural diversity Bruce Tate, father, partner, mentor, friend, learner, volunteer Laurie, volunteer with Justice for Indigenous Women Diana Brushey, eco-educator with CanaDiana UnlimiTed, and Faith Formation Leader at Kitchissippi United Church Élaine Simon, immigration and refugee lawyer, activist, musician and dancer Nicola Whitehouse, Vice Principal with the Ottawa Catholic School Board Lindsey Barr, Founder of World-Changing Kids
None of them nor I, received even a nickel in honoraria for planning and bringing awareness to the cause of removing SJAM’s name from the Parkway. We only wanted to be part of something of reconciliation between the Anishinabe Algonquin and settler people. The children who suffered and died in residential schools called on us to do so.
If a reader of this tribute to the best TEAM ever, was with us whether in person or in spirit, I want you to know that you are not taken for granted. YOU! You are so special. Your open, gentle and kind heart instructed you to answer the call of the innocent children who were forced to endure untold miseries and death, at far from home residential schools. You did, what too many others do not want to do. You lent of your person, you were counted at the Walk and my heart rejoiced to see you there.
When the team gets together before October is gone, we will honour you and feast you. A spirit plate will be put out for you and all the good people of your bloodline. Migwech for being present on September 30, 2022.
Anishinabe Algonquin elders and Residential School survivors joined us in a smudging ritual before the Walk began. How grateful all of us were to have their energy and spirit, add strength to the purpose of the Walk. Because of the death of Mary Whiteduck, also a Residential School survivor and respected elder who was laid to rest on September 30, some Algonquin elders dedicated to our cause, could not attend.
It was said in the sacredness of the smudging circle that each step of the ‘Acknowledge the Truth Walk’ would be a prayer being offered to Creator for all the children who died in the residential schools. Myself and others among the walkers kept Mary Whiteduck in mind as we walked along. Our people who felt the cruelty of white supremacy will never be forgotten by us who were so fortunate to not be taken from loving family to the hell of a far-away school.
Others who are folks I admire and respect and who I embrace as true and real friends are: Bishop Shane Parker of the Anglican Diocese Claude Latour, artist and activist and a member of the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation Chris White, founder of the Folk Festival which delighted thousands of people during its years at Britannia Park Tito Medina, audio engineer, composer, singer, songwriter, cultural activist Kyrstin Dumont, advocate, activist and motivational speaker The shy children who spoke the words “Every Child Matters” Christopher Elle for his song Diana Brushey for her song Julie Comber for her song Ken, Jenessa and Nathan from Kitchisippi United Church for their time and talent And of course the hawk who watched (from beginning to end) from the branch of a tree near where the ‘Every Child Matters’ sign stood. A big ‘Thank You’ also to Beth Bretzlaff, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral for being there to support the walk.
The Walk was made stronger because of the good people from the PSAC-NCR. Their members were present. They acted as marshals and worked the table. They also made a monetary contribution (without being asked to do so) which helped over costs related to the Walk. Thank you, my dear friends. A big ‘Migwech’ too, for the Indigenous Action Circle. You guys rock!
Oppression and genocide took place on beautiful Turtle Island. Too many are still broken because of it! In Anishinabe Algonquin territory, goodhearted people have decided that no more will they remain silent. Their wish is to help mend the wrongs of the past by standing with those who suffered because of colonization’s cruelty and barbarity. They do so because the human heart tells them that it is the right thing to do.
This movement needs your support. Please help out by standing with us at our next event.
“Canada was founded on strong Christian values,” a statement I’ve heard many thousands of times in my 72 years of life. The old white man who sold huge blocks of sawdust-covered ice on hot summer days when I was a child, said it! School teachers in all the classes I attended, said it. Every politician from municipal to federal governments, say it, gee, I wonder how many times a year. I heard Canada’s current Prime Minister say something to that effect again recently when commenting on what the Russians are doing in Ukraine. If the Canada of my dad’s generation and his fathers before him was truly based on strong Christian values, then I pray to Creator now that such values never enter the hearts of my grandchildren. If it were strong Christian values that created the “Indian Act”, then Christianity is a house whose foundation is built, not on rock but more like on a slow sinking mud hole.
“There never would have been a Canada, if not for John A. Macdonald,” a ridiculous claim made by his adorers. Let us finally agree that Canada was destined to happen, simply because its resources dictated it (the victory of the British and Anishinabe fighters in the War of 1812 over the Americans set the creation of Canada in motion), regardless if John A. Macdonald had ever, even been born. The truth is that Canada’s greatness as a nation would be today, a thousand fold stronger in emotional and spiritual health without Macdonald ever becoming prime minister. The Indian Act, Residential Schools and propaganda promoting hatred of this country’s Indigenous Peoples would never have happened without the influence of Macdonald. He was a cruel-minded, mean-spirited white supremacist! The children who died and suffered in his Residential Schools offered testimony to that effect in the spiritual place they went to after leaving this world.
How many dollars have Macdonald’s sins cost us, as taxpayers? Residential School settlements, programs, dysfunction, imprisonment, the Department of Indigenous and Northern Development, all these things don’t come cheap. You, all of us who pay taxes would not carry this burden today if Macdonald had stayed clear of this country.
Imagine if Dr. Peter Bryce had become Canada’s first prime minister, genocide in this country would never have occurred. The Indian Act would never have happened. A relationship based on honour and respect between the Crown and the First Nations would have been the order of the day. Under the leadership of a human being, the likes of Dr. Peter Bryce, strong Christian values as those taught by Christ, not as those defined by people of Macdonald’s mindframe, would have been at the forefront of this country’s first government.
Dr. Bryce lived and worked alongside of men like John A. Macdonald. Yet, he kept his “strong Christian values” intact! There existed in Macdonald’s day, kind-hearted and fair-minded people. But sadly there weren’t enough of them to overrule the greed and viciousness of the majority.
I believe that if Macdonald’s name stays on the Parkway running parallel to the Kichi Zibi (Ottawa River), it would make a gigantic statement on what kind of people hold positions of power, here on the never surrendered lands of the Anishinabe Algonquin. Strong Christian values? Let’s see if they exist.
From the deathbed, a young and vibrant Queen rose to mount the magnificent Burmese, who carried her to the side of a horseman, waiting to go with her to the oaks of Loch Lomond to reflect upon the years of her reign. In the spiritual world where the old are young again, the Queen and Duke rejoin, to continue, the unconditional love and support they nurtured for one another, while bringing culture and identity to the British people.
Physical death, the soul leaves it in the past and the amazing heart of the spirit begins its eternal life. A new world begins, where the fair-minded and good-hearted among us will hear an honour song being sung for them after the transformation, from the physical life to the spiritual one, comes to pass.
The Queen is dead! In the land of the Red Maple Leaf, the sorrow of many citizens fills the skies. The tears, the prayers of her admirers take flight, like the geese of spring and autumn, making their way to the Queen Mother who waits to hold her daughter close to her bosom once again. To the mourners, the Queen was as the grandest tree in a boreal forest. A tree, whose spirit and grace spread pride and comforting smiles to all around it. A tree, a “Mother to All”, whose commitment to duty brought emotional wellness to those standing in its shadow.
In this broken world where the eagle records, on behalf of Creator, the wrongs human beings commit in bringing suffering and death to “All Our Relations”, we accept that all of us will someday account for the negative actions we are guilty of while living on this beautiful planet.
The horrors committed against Indigenous Peoples of British colonized lands by past monarchs will be spoken about around the council fire of the Spirit Land. The Queen will at that time renounce the brutality of the past. Her good heart, the teachings of the Spawning Moon into which she was born, the Whitefish Moon into which her last heartbeat was captured, will direct her to do so.
The Queen, her gentleness, her ability to emotionally connect with the common people, her desire to make the world cleaner and safer, are truths she carries with her now into the Great Land of Souls. She was a light to British subjects while she walked on this earth. To the people who love her, she continues to be a fire, now offering in its circle, a role model for the future generations of her bloodline to follow. May she rest in peace.
An attempt to forever erase the First Nations Peoples of this country was made in Canada’s past by white settler communities and their elected officials. Genocide! It’s such an ugly word! Certainly not one you want connected to the country you love and raise your children in. Who would initiate genocide? Only monsters! The Pope admits to the church’s part in it but others too, stand as equals to the Catholics who felt it was their duty to rid Canada of Indigenous culture and identity. John A. “Kill-the-Indian-in-the-Child” Macdonald was the undisputed leader of the movement to exterminate the First Nations Peoples. No one can sensibly argue otherwise.
I do not believe in the existence of “hell”, the biblical eternal place where hot flames torture sinners for the wrongs they perpetrated while living out their lives on this earth. Indigenous spiritual beliefs that I embrace do not speak of hell, only that no one escapes justice. But if hell does exist, we can be sure that Macdonald is in the hottest part of it. His eternal home is where summer breezes will never again caress his face, nor will he ever again marvel at a sunrise. Flowers and berries, and standing face pointed upwards in a gentle rain, do not exist where he is. The songs of birds and the sight of glittering fish fighting the swift current of a forest brook are things unknown in the land where Macdonald lives forevermore. For Macdonald and men and women like him, the reward of white supremacy, forever theirs.
Macdonald is in a place now where no monument stands in his honour! No parkway is named after him either. But who knows, it could be that the road leading the evil among us to hell might very well be named after J.A. Macdonald (“JAM Highway to Hell”). After all, wasn’t it his laws and policies that cruelly placed many thousands of innocent children in their graves? There have been evil men on this earth since the beginning of time but in my opinion, none match Macdonald in the arena of evil-doing.
I write this as a call to action. We, all of us, must stand together in condemning what Canada’s first prime minister set out to do in the name of Canada and the British Monarchy. If the plan of genocide he proposed against the original inhabitants of this land disturbs you, then I ask that you do something about it. Remember, during the years of the Second World War, a man named Hitler attempted genocide on a segment of Germany’s population. Who would name a parkway after Hitler?
On September 30th we will meet at the War Museum, located at 1 Vimy Place. Please arrive by 8: 30 AM and be prepared to walk on the Parkway for 3 hours. Let’s commit to closing down the SJAM Parkway every September 30th (Orange Shirt Day) until Macdonald’s name is removed from it. A man who promotes the inhumane act of genocide should not have a roadway in the Nation’s Capital named after him. We call on politicians to join us, the clergy, students and teachers, on union members, on the folks at the NCC, on the old and the young, on the rich and the poor to do what’s right. If you despise those who support genocide, whether it occurred today or long in the past, then march with us on September 30th to show your disgust at those who honour Macdonald as some kind of hero.
“When you fear criticizing certain individuals or groups, you know who your masters are,” so said an Armenian man I met years ago at a conference. His words flooded my mind last week when Chief Wilton Littlechild presented, as a gift to the Pope, an eagle feather headdress. The photo I saw of the Pope, the headdress adorning his head, was spiritually sickening to me. What an offence! The eagle feather is sacred to First Nations people who hold it close during trying times. We embrace it as a symbol of Indigenous spiritual beliefs! I was taught after my sobriety began 34 years ago that a human being could do a lifetime of good deeds and not receive even one eagle feather. Yet somehow, the Pope was gifted with a headdress filled with many of the sacred feathers. For what? Because he apologized? How does that make him worthy of being within even 50 ft. of an eagle feather? Other activists and I sometimes wonder if some men recognized as Indigenous leaders suffer onto themselves the weight of an inferiority complex. It is something they can shed from their shoulders anytime they wish but cling to it instead.
What else are we to conclude when powerful First Nations leaders defend Chief Wilton Littlechild for gifting the Pope with an artifact (feather headdress) of such profound spiritual embodiment to us, who regard the eagle feather as something allowing the Creator’s messenger to soar. Have these leaders forgotten that the First Nations people are struggling to revive a spirituality Canada outlawed until into the 1950’s? Have they forgotten that the Pope is the head of a church responsible for bringing cruelty to their people and miserable deaths to thousands of our children? The giving of eagle feathers to the Pope was to me, a vile mockery of First Nations spiritual beliefs. These leaders have lost, not only my respect by defending what Littlechild did but also that of probably tens of thousands of other First Nations individuals who honour the eagle feather as something of great spiritual significance and purpose. Do they care? Only time will tell. Keep in mind that if a Pope had ever come to our lands and gifted one of our Grand Chiefs a solid gold chalice filled with wafers (the eucharist) the Pope had personally blessed, it would be clear to all that the Catholic Church had collapsed! Lost its way! And was no longer an entity worthy of millions of followers.
The Pope revealed in an interview on his return to Rome that it had not “come to mind” that he should mention “genocide” in his apologies. Didn’t come to mind? I wonder why it is that Indigenous leadership didn’t bring it to mind, bluntly and forcibly to the Pope. Why did they neglect to do so? Perhaps they feared that the reaction of the “master” would be too difficult for them to endure.
During the week the Pope was in Canada I heard or read comments made by Indigenous people signalling their inferiority to the masters. “He (the Pope) is God’s representative on this planet,” said one. Sorry, but he is not! All of us, you, me and every other human being on this planet is God’s/Creator’s representative while living out our lives on this earth. You either fail in surrounding yourself with Creator’s teachings or you embrace them with all the strength of your spirit. Another statement: “I felt his pain, I felt his sorrow, I felt his heart.” Strange, because I did not! All I saw was an old man reading from a prepared script and I felt nothing because of it. No emotion whatsoever came forth!
I remember a white man saying back in the 1970’s: “Why are those Indians always whining? We brought them the word of the Lord! And for that alone, they should be forever thankful for European presence on these lands.” If bringing “the word of the Lord” here to Turtle Island is what brought the Indian Act and severe oppression of this county’s original inhabitants, then I would rather the word of the Lord had stayed in Europe.
Wondering today, if anyone representing the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation was called upon to offer an opinion on what symbol should grace the centre of the nation’s flag a couple of generations ago. The flag after all, would sing its song from atop the Peace Tower, located on the unceded, never surrendered lands of the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation. I can only imagine what astronomical outrage and protest would have erupted from a large number of Canadians if someone from a First Nations bloodline had played a crucial role in the new flag coming into being, back in 1960. Such were the times! Dare I say such “are” the times? Sadly, supremacist mentalities still have a strong pulse in this country. There were and indeed still are, hardliners who believe Canada would be a greater country if not for the presence of the First Nations People in it! It’s a fact that five years prior to the maple leaf being proclaimed Canada’s national flag by Queen Elizabeth II, the First Nations Peoples of the country were forbidden, by law, to vote in federal and provincial elections! 1965, it’s not all that long ago!
Oh the flag! Before its birth, there was horror! The atrocities committed against human beings in this country are embedded deep into its fabric. It is a fact Canadians need to be aware of and should, because of it, commit to all efforts of reconciliation as proposed to them by the people of Indigenous bloodlines. A country without a conscience, is a country without a soul!
The notion of killing “the Indian in the child”, was the collective dream of Canada’s first parliamentarians. Under the colony’s ‘Red Ensign’ the so-called ‘opposition’ did not oppose the first Prime Minister’s plans to perpetrate genocide against this country’s original inhabitants. The Indian Act, was created by the ‘Fathers of Confederation’ for one reason and for one reason only, and that was to get the First Peoples out of the way so that their resource-rich lands could be raped and plundered. It is outrageous for anyone to believe that it was Canada’s taxpayers who funded the railroad going from the nation’s east to its western edges. It was wealth! Such as that produced by the timber, the gold, the silver, the iron ore and so on, stolen from the Algonquins, the Mi’kmaq, the Ojibwe and other First Nations in the east which made the construction of the railway possible.
But after all is said and done on this topic I can honestly say from my most humble heart of heart’s viewpoint, that I see a lot of good in the Canadian flag. My kid brother Russell served in the ‘Canadian’ Armed Forces from the time he was 18 till his death, resulting from being struck by a car, driven by a drunk driver in this 25th year of life. Russ served 3 years in the army and then 3 years on the ‘Saskatchewan’, a Canadian battle ship. He loved Canada! He would have put his life on the line (as did so many other brave First Nations soldiers of past wars) for Canada, anytime, any place, of that there is no doubt.
When I look at the maple leaf on the Canadian flag, I see the heart of Terry Fox. Tell me, was there ever a finer young man than Terry Fox? Imagine a world where all people had Terry’s heart and with it the love and respect he had for all people, regardless of culture or skin colour! There are many citizens in this country who are exactly like Terry Fox. They are of varying skin colours. They are old and they are young! They are the simple living and they are the powerful! I know, because I have worked with many of them over the years. And that is why I too, care greatly about Canada. When such good people stand together in protecting the integrity of the ‘maple leaf’, they can count on me to be by their side.
I cannot recall that I ever had a fear of death. Truthfully, there was even a time in my younger years when I felt I could, without a second thought, welcome ‘death’ upon my person with open arms. Such was the mind of an emotionally troubled young Algonquin man living in a town where no other Indigenous people were present.
The last movement, taking away the warmth of that physical (and spiritual) wonder, the human heart, is an event all of us will experience, somehow, somewhere, sometime. When will it happen? Who knows? I only know that I’m ready for it. I have been for a long, long time. Hey! I survived a 43 ft. fall and even as I was flying towards the ground, feeling that my ‘end’ was at hand, I had no fear. The fact that I was not panicked at the thought of dying when my 215 lbs. frame hit the ground might have saved my life.
As a volunteer I have spoken openly and straightforwardly but compassionately to the dying, when requested by them to help out with concerns they had about leaving this physical realm. Those who were terrified in the face of the unknown, came to accept in time that death was not really something to be afraid of. If we have spiritual beliefs, if we are sensible, then all will be well. Trust in your spiritual beliefs! A perspective that fits for a particular mindframe is key.
Perhaps it is because I have a unique relationship with death (my interest in it goes back to when I was 8 years old) that today, I sit with humility and with much kindness near a human heart, soon to cease in its purpose of bringing life to a human body. I lend of my counselling skills to a human being in their last hours of life, something I am told that my grandmother and her sister also volunteered to do in their day!
I recall standing with a First World War veteran by the coffin of a man killed in a farming accident in 1958. The dead man had no relatives to mourn him. The old veteran asked that I and a few other children pray for the soul of the deceased, whose body lay in an empty room, no one present to offer prayers. “Prayers of children are the most precious,” said the veteran. “Children do not hate anyone.” The experience had a life-altering affect on me, though I was only 8 years old.
The dying often bring forth wise and profound statements in their final days. I have always been in wonder of what they have taught me. It was an honour and a privilege to be there with them in their last hours of life. I know I will see them again in the spiritual place existing in the Land of the Great Mystery.
There was a brave woman, who on her last day of life told me that what she would miss the most of this great physical world was the “picking of wild blackberries.” It was in the early autumn of the year. “Why don’t we, you and I go picking blackberries together next August. I will pick them physically and you will be by my side picking them spiritually,” was my response. “It’s a deal!” she said with excitement.
The brave woman passed away soon afterwards, the weeks and months came and went with grace into Mother Earth’s personal archives. Seasons passed and when August, in its last days rolled in the following summer, I went to the forest to pick wild blackberries. The brave woman and I picked blackberries together as I promised her we would.
The dead are not rendered helpless nor useless in any way after the magic of the human heart stops forevermore to warm the blood of a human being. Your loved ones who died, recently or even many thousands of years ago, will come by your side when you need them there. Think about it! Imagine that after you die and find yourself in the spiritual world and you hear the request of a member of your bloodline to come by their side. They are in emotional distress and need your love and support. Would you choose to go to them or would you choose to ignore them? My choice would be to drop what I was doing and immediately go to the side of a hurting relative. After all, in my view, no one will love my future generations more than I will.
A life-altering fact about my life is that the enormous cruelty of a person of my long ago past left me emotionally and spiritually wounded. I have often spoken about the darkness which entered my life because of the effects this person’s actions had on my formative years. One day as we talked on the subject of forgiveness, a friend asked if it was possible for me to find it in my heart to forgive the person who brought such profound dysfunction, through their cruelty, into my life. My answer was, “No, I cannot forgive this person.” Why? It is simply because the person I speak of (now deceased) never came to my door and asked forgiveness of me. If the guilty person would have come to my home and spoken words of regret and remorse for their long ago cruelty, I would have invited the person into the warmth of my humble abode where a circle would be formed. The sacred items of our spiritual beliefs (theirs and mine) would be placed in the centre of the circle and a conversation would then occur. I, as the person who suffered at the hands of the guilty party would expect to hear, in detail, why the person did what they did to alter so severely, my human right to emotional and spiritual wellness. If I felt, because of the words spoken in the circle that the sorrow of the person was real and truly in line with what I define as a genuine ‘act of contrition’, I have little doubt I would forgive the person whose cruelty contributed to my life going out of control in my younger years. To be clear, if the person whose cruelty caused so much emotional turmoil in my life had never sought me out for forgiveness (they did not), then no, forgiveness from me would never have had a chance of occurring. I would be at peace with leaving it in the domain of Creator where I am confident justice would come to pass. No one escapes justice! Not me, not you, not the Pope or any other human being, ‘gets away’ with doing wrong nor will any house of worship (including the Catholic church) guilty of crimes against humanity escape justice after Creator’s historical review takes place.
The Indigenous Peoples of Canada who suffered so greatly at residential schools have not waited for the Pope to come to their door. Instead, they have gone to his house asking to receive an apology for the wrongs of the past. To me, it’s a very strange way of going about it. If the Pope is interested in forgiveness, then it should have been on him to request a time where he could with lowered shoulders, be given an opportunity to plead for forgiveness. The Pope should forever be mindful that the dead children of the residential schools have a say in it! Will there be a healing circle where the Pope and Indigenous Peoples can heal together? What will the church do to make amends? I have written 2 poems connected to this very topic. They are found in my book ‘Sitting by the Rapids’. I offer them in this space now and am hopeful that you will spiritually and emotionally connect with them.