One Single, Holy Moment

She took her last breath at 6:30am on September 6, 2020. She was my little sister. Funny how we do that, no matter how close to seniors’ stage we are – little sisters will always be little sisters to the older.

Reva Anne

Reva was beautiful; exceptionally beautiful. She certainly had no problem turning heads and often invoking envy. She was smart, a doer and a dancer and she was funny too. She held our family sense of humor, honed in the history of pain and endurance, in doing whatever it took. She wouldn’t have recognized how that humor and ability to persist was ingrained through many generations reduced to survival.

She didn’t much talk about our Indigeneity; it was not something we consciously talked about. We just were and mostly, we tried to forget about it. Mostly we had associated every awful and humiliating moment of our childhood with it.

We went through the fostering system together, until the day I ran away from it and she aged out of it. Even then, we weren’t really free. We still had the weight of all we’d gone through before, during and even after. In our own ways, we decided the only path out was to pursue the model of success that was firmly impressed on us throughout those years. We only had to just work hard; very hard. We only had to have a nice home and maybe husbands and kids and maybe a car too. We only had to be respectable.

My journey with that empty misconception ended with several years of help to undo those generations of trauma. She sought help where she most felt at home. I don’t know how stable or even healing that was for her. I think it mostly hurt her, really. Yes, she was beautiful and smart and so, so complicated.

It wasn’t always easy to love her. I suppose they would say that about me too. I just like to think all that therapy gave me some measure of genuine peace she didn’t have. It’s in that, as a big sister that I find most painful. It’s not much different really, from all those earnest wishes for happiness and safety we have for our babies.

We achieved those goals to similar degrees. In the end, it was our children and homes that mattered most, but the ugly monster that was our childhood never really left her. She never quite found the combination that would allow her to be, to just be, in ease and in the ability to admit failure. That sometimes made her a pretty tough judge and not everyone was interested in hearing the verdicts. Sometimes other events hardened hearts indefinitely. It’s one of the most miserable of human experiences to simultaneously love someone so deeply while fighting the soulful wish to feel only indifference. Hopeless dreams.

Still, she held out her hands, arms and whatever resources available to help anyone she could. Generosity was hers too. Her heart would melt at the sight of impersonal suffering. She was a force and it was a good feeling if she was on your side.

As a sister, there was plenty of special too; the way we knew what the other was thinking by locking eyes. Breaking into gut-busting laughter over things only we could understand. It was an indescribable comfort to know she was there when I was scared. It was gut-wrenching when her pain became mine.

I hadn’t been talking to her for some time when her boy found her on the floor. She’d been rushed into surgery to remove the discovered brain tumor that they said was going to take her in a matter of months, and that’s when I got the call.

It doesn’t seem real. It didn’t then and it doesn’t now. One moment often replays in my mind. It was when I arrived at her home and saw her sitting in the corner of her couch, so small and quiet and beautiful, even with all those metal staples down one side of her head. She didn’t say anything, but I felt it all. I felt her fatigue and confusion; I felt her fear.

I could only go to her and take her in my arms and tell her that I loved her. In only a moment, all those years of trying to figure out life and our issues were done. One single, damned moment. One single, holy moment.

We had her for eight and a half more months; somewhat short of the 24 they told us was possible. I think we just knew, this time the possible was not an achievable goal. We were back to survival mode, where the practicality of what had to be dealt with in undoing an entire lifetime was paramount.

Her sons and I packed up boxes and tried to plan as best as possible for her youngest son’s eventual move to his father’s and her older son’s grappling with the baggage of the past and the infuriating circumstances of the present. Broken hearts can’t be boxed.

We spent the last few weeks just talking until she lost most of the ability. Then she would mostly just look at us as we’d try to regale her with any stories of normalcy.

Two days before she passed, I obsessed over the thought that I needed a sign when she was on the other side. I asked her to please show me something purple. “I don’t know why I picked purple, but will you”? I pleaded. She nodded, yes. She knew why I picked purple, but she wasn’t able to tell me. I didn’t even remember until she was gone, her birthstone is an amethyst. Anyway, when she nodded, I knew she would.

Eight and a half months to live what matters and even if she couldn’t say it often, I know she loved us hard and no one as much as her sons and grandson. I know this is mainly what she thought about in that time and if she could have made everyone’s wishes come true then, she would have. She had so many dreams…

In the end, she lived up to that final promise to me and I know she will for others. I can promise that. Another thing you could always count on her for was, keeping her word.

A couple weeks after she passed, I went for a walk. It was late September and the leaves were turning color. The wind that rustled fallen leaves was distinctly cooler. I plodded on, lost in thought until I was stopped in my <insert whatever cliché>.

Even if they had noticed, it might not have made much of an impression on anyone else. It was unusual to me though, and it happened to be one of my favorite flowers; a Lupin, a flower that blooms in spring. Of course, it was purple.

I didn’t have a thought. Not that I recall. I do remember the way it felt. It was like my entire being was suddenly filled with warmth that I find hard to describe. I instantly and absolutely knew my little sister was home and she was safe. That was all I really needed to know since I first got that call, and of course, she knew that…

Sisters know.

RL

Natural Progress

Summer haikus; poetic respite in between the cares and the concerns of Spring and the prep work for Fall…

Photos from my first attempt at a deck garden.

Green bean sprout

Delicacies reign
Effortless sustenance hails
Tendril-loving care

RL

Wild flowers

Seedy flirtations
Lusciously coloring life
Carelessly strewn joy

RL

Green onion flower; sweet seeds

Allium cepa
Flavorful accessory
Verdant stems of pride

RL

Goth petunias
Black velvet grows in boxes
Textural wealth

RL

Tobacco flowers/seeds

Future offerings
Seeds of faith, promise & love
Gratitude’s bounty

RL

Not Friday Funnies, Not Monday Mirth; ‘Cause Tuesday Tickles

I know I don’t have to talk about 2020; no one has been untouched by the ongoing trials of our newest decade. I’m sure not going to talk about them on my birthday. Na ah, nope.

I’d considered posting the poetry that longs for attention, but I have been unable to tease it out yet from under its Covid mask. So, that leaves the only possible lighter standard that I can muster – desperate humor. Meme humor. So, laugh or fight me. Either way, this ship is sailing…

I can’t believe I’ve been doing them wrong ALL THIS TIME!
Give it a minute…
Well, I’m high and M hmm, yep. (No, I’m not, mom).

So, OK, yeah, we can address the elephant in the room…

“Just working my way into your social bubble, Diane”.
Doh! … OK, back to the sea…
Well, this post just went down the toilet, so…

So, I better quit while I’m partially ahead. Thank you to my loved ones for your kindnesses and generosity this past trip around the sun. Thank you to my pals in this forum, your support is always a hug I will never tire of. Wishing everyone a week of uplift whenever and wherever those moments allow.

Keep safe.

RL

‘Reconciliation’ by Palatable Replacement: the ‘Pretendian’

Over the last few years, I’ve learned “pretendians” vary in reason for desire to be Indigenous and that they cut a wide swath in professions, learning institutes, and even within Indigenous communities. When we point out an uncovered discovery publicly, this is about far more than ‘shaming’. This is more than ‘gate-keeping’. This is protection and an effort to stanch the continuing effort to dilute, diminish and degrade the teachings and traditions of entire cultures. 

These people aren’t readily identifiable as terrible trespassers. They are neighbors, co-workers, friends and sometimes, family. Many are mostly exceptionally friendly, articulate and some are very charismatic, which makes for frustrating, vigorous protection by those around them when questioned.

The above excerpts are from the post I published at Medium.com

I hope you enjoy it in full at: https://medium.com/p/22fe175f4d60

RL

First Thought

This could be a Spring of retreat; a step or two toward the past. Maybe time on our hands and loads of room for reflection. My own longings lean toward the masses questioning all the holes in all the systems that Covid-19 surged right up to our every sensibility.

My next prayer is that all this new-found realization of what matters, this renewed knowledge of what essential is, will not get tossed and lost for good by most.

Reflection choices can be simple too; in fact, the majority of mine certainly are. I can’t believe how much it means to walk in the woods right now. All the smells of Spring are especially entrancing, and I am so in beyond land when I look at the tender shoots that replaced the tiny seeds I planted weeks ago. I’m so excited to be a back deck farmer this year. Small things. The every things.

It was within these lines of thought on this lazy Thursday, I was reminded of a sweet and lovely moment of 3 years ago, when we were allowed more fearless touch.

Wishing all a gentle and inspiring weekend.

morning bliss I am the first thought
On his mind as daybreak blinks
Sunday morning bliss…

 Gently smudging pain’s traces
Sweetly replacing facades

RL

Haiku / Tanka

Inspired by the artwork of: aaronpaquette.net and prompted by: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/heal/

Anchor-age, Not the Alaskan Kind

Five years ago, I went through a set of circumstances similar to what I’ve had to navigate through this year. A year later I had some small moments of reflection that I see are as relevant now as they were then. I can’t help feeling that most of us are at that place now. So, here’s a re-tread of those thoughts. Hiy hiy for this indulgence.

Grounders

Sooo, did I hear you type the word, cookie?

No matter what kind of curve ball life throws, even those 359 degree ones, there are two things that demand focus in any way they can get it – cookies and bacon.

Okay yes, I’m kidding… it’s whatever requires you to be relevant. In my case, those anchors just happen to be fairly typical – children and animals, not necessarily in that order…and thank you sweet, Geezus for typical anchors.

They see me at my best, and my worst – which they generally run away from – fast, usually to retain the emergency services of a stylist or a good martini mixer, but even so, they will love me again within minutes. If only that were true of the rest of the world…

They do see me cry and rail at times because I don’t often try to shield them from those moments because life is also an awful lot about ‘shite happens’.

My last few posts have reflected some recent hard knocks and I expect I will write in and around those events for a little while too.  Writing  is a critical component of healing for me, as much as talking things out with my son is needed to help his understandings.

We’ll go over what’s happening to whatever appropriate extent and then, what it’s going to take to  cope and keep moving. My Jack seems to understand that, so he pretty much behaves accordingly – he’ll lick my face, then throw a paw at it for priorities – which incidentally are the same as my son’s – cookies and bacon.

My son, on the other hand, seems to have grown some pretty thoughtful insight for his age, which he occasionally jolts me with. He reminds that a laugh is good medicine or that I am forgetting to see my own value, regardless of anyone else’s assessment, and that he’s willing to stand up for me to anyone. It’s those moments that remind me that no matter how hard I’ve been hit by the challenges of life,  underneath and overall, I have done some things right.

I’d like to think that I’ve mostly lived for the greater good.  I’d like to know that I didn’t live in my own head as much as, or more than, contributing meaningfully to community. I hope that no matter what happens, most will remember me for living, giving, and seeing the worthwhile. I’d like to believe this is true for most of us.

At the end of the day, no matter what kind of day, I hope I will have earned the right to my own share of cookies and bacon.  And poutine. God, I really love that stuff, way too much.

RL

The Metis Nation, The MNO, and a Jarring Report On Identity

As a matter of noting impactful history as it’s occurring, a report presented at the March 9/10 Metis National Council’s (MNC), “Métis Identity, Citizenship & Homeland” conference in Saskatchewan, shocked many in attendance. It uncovered a troubling history that has led to serious issues for the Metis, now currently embroiled in what amounts to a ‘hostile takeover’ of their nation.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, let alone shocked about what we learned, because I am already well-aware of the immense issue for the Metis Nation in having to defend its identity and rights again. I’m well-versed in the history of the thousands of Canadians who more recently claim to be Metis, although many are seriously mistaken at best and others are purely fraudulent at worst.

The report presented wasn’t about those thousands of claims outside of the historical Metis communities, i.e.) those from regions in, and east of, Quebec. It concentrated on the claims of the legitimate Metis Nation’s own affiliate, the Metis Nation Ontario (MNO), one of five MNC affiliates.

Many already knew the MNO was fraught with membership filled with illegitimate claims of Metis ancestry and in 2019 they admitted to an overwhelming number; perhaps 90% of their membership, they said.

That’s an astounding statement and regardless of the accuracy of that estimation, what percentage would they consider acceptable? That wasn’t the only issue at hand. The affiliate was also called into question after working unilaterally with the Province of Ontario government to grant ‘historical Metis settlement’ status to 6 regions in Ontario outside of the Metis Nation historical homeland boundaries. The MNC, its other affiliate presidents and the Metis citizens were not included in that process.

Essentially then, the MNO is therefore mainly comprised of Ontarians of various ancestry who self-declared they were Metis and were accepted and seemingly legitimized by the MNO. If there are enough of these individuals in a particular region, this is taken as proof of the existence of a historical Métis “community”.

In November of 2018, the MNC and the other affiliates, with the exception of Alberta – which apparently has serious leadership [and membership] issues according to statements made at the March 10 meeting – voted to put the MNO on probation for one year to allow time to sort and re-register their members to fit the criteria of Metis Nation identity. Incidentally, that criteria aren’t different from any other world nation, which include immediate relation to the ancestry of the known Metis Nation families. The criteria was unanimously ratified by the Metis Nation in 2002. The MNO participated in that ratification.

Back to 20 years later, and the one-year MNO probation term is over. The MNC, for which leadership is voted for & provided by its affiliate presidents, requested to review the new registers. The MNO responded with an incredulous refusal, stating they had their own ‘independent oversight’ and that the MNC were unwelcome ‘outsiders’.

They’d essentially announced they were a nation unto themselves and they went to Canada directly to try to create that into fact. They called it a ‘self-governance agreement’, which the government called ‘a step toward self-governance agreement’. What that will turn out to be is another story, but a main point is a clause in the agreement that states the MNO will get to decide for itself who is “Metis”.

An easy out compared to having to tell thousands of Ontarians they’re not Metis, some of whom hold influential positions in general society. There are also millions of dollars at stake in annual funding to oversee programs meant for the Indigenous, and specifically for, the Metis. If the MNO were to fail at attaining a new, unrelated pan-Indigenous nation recognized by Canada, that would make some of those members, not Metis, but non-status First Nations. Likely a good number would simply be recognized as non-Indigenous Canadians.

That’s the background to the March 9/10 MNC meeting. Here’s part of what’s stunning. The background historical research used by the MNO and the Ontario Government to justify inclusion of Ontario-based regions/people sometimes reads like a middle school copy & pasted book report. The conflations of ancestral claims are so flimsy in places, that at one point they barely bothered to provide evidence before bestowing the Metis flag to one region.

As is commonly practised by ‘self-identifiers’ in the further east, the Metis titles given by the MNO were based on claims of ancestry in nations unrelated to the Metis; on ancestors who were Europeans re-made into Indigenous; on ancestors that were and still are known as First Nations, whose descendants still live on the same reserves; by claiming First Nations villages were Metis; or as one person at the meeting stated, if a picture of their grandparents ‘looked Native’ to the registrar, they would be accepted. These people now outnumber the legitimate Metis in Ontario.

Excluding the MNO, the fight today is from within, from those who would allow anyone of any Indigenous ancestry to claim to be Metis vs. those who denounce the pan-Indigenous idea over their own unique, rich and richly established history, which included the herculean win in 1982 to achieve the recognition and rights to Section 35 of the Constitution for that nation.

To my mind, it should be abundantly clear. I am a Metis Citizen. Like those in the other affiliates, I proved my ancestry according to the legitimate standards. I know my ancestors stand with us.

——————————————————————————-

The MNC invite citizens and the public to read the report provided by Dr. Darryl Leroux, doctorate in Sociology and Anthropology, Assoc. Prof., Department of Social Justice and Community Studies at Saint Mary’s University, Prof. Darren O’Toole, Metis, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, and Métis scholar Dr. Jennifer Adese.

Statements by MNC November 19, 2020: Tri-council says it’s not leaving Metis National Council, but stalemate continues

RL

An Impact Statement on The Kindness of Strangers and the Love Of Friends

It was never a post I’d expected to write and this is hardly what I’d imagined as a post to mark my blog’s 7th anniversary (March 17th), and with apologies to my regular readers, some of this will be a bit of a repetition of circumstances previously written.

I know most of us never dream we’d write or live through the events I’d laid out. We know terrible things happen, but generally we feel safe that they happen to other people – over there. There is simply any place that helps us hold onto the fantasy that any distance from them is a protective cover for the rest of us.

When I got the call in January that my sister in Arizona was found on her bedroom floor unable to stand or speak properly and the concern revolved around possible strokes, in short order, I went into numb mode. That place where we don’t know what to feel, or maybe there’s too much feeling and there’s an *overwhelmed* switch that’s automatically tripped. We’d just been unwinding the numbing shock of the loss of one of our children only 20 days earlier. Maybe it was just continued numbness.

Some hours into news like this, we realize we must act and then thinking revs up again. What’s needed? Who will do what? When do we do whatever it is we figure we need to do? How can we support her kids? How will we do any of it? Then there are the really hidden thoughts, like, nope, I don’t want to be doing anything. This isn’t happening. This can’t even be real.

But, it is real, and very shortly after, we learned the real issue was a brain tumor. A very nasty, aggressive beast of a tumor. The scans showed it nearly covered a quarter of her brain, literally pushing it to one side. She had emergency surgery within 48 hours of being found on her floor and they were able to take out 99% of it. The surgeon said if she hadn’t made in when she did, it was unlikely she’d have lived another day or two. God, real, is a bitch.

Her cancer is never going away though. That’s a hell of a new normal to adjust to. They hope to help us keep her for up to 18 more months with heavy-duty radiation and chemo over several weeks. The days seem to fly by faster than ever. I avoid morbid activities like looking at calendars and counting back. I’m not always successful.

A rising sense of panic pushes me back to the questions about action. The more recent events of her world make sense now. Like, why did she suddenly quit her job and lose her health insurance and benefits? She couldn’t remember. It didn’t make sense to her either while she attempted to retrace her steps before the surgery. She couldn’t remember anything from 3 months prior. They have no idea how long ago that thing invaded her head.

We clearly had some heavy-duty work to do to sort how she will live until the end of this new normal inevitably. There was no way we could manage this on our own; we put out calls for help. That’s another exercise in faith and hope. When catastrophe strikes and you realize how bound you are in immediate helplessness, fear introduces itself in yet another incarnation. Who would even answer that call? Would anyone and if they did, would it be enough?

It turned out I wasn’t as alone as I’d feared. Friends responded with a generosity I couldn’t have imagined; even from a few that I’d never dreamed would be able to help. Yes, your $5 mattered, just as much as the gifts of $100 or more. I was on a plane within 3 days to get to her. They helped me get to her and hold her. They helped me get to look into her eyes and tell her, I love you. … It’s too hard to describe what all that feels like.

Those caring superheroes helped me get to the myriad mounds of paperwork needed to apply for assistance from myriad areas with their myriad requirements. Let me tell you, I don’t know how any of these agencies expect a patient to manage this. There was no way my sister had the ability to read through all the materials, let alone sort, fill-out and acquire the necessary documentation. Getting to that work alone was a huge step. After that, we’d had most medical and home expenses taken care of until at least the end of April.

How do you describe how much that means? I don’t know how to tell people just how much of a difference, how much of an impact their gifts create. I don’t think it’s possible to thank them at par value, I’m just so grateful that they accept my pitiful attempts anyway.

It was so hard to leave her. I wish it could be me that’s driving her to appointments, or shopping for her groceries, or just sitting next to her while we zone out in sister land in front of Netflix. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for the services that we got to help her with that much, but I think you know what I mean.

I don’t know what the next steps will be, and we do know the calls for help will continue, for as long as it takes, but we’re taking it one day at a time. These are the experiences that crystalize that notion for us. Day by day, minute by minute. I can only pray that we’ll receive what we need and that we see the beauty there is to see and feel the grace we’re meant to, while we can. One day at a time.

Kininiskimotin, all my relations.

RL

Sister, Reva, her son, Jacob, and our beloved step-dad and mom.

Terminal Hope; Not Homelessness

On December 31st, I wrote about hopeful expectation for the newest decade. I’d said I felt sizable hope but tempered with the need to tread carefully for a while. That thought was focused on the large-scale issues surrounding us: things like Indigenous treaty, territorial and sovereign rights; climate change; alternative energy fights; the lack of decency in all political governance and so on.

By January 1st, it was clear any trepidation about those big issues was not going to match the colossal wrecking ball coming much closer to home.

Today, I beg you to read my words to the end.

My last previous post was a small tribute to my beautiful, 22 yr. old. nephew who’d become a victim of the opioid crisis on New Year’s Day. Twenty days after that, we got devastating news about my sister.

Tragedies happen every day to families and as a family with solid membership in that pool, there are many days I wonder how we manage to keep going at all. But this takes me back to that sense of hope I’d mentioned. Maybe it’s something not fathomable at all. I don’t know what to make of it, but maybe what emerges from that hope is a greater good. I have no idea what that looks like either, but my heart is saying, hold on and do what you can. Do it with all the love you’ve got and wait. Apparently, that’s all I get to know. I’ll live with that; because we all do. That’s all we’ve got.

The rest of this post is the wording I’ve used for her fundraising campaign. Living in the U.S with little health insurance means this is what we get to do and in the very act itself, it’s clear this is something we have to do. I hope you’ll read this small part of her story, and I hope you will help in sharing it.

Hiy hiy,

RL

She was always fiercely independent and she’s still on her own with her youngest son, 14 yrs. old, but this is a fight no one can do on their own.

She lives in Arizona, where the beauty of its big sky and desert landscapes drew her years ago. She had a great job. She had a great apartment and a great car, but what does that matter when a tumor pushes your brain toward the other side of your skull and you no longer think with a healthy logic?  

She’d inexplicably quit her job, which canceled her health insurance and benefits. She couldn’t remember why, nor when she’d last paid bills or even if. She didn’t know how to feel. As in, how to react to what was happening around her. She still made sure her boy got to school and had food on the table though.  Carrying on was always the order; until he came home from school one day and found her laying on her bedroom floor, dis-ordered. She was unable to stand or speak properly, making only nonsensical short sentences.

Within 48 hours of that shocking discovery, on January 22, my sister received a diagnosis of a glioblastoma tumor, in phase 4. That’s her scan in the opening image; it’s clear where the tumor is. It’s very aggressive, incurable cancer. She couldn’t and still can’t, remember the entire 3 months prior. They removed 99% of the tumor, but it’ll never stop growing. We learned on February 20th that surgery bought her 12-16 more weeks without treatment, of which 4 weeks had already been taken. They said she could have up to 18 months with treatment. She begins those treatments on February 27th.

Terminal cancer patients should have time to prepare with their children for the inevitability. The dying should have peace to make proper, or frankly any, arrangements. They should be able wrap their arms around their family and talk about their love for one another and even, if blessed, have time to close wounds created within the damages of life.

$25,000 is to cover what we can for an estimated period of 6 – 12 months. This is the minimum calculated to supplement the assistance we’ve applied for including insurance premium funding. This is for rent, food, medications and seemingly endless unexpected/unknown incidentals. She will have to move by March 31, 2020 if we don’t have the rent for April 1st. Please help us get that rent, and God-willing for any months she has left after that.

This will give her time; precious, precious minutes, to work out what she can, to make whatever arrangements are necessary, especially for her kids. We just want to give her some peace and a few more months of hugs. We just want to help. We just want to show her our love, before she says goodbye. A lifetime for $25,000.

$5, $10, $20, whatever number, helps. Thank you, for any and every cent that comes her way.  Cancer societies around the world always say every cent counts, and it does. It really, really does.

Click here to go to the fundraising account for Reva. With deep gratitude please help if you can, and share either way.

The Final Gift

Visions upon visions,

dreams and dreams,

lost, stolen, taken; gone.

Poets with their poetry of loss,

compete to buff out the latest cracks;

futile puffery, all of it.

Nothing will compare to that gift,

a small click of connection,

the implausibility; the impossibility – that would turn it into the last…

Hope solidified, flat and stark, into knowledge,

that love now lies in the breath of angels,

until we all finally, maybe even wholly, see again.

A few coins laid across the past,

a final gesture of love,

the only one left that could be made in his name.

RL

Sammy

January 17, 1997 – January 1, 2020

Beloved nephew