There is a Crack in Everything, that is How the Light Gets In 

Funeral for our nephew, James Desjarlais
My son, Andrew a with a Gift from the Dene in Northern Alberta

There is a Crack in Everything, that is How the Light Gets In 

The pandemic of COVID 19 has brought us some joy and some sorrow. 

Because of this pain many people accessed their creativity, I founded a charitable foundation, (G.I.F.T.) for Indigenous people in Canada to address trauma.

We can reframe the sorrow we experience in a beautiful way to serve others, like the mother who lost her child in a drunk driving accident who created an international foundation Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.  (MADD) The bittersweet gift is to see both the pain and the beauty.

Each loss brings with it a distinct emotion. Recently, I heard of a friend’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis. This news is tough because I know in months or maybe in a year this beautiful soul will be on a journey into the spirit world. I received similar news from another friend, a former assistant who called me to tell me of her terminal illness a few months before her passing.  In both cases I was touched by their willingness to share this personal information with me. I felt their sacredness and the weight of their words, and it touched my soul. I wanted to be a witness for them as they transition in their last journey and to give meaning to them telling me.

Facing one’s own death is I can only imagine is overwhelming. I believe the first instinct for most people is to keep the news to themselves. When they revealed this to you, it is a message from their soul to yours. How do we embrace this experience?  

I had a conversation with my older brother, Freddy several weeks ago. When he called, I asked him how he was doing, he said “I was experiencing some health issues, but I’m okay now”. I told him our oldest brother, Peter seems to be experiencing some health issues as well, and I was concerned about him because he lives alone.  Freddy said, don’t worry about us you’ll understand when you get there. I wasn’t sure what he meant, and I asked where I am going? He laughed and said you are quite a bit younger than us older folks, we, get aches and pains we can’t do the things we used to, that is part of life, don’t worry.  When our time comes, just let us go.  I said I don’t want to let you guys go. I want you guys to live forever. He laughed. In a strange way this conversation with my brother does help me process life which is part of nature and temporary.

Indigenous peoples understand that all life has an expiration date, and when the time comes. we should go gracefully into the spirit world. No one knows what happens when we die. It is respect for our ancestors that we believe they are waiting for us and will celebrate, with a huge feast and a drum dance to welcome us.  

This is like Buddhist philosophy, only in Buddhism there is a thought that we live many lives.

As I reflect on family and friends who went into the spirit world during the pandemic, I came to realize that for a meaningful life we need to be mindful of our interactions with one another, put our iPhone away, give the person we’re with your complete attention, touch their hand and feel the connection.

Make every moment count. If you ever met a person who makes you feel whole and complete, and understood. You can be that person for everyone you meet. This is called living a purposeful life. Every moment is a mindful action.

Living in this manner you will have no regrets because all your interactions will have a sacredness, a connection to another’s soul.

Speaking of regrets, since the recent loss of ten family members and a couple of friends I made a conscientious effort to clean up my behaviour with relatives.  If I couldn’t reach them on the phone, I send them an e-mail taking responsibility for my behaviour and I would like to repair our relationship. That said, in part it is not only for me that I do this, but it is so they too are not left with any regrets about our relationship.  

Please if you are in an estranged or difficult relationship with family or a friend that you reach out to express your desire to improve your relationship, apologize if you must for your behavior and clearly express how your behavior has impacted on your life and their life, and make a promise to be better friends. 

On our traditional lands

Isn’t our deepest desire to have amazing loving relationships? It can be done no matter how complicated. Recently I picked up the phone and called a friend who I had a complicated relationship with and apologized for being not a good friend. I explained how I felt this impacted my life and, in their life, for one because we were not speaking to each other I wasn’t there for her, and she wasn’t here for me when I lost many family members. She was incredibly gracious; truth be told more gracious than I would have been if the situation was reversed. We picked up where we left off before the incident as though nothing had happened, our relationship is complete. This is the gift we gave each other, seamlessly weaving our complicated relationship with a renewed purpose and love.

To capture the knowledge my friend has we will be developing a new course through the Seventh Generation Indigenous Foundation and Training.

The objective is for students to explore and examine holistic knowledge and perspective on afterlife . The course structure will be reflective and provide direction towards research and study on different indigenous worldviews from a variety of indigenous cultures .

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