to speak of her, in this time
salts my eyes, with pride
sea to mountain, her
nature, her strength
her diverse peoples too

yet we must face vile truths
darkness of humanity
those who first walked
this magnificent land
First People’s tormented by:
John A Macdonald’s “extinguishing”
stripping their sacred land
their languages outlawed
sent to brutal, residential schools

my eyes salted more to see
finally, finally, finally
reconciliation, not yet perfect
bringing people’s together to
say this, all of our Canada
our home, on native land

photos and poem © DC Lessoway

ClehsmqWEAAHL7K.jpg-largeborn in her ninety-seventh year
how I’ve seen her strive, fail, grow
leaders great, lesser, petty
tried their stamp, impress their will
yet she shined though it all
her people, from the spirit of
aboriginal humanity to the
immigrant seeking, hungering
a better, sheltered, certain life
her multi-coloured communities
match her noble, audacious bearing
my heart bursts with love in how
she stands a symbol for a better way
a greater world

Vancouver-2016-08

crown
ruler
god on earth
their pitched battles
masters and solders
bring civilization
at barbarous blade point
grandeur imperial crux
ingest, assimilate, consume
conquer mighty forests, rivers, wildlife
subjugate indigenous populations
decree, upon edict, upon proclamation
cracks find a portage in absolute power
resulting conflict, civil and world-wide
clear landscapes of cold-blooded monarchs
revolution at the ballot
atonement in common sense
skin-deep humanity
detached history
still, truth will out
clear hurdles
ways to
peace

photo and poem (c) by DC Lessoway

I do not write about work very often. Preferring it is our business, so to speak. But at these times, as a part of my own route to healing, this I need do.

Mortality: “the state of being subject to death”
How often I’ve heard:
“I’ll be living forever.”
Denial, might be
defiance of that great
and final outcome. Perhaps,
akin to, a part of, basic
instincts, survival, perhaps.

New years day, I was at home alone watching some movies when I saw on my Twitter feed that Lemmy from Motorhead died. I noticed before that his bio film was on Netflix, so I viewed it. Admittedly I’m not a Motorhead fan, but I’m sure a few songs came my way back in the 70’s and 80’s when I bashed my guitar (and bass) around. Loved the bio, he was a down-to-earth, tough talking, tender-hearted bass player. Would have loved to meet him.

Then the Sunday after new years I get a phone call. Over the weekend the First Nation I work for suffered two passings. One, an Elder with many health problems, was somewhat expected. But then, another, a good, kind man, with a big heart, died suddenly.

The grief surged through my texts, email, phone calls.

That night something happened to me. The middle of the night, laying somewhere between waking and sleep: these aboriginal, circular images came to my vision, one blending with the other, I opened my eyes thinking I was asleep and they stopped. But resumed when I closed my eyes again. Was it a vision? Of what? It affected me profoundly. But then I woke up, it was morning and the visions were gone. Truthfully I didn’t recognize, nor remember them, and not having a great drawing hand, I couldn’t recall or record them. I’m sure this was messaging, from somewhere, someone. Having happened just after the passing of a man with deep aboriginal cultural beliefs, it may have been from him. It would make sense; he was always at the ready to teach.

Got to work that week and had a heart to heart with staff about the passings of the two members of the community. We’ve been through this before, nearly two years ago a staff member suddenly passed away. Horrific. You can read about this here: “Enigmatic”.

Much the same flow of grief through the community, staff… myself. But we didn’t have time to allow the shock to find us as we have two funerals to help with. The first funeral, as it was primarily taken on by another Nation, went smoothly and quickly. However, the younger member (I’ll call him K) who passed suddenly had a few complications. K has a wife overseas whom he had married a year ago. While K was working on bringing her over here, it wasn’t completed and we had to scramble to obtain a travel Visa for her. We did everything we could with paperwork, calling our local MP, here country’s immigration, etc.

Then, January 11th I wake up to find David Bowie passed. Loved him, his music. I wept. But, I know it wasn’t specifically for him, it was one of those triggers of the emotive dam. For all that pent-up, no-time-for-crying tears to wash my cheeks, give release to my substantial grief.

Back to K, the funeral and wake were held off as it was hoped his wife could get here in time.

Then I heard Alan Rickman passed. Another flood of tears.

There are many details to tell (I’ll note the reason for privacy below), eventually we had to do K’s funeral and burial, unfortunately without his wife’s presence.

My truth is this. I love First Nation rituals and practices. I was brought up in strict roman catholic nonsense. Yes nonsense. All the hypocrisy drove me to drink, literality!

First Nation people? They take their protocol and practices quite seriously and practice it each and every day. One of the main reasons I re-connected with my Metis roots, as I knew part of me knew there was more out there than just European rites and rituals.

To witness the drumming, singing, the prayers; the hear how they look at life and death as only a part of the cycle of the world. Beautiful. To hear, no feel the drum circle and singers. I closed my eyes, allowed the beat take my heart on a journey I’ve not had before.

But that is as far as I’ll go with what happened in their ceremonies. What they do is their own private matter and I respect that. First Nation’s people of Canada have had enough of their lives, culture and people torn asunder by the powers that be.

Again though, to witness such beauty and power of belief and ritual is gratifying and made my own heart stronger to partake.

Safe travels up river my friend.

our ancestors respected their kind domicile
Mother Earth’s abundant refuge
light, birdsong, their time pieces
a morning musk offered forecast
rustling leaves identifying the day’s temper
animal moments framed seasons
of waste nothing
of use all

then all torn asunder

nearly obliterated:
language, ritual, spirituality
in near total genocide

yet
yet

a great spirit awakens
as Mother Earth weeps
for her children
telling us all is not lost
we only need
recover the old ways

in healing, we will thrive

Last Monday night, as we were all leaving work, K was making a funny face to us as she drove away.

The next morning, warm, sunny, I was driving in and had this flash, this image of K, lying on the floor, receiving chest compressions. I remember shaking it off in a ‘what am I thinking’ notion.

Arriving at work I started my day as normal, everyone arriving, the usual welcoming chatter, laughter filling the office. I realize K is missing as she’s usually early, where is she?

My phone rings and its one of my managers, her voice, usually upbeat, was soft, broken, as she said something strange. The lull in the moment between her last words and my realization became ever sharp, harrowing. Not much of the next minute or so am I able to recall.

“What happened?”

“Massive heart attack.”

Immediately the imagery I had earlier struck me, but now accompanied by a knifing to my chest, shoulders. As my senses returned, a distressing anguish came to me: I have to tell her co-workers, her friends, those who loved her (as they are one and the same), that K is gone and is not returning to join into their laughter, their loving, mutual appreciation society that I was immensely grateful to partake in.

Meanwhile the manager said she was sending two healers to help staff deal with this aching loss.

Everyone gathered and how they looked to me. Their kind, beaming faces questioning. That moment I didn’t want to beak their hearts, didn’t want to shatter their world, and didn’t want to release that cruel hammer of grief.

Before the last of my words finished reverberating, tears, like rivers, were flowing. A tsunami of shock, sorrow came at me. Nothing was left to give voice to and in silence we stepped into the shadowed dominion of mourning.

In the ensuing days, burning sage and sweetgrass filled the air, we had aboriginal healers in to help ease the pain individually and collectively. While arduous, it was liberating to sit in a circle, going around four times to speak of her smile, her laughter, her kindness, her teachings we will each hold close and what her loss will mean to us. We agreed with the Chief when he said, “We are family.”

Yesterday was her memorial, so many were there to celebrate a good, kind, friend, sister, daughter, aunt, cousin.

We will miss you K.

their profound blood
born in the pristine lands
of Turtle Island
were then, by invading men
torn from their true life
in genocidal assimilation

yet

look to the sunrise
how fragmented hearts, spirits, minds
bring themselves up
drum, feather in hand
sing proudly
for the distressed lands
for their children’s children
for all of us

© 2013 by DC Lessoway

my dear Canada, our home on native land
how true our hearts are to this beautiful north
we in the west, look to the east in worry
as we graded, stand, for what is gloriously free
a toe dipped in Cape Spear, or Tofino
from tundra’d glory of Cape Columbia
to southern bijou of Middle Island

then…

on my sleeve I bleed, my eyes weep
to hear fingers pointed, anger expressed
at each other, no matter recent
or forever denizen
or silly down-putting of those
successful in all points of the earth

prefer I do, the once peacekeeper’d stance
how it made me proud
of my country, my Canada

no matter, love you, I do

© 2013 by DC Lessoway