I went to meet a friend for dinner and when I got to her, she said, “When I got here, I saw your car and could not see anyone moving in there and I hoped you weren’t in there dead after I had been sitting in here for about ten minutes!” We both laughed! Then I started to think, “what if I were sitting there dead, would she just continue to sit and wait in the restaurant? For how long would she wait?” Such silliness. Or was it? What if it was a premonition of what is yet to come? Well, if I were to die like that, it would be okay with me.
I was on a phone call with a man that I had been waiting to hear from for the past couple weeks. The call went longer than I expected that it would. We talked at length about a position I may fill. After speaking with my friend though, I started to question whether it was a good idea to take on more work. Was my brother right when he reminded me that I am supposed to be retired? And what about when he told me that I should pass the work on to younger ones. Something to think about. Writing is fun for me. Should I just be writing? I am trying to respond to fiction challenges that I am truthfully not good at. I have only been able to write partial fiction. I work an honesty program and I think that may get in the way. Oh well, here we are in the middle of a story that includes marigolds. I love marigolds. Back to death.
The reality of getting older is that death can happen anytime. Was the thought from my friend, because we are going to be on a grief panel together? Our plan was to put together some questions about trauma and grief and we did. Our Native American people have a lot of grief work to do. We will be speaking to counselors that are working with Native American people. One time, I was in a talking circle with women that lasted for 3 days. We would go around the circle and share. It was a perfect grief circle. And so healing. I remember one woman talking about things she was told, “A long time ago, our people lived over a hundred years and were healthy and strong. They could understand the animals, and the birds and they them. They understood life was a short visit and they never feared death. They loved life and the most important thing was relationship. They knew not to gossip as that was how bad things started. They would never consider taking an overdose, even though there were plants and other things that would make them high and could kill them. They never considered suicide as they knew that meant they would have to do this life all over again, suffering in the same way.” Then she said, “It is important for us to live our best life and work on healing from our grief and loss, as in that way, we help future generations as well as our past generations. We are all related.”
I believe we get to thrive when we do our grief work. We are no good for ourselves or anyone else until we do. My friend has a long history of grief work that she has done and so have I. We work with people every week, doing grief work, even though we are almost 70. We listen and help in other ways when we can. My friend said, "Sometimes it is just listening and that is enough. Other times I will do EMDR," which has been around since 1988, and is more recently accepted. I encourage tears and laughter, our first two medicines and right brain activity. I ask people to tell their stories. To write them down. To share them with their children. My wish is for counselors and everyone to do their own grief work. And if they work with our Native American people they must do the work with our people or refer, refer, refer!!
My youngest brother died because of Covid19, and as we laid him to rest, by my mother and sister in April, I realized how much I was already in the grieving process. I saw the denial, the anger, and my tipping into depression. I would much rather talk and write about anything else. So, how about marigold’s. Even when I know the importance of telling my grief story and getting to acceptance. I know, I am not there yet. When we went to the cemetery to bury my sister, in early October of 2010, there were tons of marigold’s all over the ground right next to where my sister was to be buried. We had planted them on Memorial Day for my mother. There was no grass growing yet where she was buried because it was less than a year since we placed her there. That is why we planted marigold’s all over her grave. I was told that the marigold’s were hardy and could take full sun. I knew there was a tree right there, but it did not provide much shade. At seeing the beauty of the marigold’s, I decided I should plant them there every Memorial Day forever after that. The spot and ground were the perfect place to plant marigolds. Then someone told me that marigolds will keep the mosquitos away, so just like that I started planting them by my house. And walla, swarms of mosquitos are in the house just twice a summer before the marigolds really take hold. They are not the flower to put in a bouquet as they do not have the best odor. But they are beautiful and tough.
I am so glad that my family is buried on the reservation. It feels like they are home, with all their other family and friends. I remember my aunt saying that she did not want to be buried at Fort Snelling, even though her husband was buried there as she did not know anyone there, except him. They buried her there! Most of their children live close by. I do enjoy seeing the pictures of the coffee and donuts placed at their gravesites on memorial day, by their children.
Even though many in my family were not Catholic, they are buried in the Catholic cemetery on our reservation. Even though I am not Catholic, I will be buried there too. I used to laugh at my aunt saying that she did not know anyone at Fort Snelling and still I know where I hope to be buried. Her request makes more and more sense to me all the time. The cemetery is right next to our property on the reservation, and as the years pass, I feel more and more like my mom and sister, my dad and grandparents, cousins, and uncles are home. When my auntie with Alzheimer’s asked where my mom was it was easy to say she was home. My auntie was at my mom’s funeral. My cousin said, “I never know what to say when she asks. Thank you.”
Growing up has not been easy for anyone in my family. There has been a lot of alcoholism and addiction. And, as my brother would say, “They were in world war I and II, Korean, Vietnam, and other wars. And we were in the service when there were not any wars. Strong people.” Then I say, “They were in boarding schools, relocation, were called chief and squaw. Fought their way through childhood and young adulthood. Survived it all. Some thriving.” Very much like the marigold.
About the Creator
I am married with 7 children, 27 grands, and 12 great-grandchildren. I am a culture consultant part-time. I write A Poem a Day in February for 8 years now. I wrote 4 - 50,000 word stories in NaNoWriMo. I write on Vocal/Medium weekly.