This is going to be one of those short, musing pieces. There are a lot of things I’ve thought of to write about while I’ve been in Canada, but I don’t have the time to really sit and focus. So perhaps I’m meant to keep my Canadian thoughts to myself.
But I have been checking on friends’ posts on Facebook off and on, just to keep up on what is happening on the home front. In doing that, I learned that my Lakota friend’s cousin/sister died. Based on the tidbits I’ve read, it was alcohol related – liver problems. Still, when someone probably 20 years younger than I am dies, it is unsettling.
More unsettling than this one death, for me, is the number of deaths that my friend has had among her family in the 6 years I have known her. It has not been “the old ones” for the most part. It has been her own generation or younger.
I’m trying to remember all of them: an uncle, a sister, a brother, a teenaged daughter, a stillborn nephew, an ex-husband (the father of her children) and several other cousins/friends. There may be some I have not heard about, too. To me, at least, that is a lot of death in 6 short years. It is especially a lot of death in close family.
It is, sadly, not unusual on Pine Ridge Reservation where they live. I have heard stories from many who have had significant losses like that, though I can’t say I’ve heard of so many in that short period of time. When you add to the frequency of death the many other traumas that people on the rez experience – accidents, illnesses, injuries, the struggle to get from one place to another, the trouble finding a stable home to live in, abandonment by parents, no money to buy the necessities of life, violence and crime – it is likely that a very high percentage of individuals on Pine Ridge suffer from PTSD.
I don’t know how it is possible to bear all of the grief and trauma that my friend has borne. It is difficult being 2000 miles away. I do what I can to support and mostly I pray for the family. That is really all I can do, in the long run.
I don’t know a lot but I do know that my friend has encountered more than her share of loss through death for someone who is not yet 40 years old.