Archive for the ‘Requiem’ Category

This is a sad story, so if you are already depressed, you might want to read it another time.  It is the story of an event in the lives of our Lakota friends.

I have met sister/cousin before – actually the first time we visited the rez over 6 year ago.  But I really got to know her better when I visited for the house blessing this past August.

I should probably explain the term “sister/cousin” because it is one I made up to explain the relationship between the woman I will write about and my friend.  My friend’s husband’s mother and this woman’s father were siblings.  So technically the two are first cousins.  However, as often occurs on the reservation, the two ended up being raised in the same household as siblings instead of cousins.  I have found that on the rez, the terms used are more reflective of the situation than the technical, biological reality.  Otherwise, how could I be “Unci (Grandma) Bee”.  I have no grandchildren but I am unci to my friend’s takojas (grandchildren).

So the two are sibling/cousins.  They care about each other as if they were sister and brother.

Sister/cousin was pregnant in August when I visited my friends.  She was expecting her 5th child.  She was happy about it, even though she worries because her husband drinks with his friends and he is not a pleasant drunk.  But I thought she seemed very swollen, like she was retaining fluid.  That is not a good thing for a pregnant woman to do.

Fluid retention can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, a condition of pregnancy in which the mother’s blood pressure rises dangerously and her kidney function declines, resulting in the retention of fluid and build up of toxins in the blood.  It was at one time called toxemia because it was thought to be a toxic condition.  However, the true cause is not known.  It is associated with multiple pregnancies, poor diet, diabetes, cigarette smoking and prior hypertension in the mother.

If it continues to become more severe, the complications can include seizures for the mother, premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall (called an abrupted placenta) which leaves the baby with no oxygen or nutrients, and maternal and/or child demise.

As both a woman who has experienced mild pre-eclampsia in her own pregnancies and a childbirth educator who taught over 1,000 students over her 10 year teaching career, I can say that most medical professionals take pre-eclampsia very seriously.  They check your blood pressure frequently and work to bring down the hypertension.  Why?

The only cure for pre-eclampsia is delivery of the baby.  If the mother’s blood pressure cannot be controlled by diet or medication, labor must be induced or a Cesarean surgical birth must take place immediately.  Otherwise, there is an increased risk of complications, including death, for both mother and baby.

Sister/cousin, so I am told, had pre-eclampsia when I arrived to visit in early August.  My observation had been correct.  By October, her blood pressure was unable to be controlled, even with the hypertension medication she was given.  She was finally scheduled for an induction of labor.  However, there was a week that passed between her appointment and the induction of labor itself.  I cannot say why [or personally understand why] someone whose blood pressure was as high as sister/cousin’s was, for as long as it was, would not be induced immediately or taken to the operating room for surgical delivery.  She was sent home for a week — and never put on bed rest, never told to lie down on her left side to improve circulation to the baby.  She went home and tended to her other children and husband.

When she was finally induced on Halloween and after a long labor, she gave birth to a 6 lb 5 oz son on November 1, in the wee hours of the morning.  The little boy was born dead — stillborn.

The extended family who had attended her during labor, including my friend and her daughters, were devastated.  Sister/cousin was beyond consolation. I don’t know if she had been prepared for this possibility before the birth by the medical staff.  Sister/cousin called her husband, who was not there, to inform him that his son was dead.  Being drunk, he cursed at her, called her names that are not printable in this “PG” blog and refused to come to the hospital.  Sister/cousin then called her own mother to let her know that her grandson was “gone.”  Her brother answered the phone, repeated her husband’s behavior and hung up on her.  My friend said the pain in sister/cousin’s eyes doubled after those phone calls.

The doctor who examined the baby told sister/cousin that based on the physical condition of the baby, it appeared that the baby had been dead about a week.  The baby was sent to Bismarck, ND for autopsy, though no one knew why, since that was unusual.  The baby was buried at the end of the week.

Rest in peace, little one.  You had a very short walk on the earthly part of the Red Road.



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As I stand at my window, I see a Downy Woodpecker make a quick dash to the suet feeder.  Instead of eating, though, he clings to the side and looks around the feeder to the tree from which he had just flown.  Perhaps I am only projecting my own sentiments, but he seemed to be puzzled and sad.

I looked past him to the back yard of my recently deceased neighbor.  My neighbor never had any children, so it is the nieces and nephews who must handle the estate.  They have had realtors checking the house and listing the property.  They have taken out the furnishings they wanted.  I expected all of that – after all, I’m doing it for my parents’ home.

What I didn’t expect was the carnage!

The house is in need of some work – a power washing would improve its appearance dramatically.  The shrubs in front of the house definitely needed trimming.  Instead of trimming, however, they decided to have them torn out, ripped out by the roots.  The rhododendron I had practically coveted for so many years because of its beautiful, deep fuchsia color – gone while I was at the store.  No time for me to even beg for the root ball.

Little did I know that this was just the beginning of the wanton destruction.

A few days ago I saw a septic company drive up to my neighbor’s house.  Now it was the state’s turn to be the catalyst for mayhem.  This wasn’t surprising, since state law now mandates specific guidelines for the septic systems of property being sold.  All the homes on this street are over 50 years old and do not meet the current guidelines without serious upgrades.  I know this because I have had to do this with my own property when the original system was failing.

When I upgraded the system, I lost one tree in our yard.  It was sad, because it was a beautiful, healthy 40′ oak tree.  But the contractor I used worked diligently to save 2 other similar trees.  I was quite grateful for that.

It isn’t that I loved the trees for themselves, though that surely was true.  But the trees are home to the many birds who visit our feeders.  They are a roadway for the pesky but adorable squirrels.  They provide us with a comfortable, shady yard and a lawn that does not burn out in summer.

They were also a link to my past.  The original owners of the house were my grandparents.  The trees have grown, indeed flourished, as they provided a support for the clothesline and for birdhouses.  They shaded my grandparents as they aged.  They shaded my own children as they grew from babies into adults.

I know, you have now pegged me as a bit daft or at the very least “soft”.  I will admit to both.  But it isn’t the sentimentality that is making me sad right now.

I should probably explain that my neighbor’s yard did not have any oak trees.  It did, however, have 7 immense spruce trees – all at least 40′ to 50′ tall!  They were healthy trees.  They provided privacy as well as shade and wildlife habitat.  You have probably noted my use of the past tense.

They are gone.

The tree service company which the septic contractor chose was quick and efficient.  In fact, it was the same company I’d used years earlier.  I thought perhaps they would remove just the 4 trees at the rear of the property.  I was sadly mistaken.  Over the course of two and a half days, all 7 trees were removed to make way for the septic system.

The neighbor’s yard now looks like a cemetery with the stumps as 7 silent tombstones.  The corpses had been hauled away earlier in the day.  My own yard looks naked and feels vulnerable.  It is too open now.  It “feels” wrong.

I know how the woodpecker felt, as he watched the destruction begin.  It is now complete and I will have to cope with it.  I’ve given you some pictures below so you can see what I mean.

Meanwhile, I will mourn the loss of such aged souls and plot my “revenge.”  I think it will definitely include the planting of some trees.


Before: One of the majestic spruce trees at right of photo



Stripped & silent: the same tree at the left of this photo.



After: The tree is gone.



The silent witness who will also soon be gone.


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