Because of this, I lack the visceral memories and experiences of a Time Before: before true Liberty, Democracy, Freedom. I don't remember a time when the nation was wholly consumed with war and strife-- and therefore it doesn't feel like the kind of Remembering I do today will in any way adequately match the Remembering that the men and women who served and serve our country will have.
So I try my best to never forget that I am allowed to breathe and love and be in a time without many true restraints. I remember never to forget.
Yesterday I went to the memorial service of a fifteen-year old girl, a student that had grown up in the Junction and attended our school. A girl who had sat in my various classrooms; for Art, for Home Ec, for Health and Career Ed. A girl who smiled easily, who sometimes was lonely, mischievious, bright, happy, rueful, who stubbornly refused to do a sewing project where they were supposed to make a heart-shaped pillow, who handed in some of the more effortlessly gifted drawings, who was respected and regarded as 'cool' by the other kids, who had character, beauty, resilience.
There were a few hundred people at the service-- enough that by the time we arrived, half an hour early, there was no more room in the main hall, and overflow traffic was directed into the smaller building beside it. There was a small kitchenette inside where an older First Nations woman was busy frying fish for potlatch afterwards. Another woman handed out lime-green programs (one of her favorite colours) and ash bags to the youth, to protect them from spirits that may be lurking by in this time. We filed in silently, sat on the folding chairs, and listened to the service as the smell of cooking oil and a constant sizzle filled the air.
It was a bit surreal to hear what was going on without being able to see any of it-- the sound of her mother weeping in the background, the squeaking of chairs as all the Grandmothers in the room were invited to stand in silent support for family, the strong intonation of the "Goodbye Song" sung in Southern Tutchone. But: there really wasn't a need to see it. Grief is grief, whatever language it exists in.
Afterwards, we followed the rest of the mourners outside, where we walked in the biting cold of the Yukon towards the gravesite, some distance away. We waited our turn to walk clockwise around the spot she was to be buried in, to throw in some dust, to pay our last respects.
For Tora Lee, for her family, for her friends, for our community: I remember never to forget.
We learned of this tragedy last Thursday, and I have been in semi-crisis prevention mode since then, scooping up kids and giving them space for their grief and their anger. In these times, I am reminded that loss reminds us of all the other loss in our lives.
In these times, I always think of Jason.
I wrote this six years ago, and it aches my heart how much I remember exactly how I felt when I wrote it.
" Jo. If only I knew you in grade 8 so then we could have spent our whole high school years being friends. but we didn't so ya, but the years we had together was great and i loved it.
You are the best. I love you. Jason Powar"
this morning i remembered that i had these words from him written in my Grad Yearbook. i remembered because he didn't "do" the yearbook thing, refused to sign anyone else's, citing that it was lame. but i was graduating and he had always treated me extra special and so he signed it. i remembered because it took up almost a whole page out of the yearbook, in true Jay-go-big-or-go-home style.
i remember jay because he was my friend.
because he was one of the most sincere men i have ever had the privelege of getting to know.
because he was my son, for one show.
because the way he treated me, and all his friends, is an example of how human beings should love.
because he had thumbholes in the sleeve of his sweatshirts.
because of the facial hair i told him to shave off, but he never did.
i remember jay.
oct 20, 2006.
Six years. Sometimes I forget that he's gone, and October ramps up again without my realizing it.
Jay: at your memorial service, they told us that you would want us to do amazing things in our lives, and to begin living and acting in ways that would make you proud of us. I want you to know that I took that to heart from that moment on and that I think you would be so, so proud of me.
I am in love with a man who doubles as my best friend, I take nothing for granted, I hold those in my life with reverence and gold. I'm a fucking awesome teacher and pal, and I wish you could be here to see it all happening for me.
I love you so much and I will always remember to never forget you.
|One of Jay's drawings. Talented son of mine.|