I got an e-mail from my Lakota friend yesterday afternoon. Sunday e-mail has become unusual, since they had moved to Rapid City and only had access to a computer at the public library. I was startled by the subject line as well – it read “Urgent.” That is not something I’ve seen before from my friend.
I quickly read the post and my heart began to break. The father of my “godchild” (my friend’s “ex” had died. My friend had not been able to work for 2 weeks because he had been hospitalized in Rapid City and she had been taking two of their three daughters to see him as he began to fail. She was also still dealing with their their daughter, who had run away and is now in detention during this time as well. She could not get the authorities to allow the girl to leave the detention center to see her father. She did not get to see him before he passed.
My friend is temporarily back on the rez, staying with her mother, with whom she has a strained relationship. She has no money because she hasn’t been able to work and she needs to be able to contribute to the food for the wake for her daughters. She never asks me for money without exhausting her other resources first. She says she went to her district for assistance and they refused. So she e-mailed me.
Once before, for the wake and funeral of a baby in the family, I had contacted the local grocery store to set up an account for her to purchase food for the all day wake and funeral. Could I possibly help her and the girls out again? I will, though the store was closed Sunday evening be the time I find out. I’ll call this morning when they open – I just have to remember the time difference properly so I call when they’re open. Good thing the fibro fog seems to be staying off shore this morning.
There are a multitude of reasons that this death breaks my heart.
- This man died at age 41. He died of cirrhosis of the liver. He died from alcohol abuse, really. He was too young. He had seven children and a grandchild – a lot to live for.
- My friend has lost so many people she was close to in the past 2 years alone. I went through a time like that myself. So many people passing in a short period of time. For myself, I was a teenager and did not have the responsibility of caring for others at the time. She has the burden of her grief (even though they were divorced, he is the father of 3 of her children) as well as being strong for her children. And the burden of having no money because she hasn’t worked in 2 weeks. And the burden of trying to start a new life off the rez – except the rez keeps trying to pull them back. That’s where family is.
- My heart breaks most for my “godchild” and her sisters. She is 12. I was 12 when my father died at age 36 (blood clot went to his heart). I remember, as if it were yesterday, the pain of having a parent torn from your life. It doesn’t matter how close you are to that parent when you are a child. She does have a new step-dad, but that won’t ease that pain. I hate being so far away when I know she could use an “extra” mother figure. I want to be able to hug her and talk to her and “just be there” for her. It’s times like these that the miles between Massachusetts and South Dakota seem to be even more than they are.
I am glad that we will be there to visit in two weeks. It will be a different visit than we had anticipated, I think. But there will still be fun – children can only cope with so much pain. I’m not sure what we’ll do now – if the pow wow is still in the plans or not. We’re going to have to play that by ear. But at least we’ll be there and be able to offer support in a more personal way than footing the bill for some food.
What I find brings me the most joy is bringing some fun and joy into the girls’ lives that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to have. It has nothing to do with their culture or their poverty. It has to do with the fact that, like all children, they need to have dreams and hope. There is nothing in the world that brings me more joy than bringing joy to others in unexpected ways.
It’s almost time to go call the market and make the arrangements for food. Please say a prayer for my friend and her daughters. They will need all the prayers that they can get.