Friday, February 4, 2011


I'm moving too fast. 
I'm getting ahead of myself, I think I should tell you a bit about him.  Richard was a man's man, tough as nails but with a heart that was so tender it left him open to being injured by thoughtless people. 
Just to demonstrate that point I'll tell you a great big secret.  Rich didn't like it to be well-known, but he actively traded romance and love stories with our daughter, Holly-Ann.  I wager that there aren't that many fathers around who have such a relationship with their daughter.
Rich was raised on Lasqueti Island which is situated out in Georgia Straits.  His father was English and Sechelt Indian, his mother was English and Squamish Indian.  Unfortunately, Rich took after his English blood so he was fair skinned and gray eyed.  Most of his brothers and sisters took after their Indian blood.  Rich and his siblings were stoned when they attended school on Lasqueti. Why?  Because they were Indians, of course.  Because of that,  Rich always had a love for Indian people  from every port on the B.C. coast and he knew many of them.  He was  non-status Indian, but he had friends in every major Indian tribe from here to the Alaska Border. And those Indian fishermen from all those different communities taught him how to fish in their territory.  They showed him their pet spots that they didn't want other fishermen to know about.

I have done genealogy and family history  research all of my life because my mother, grandparents and great grandparents said it was important. When the change in attitude took place in 1985, and non-status people were bumped up to being status, I was happy for Rich's sake.  He really wanted to be legally recognized as an Indian person born in British Columbia.  I haunted archives, museums and libraries all over B.C. seeking the information that we knew existed somewhere.  Of course, the government could have helped with this but they never did.  They always make everything as difficult as they possibly can.
 At the age of 80 years Rich endured 25 day of radiation therapy simultaneously with 25 days chemo therapy/   He fought valiantly, but it was a losing battle.  The doctors discovered that both of his legs were a mass of clotted veins.  They made him lie on his back and move very little while they administered vitamin K by intravenous and coumadin orally.   He was a ray of sunshine on that floor where every patient was one blink away from death.  He kept the patients and staff in good humor.  That was his great gift to care about people and put them at ease.
The disease backed-off for a few month,  we returned home, but then it came back stronger then ever.  Rich decided that he would not further kill his body by submitting to radiation and chemo therapy.  So, we knew he would die fairly rapidly.
THIS WAS MY POOPSIE:  One day I went up to St. Marys Hospital to visit him, it was a beautiful day.  I sat by the bed and we were holding hands.  He looked at me with such love in his eyes that I felt that if I had to speak I would have stammered and stuttered like a moon-struck teenager.  He kissed the back of my hand and looked into my eyes and said, "Mummy, I know that you are many years younger than I am and that you have needs.   I want you to know that it will be okay with me if you want to do something about them."  I was shocked!  I was flabbergasted!  I answered.  "Poopsie, maybe you haven't looked at me well enough, lately.  I'm 71 years old and well past any such needs or desires."  "Not to me, Mummy, you'll always look like the beautiful girl I married fifty years ago."  Do you see what I mean?  How can I easily forget someone who loved me so much? And whom I loved in return.
I'll move along.

In 2004, my husband lay in a coma-like state in the Garden Inn, and I still hadn't obtained his Indian status for him.  He didn't care one hoot about benefits - but he'd been stoned for his Indian blood and he wanted to be recognized as an Indian before he died.  And the Creator heard and answered his wish.  Finally, two days before my husband died, he received a letter from the Mandarins in Ottawa stating that his right to be an Indian was recognized, and he could join either  Sechelt or Squamish.  I was so happy to receive that news.  I knew he was going to die at any moment, but at least he would die as an Indian brave should.

I brought the letter to his room where he lay staring at the ceiling.  He hadn't spoken or moved for two or three days.  He could hear when I spoke to him.  We set up the signal of one blink for 'no' and two blinks for 'yes'.  His room was crowded with family and friends as I read the letter to him.  I asked if he understood and he blinked twice.  Then I said, "  Poopsie, I want you to know that I am proud to be your wife.  I am glad that we have had these past 50 years together.  I couldn't have found a better mate. Poopsie, your body has been destroyed by this disease.  You can never be the man you have always been. If I were you, this is what I would do. 
"Remember what I told you about  the night sky?   Look for the Milky Way because according to the tales our people tell, that is  the encampment of the Shishalh People who have died and crossed over the River of Hope . It is the after-life home of our ancestors.   All those stars that are jumbled together are the Well of Forever.  All those stars we see are their campfires which  they have lit to guide us to the encampment of our Fathers across the River of Hope.  We have the promise of our ancestors that the last Shishalh shall arrive safely home before the last campfire is extinguished.   Remember your mother and father, and everyone who has ever loved you are waiting for you on the other side with their arms spread wide.

Now, that you are recognized as an Indian brave, you just make your death cry or war whoop,  and tell them "Beware!  For a Shishalh warrior has died today." - AND at that point I did the Hollywood version of a war whoop - "and you will find the canoe of souls and its navigator waiting to take you across the River of Hope.  When I made the war whoop his mouth stretched into a really huge, soundless smile.  I knew he understood what I meant.  The people present were astonished at my forthrightness and honesty, but that is how Rich and I had always communicated. There was no beating around the bush with us.

The next afternoon, as my niece, Linda, and I were making our way back to Sechelt, I told her that I thought I would arrange a religious service for Richard for that evening at 7 pm.  Holly Ann was spending the night with her father.  We never left him alone; someone was with him every minute in case he woke up.  We didn't want him to feel abandoned.
She was sitting in a chair on the side of the bed where she could hold her father's right hand.  Now, remember, Rich has not moved a muscle for a couple of days.  He has two medicine bags and an eagle feather laying across his chest.  Gifts from family and friends.  Holly Ann is reading to him, holding her book in her right hand and holding her father's hand with her other.  I telephoned and told her what I was arranging, so of course, Rich heard every word.  She continued reading for another fifteen minutes when she felt her father's left hand take hold of her hand and remove it from holding his right hand.  She was startled because he hadn't moved for so long.  He reached over with his left hand and gathered the medicine bags and eagle feather to the centre of his chest.  Then he gazed up at the ceiling, again, and proceeded to shake hands with five different people or spirits that Holly Ann could not see, then his mouth grew large just like he made his war whoop and he died.  Just like that.
He wasn't a religious man, but he was a spiritual man.  I believe he decided to die rather then stay for a service he didn't believe in.  He died at 6pm on July 21, 2004.

Even though I was expecting his death,  it has taken me 6.5 years to begin to come out of the grieving process that has gripped both Holly Ann and me.  I am beginning to feel like my brain is waking up again, and I am ready to make tracks down the
Red Road

There are other anecdotes that I will reveal to you later.
I must get The Spirits of Our Grandmothers Canoe Family up and running this year.  I need to attract people who will be able to help me accomplish this.  I believe they are here and are just waiting to be asked to step up to the plate.  If you know of someone who is looking for a challenge that will be a huge benefit to their community, please, direct them to me and my canoe family.

No comments:

Post a Comment