Estrangement – murdered out of their lives

There are splinters in my heart now.
Shiny glass splinters that reflect what has passed and what is lost.

I know some of you think – shouldn’t you be over it all by now?
I guess I am not as strong as some of you.

Imagine if you will
That you have a family – parents,
Siblings, a spouse,
Children, perhaps grandchildren
It’s a family like any other family.
There is love, there are arguments.
There are joyous occasions,
There are trying circumstances.
All in all, a typical family.

And, further imagine, that one by one
They all disappear
Whether by death, distance,  dementia, or choice
Everyone is gone.

So you have spent your life
Building and loving this family
And, poof, it is gone.
It has happened to a lot of us.
What do you do at that point?
When it is just you and an empty house?

How do you pretend that you are delirious with happiness?
How do you deal with parent shaming?
How do you contend with children who call you a narcissist because you are sad and lonely?
You’re too old too join a circus
Or have another family
So, what do you do?

Learn to knit and wear shapeless clothes?
Go polka dancing?
Play bingo?
What if you don’t want to do any of those things?

Go for walks, go to the movies,
Go out to dinner, go to plays,
Museums, social get togethers?
All well and good
But what do you do at the end of the evening
When the heartbreak returns?

When the walls and rooms and memories in your home mock you?
See where you are now.
And you deserve it because you have been judged and convicted without even a trial of your peers.

How do these people feel justified in ripping your soul out?
Any parent who ridicules and shames their child and makes them feel like dirt
Are judged harshly, as well they should be
But what about the children who do this to their parents without justification?
What about the alternate realities they make up?
What about the lies and misconceptions they tell themselves and others until it is believed to be fact?
What is their motivation?
What is their gain?
What closes their hearts to irrevocably hurting people who love them so dearly?

You can never make peace with someone who will not see you or talk to you.
When all avenues of communication are closed to you.
You can’t work through anything when you can’t look them in the eyes and honestly admit your faults, as they admit theirs.
You can’t ask for or give reciprocal forgiveness without being allowed to speak to them.
You have no idea what to do because everything you have tried to do or say has been twisted into something bad.

If you inquire about how they are, you are accused of having ulterior motives.
If you don’t, you are accused of not caring.
If you try to contact them because of something important and can’t reach them, you are accused of not trying hard enough.
If you do manage to contact them, you are accused of intruding into their lives.

In short, you can not win for losing.
They have effectively murdered you out of their lives and they stand together in
righteousness touting how wonderful they all are to do this.

How does it feel to be murdered while still alive? I think you can only imagine part of it.

I don’t believe that anyone who hasn’t lived this can possibly understand it.
The natural inclination is that we must have been monsters to our children.

So how do you rectify that in your mind?
When all those years you felt nothing but love for your children and did everything you could to teach them and care for them and be their biggest fan and support them and then you are told
That’s not the right way to love.

I wish I knew the secret of these adult children, who will no doubt raise their children perfectly with nary a mistake, even while teaching them that hating you is a good thing.

I have no anger anymore. I have remorse, sorrow, and a never-ending physical pain in my heart.

You don’t have to remind me of the old, but recurring adage – you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends.
And let’s not forget that you didn’t ask to be born.
Let me ask you, did we ask to be born?
Did we deserve our screwed up parents?
Did they deserve their screwed up parents?
If you spend your life recounting that everything wrong in your life is traceable back to your parents, how far back are you willing to take this?
How many generations of imperfect parents raised children?
Until you guys, there have been no perfect parents.
If you concede that, perhaps you will see that you aren’t perfect either.
Why will you not afford your parents the same leniency you afford yourself?
I am truly curious.

 

 

 

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Search successful for orca machine gun site –

 

Timberline Secondary students are part of plans to shoot killer whales with a camera instead of a 50-calibre machine gun.

On Saturday members of the Timberline Outdoor Club and teacher Steve Joyce set out in choppy waters to Seymour Narrows northwest of Campbell River to locate a machine gun installation that was designed in 1960 to shoot killer whales because people of the day thought they were eating too many salmon.

The group had already made one futile attempt to find the location from land, but the access was too overgrown.

The plan, formulated by Chris Porter, founder of Orca Rescue Conservancy Association and former head trainer at the Vancouver Aquarium, is to use the machine gun site as a base for an observatory that would broadcast images of the underwater environment to computers around the world and to a specially designed wall in a shopping mall in Victoria.

With the help of former Campbell River Mayor Roger McDonell (now owner of Stubbs Island Charters) who donated the boat, the group finally found the site.

From the rock bluff a machine gunner could cover the entire width of Seymour Narrows.

The plan was to deter or kill as many killer whales as possible, especially those coming south towards Campbell River. Fortunately saner heads prevailed and the gun was never fired, but not out of concern for the orcas. People were worried that bullets would ricochet off the water and possibly injure or kill someone, or cause a forest fire.

Porter was the former trainer of Tilikum, the captive orca who killed three people during his 30-year stint at the Vancouver Aquarium. Porter had come to Campbell River last year to present the film Blackfish (a story about Tilikum) at the Tidemark Theatre and also at Timberline for the outdoor club. He was impressed with the students and that, plus his relationship with Tilikum, is one of the reasons he wants to do the project. “My connection with Tilikum makes me want to do more for him,” said Porter. “An attempt to make up for some of the wrongs I committed on behalf of his sacrifice.

” i started working for Sealand in Oak Bay at age 19 and began my career training killer whales. My relationship with Tilikum made me question the effectiveness of aquariums.” Porter has always been fascinated by the story of the machine gun at Seymour Narrows. So he asked the students and staff of the Timberline Outdoor Club for their help in finding its location. “It has to be a good place to see killer whales,” he said. “So let’s build a whale watching centre or land-based observation site and memorial so we are not paying $50 a person to go see them in an aquarium.”

Porter has worked as a consultant for Italy’s National Aquarium, Aquarium of Genoa, prior to his work in the Solomon Islands with dolphins.

During 2005 he created the world’s first open ocean dive program with sea lions in Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. Next Porter will be looking into the feasibility of using the site to bring the world that much closer to the amazing marine environment that surrounds Campbell River.

The Timberline students have enthusiastically embraced this idea, and will be meeting with Porter again to carry on with the plan.

“The irony of such a use is fitting today as our world view on marine mammals, the environment and the orca in particular has moved 180 degrees,” said Joyce. And Porter says that giving back to the environment is of the upmost importance.

“The problem is, that entertainment on the sacrifice of the animals is not fair if there are no direct conservation benefits in the wild,” he said. “The decline of killer whales off the coasts of British Columbia and Washington State are a prime example of that.”

Students Ashley Riley, Vienna Hyatt, Garner Lavoie and Neala Cameron were led on the successful journey by Joyce, retired Timberline principal Kevin Harrison, film maker Brad Quenville, Porter and McDonell.

 

sthomson@courierislander.com © Campbell River Courier Islander

The Angel in My Life.

Twenty one years ago my husband and I received a phone call that would change my life.

On the other end of the call was a social worker who asked us if we would be interested in adopting a brother and sister who needed a home right away. The date was December 18th, 1995. We were told that the girl was newborn, and her brother was 13 months old. He was supposed to go to another adoptive home, but the mother had just given birth to a baby girl and the family did not want her, only him.

Their loss.

It had been nine years since we had last adopted and while our name remained on the “list” we had not expected this call.

Of course I said yes, and I had to catch my breath because I knew these children were Heaven sent.

You see, six months before this call I had been in the hospital for a hysterectomy. Certainly this was not something I had wanted at age 35, but for health reasons it was very necessary. I had not given up hope of having another baby, but my doctor had said if I wanted to remain alive to raise the children I had, then the surgery was a must.

I was devastated, and as I sat just outside the operating room waiting to go “under the knife” I excused myself to the bathroom to have a really good cry, in private. It was in there that I felt compelled to get down on my knees and pray to God.

I remember exactly what I said to this day.

“Dear God, please, whatever you can do, somehow can you give me a baby girl? I don’t feel I am finished being a mother and I know there is a child out there who will bless my life. God, this is the only way I can go through with this is having faith that I will hold a baby, my baby, in my arms again.”

Shortly after that, I had my uterus removed, and the rest was now in God’s hands.

Like I said, our names were still out there on a list with the Ministry of Children and Families, but we had not been active in any adoption request. While I had prayed for a baby, I had a difficult recovery from the surgery and my husband and I were both working and had four children to raise. Life was going on. Hence, the December call, right before Christmas, was, to say the least, stunning.

It made no sense. i knew there must be other families who were active on the list and one of them might even have agreed to adopt a ‘sibling group’. Even the social worker called it a ‘fluke’ and explained that someone on the adoption desk in Victoria had felt for these two babies, was probably touched by some Christmas spirit, and wanted to get them placed and keep them together before Emma went into the foster care system. She had remembered me from the speaking engagements I had done for the Ministry across Vancouver Island, about special needs adoption, about how I had hoped to adopt more children, and just pulled our file. It was all very random.

Or was it?

No one knew about my prayer to God that day, not even my husband. But I knew immediately this was His doing.

We were warned that the birth parents had some physical and developmental disabilities, and while they knew some of the little boy’s special needs, the little girl was newborn and they could not say what might develop with her. They did say that there was a chance she could have a syndrome known as Treacher Collins, a horrific genetic disorder that her birth father had, causing facial deformities, breathing problems, and hearing loss.

(google Treacher Collins Syndrome images to get an idea of what they were talking about.)

The doctors has noticed some features indicative of this, including very narrow ear canals on the baby.

I don’t believe in rejecting a gift from God.

On December 22nd we headed over to the mainland with our kids in tow to meet the baby and the toddler who would soon become our son and daughter. The little boy had been in a foster home since birth, and the little girl had arrived there out of hospital, the day before. While he had a prospective home and the potential adoptive parents had already done some pre-placement visits, their rejection of his sister resulted in the Ministry stopping that adoption because they wanted to keep this siblings together.

Ethan met us at the door, (at the time he was called Dustin) in a t-shirt and diaper and holding a chicken leg he had been nibbling on. (Some images just stick with you!) He was a tiny 12 month old, big eyes, dimpled smile, and gorgeous wavy hair.

Emma (then called Tamara) was sitting in a car seat on the dining room table. The light through the window,  like Great Expectations (Charles Dickens), was one of those December days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.

She was my summer.

Both children had some dysmorphic features, likely indicating some special needs, but I didn’t care.

My mother had asked me, before we met the baby, what would I do if her face was horribly deformed.

My answer was “ I am going to love her because someone has to.”

And love her I did.

We had to leave Ethan there when we left that day, and it hurt. But he had lived in his foster home since a few weeks’ old, and knew no other place, no other parents, and we just couldn’t yank him out of that situation. A series of pre-placement visits were to take place starting in the new year, to ease his transition, and to address the heartbreak of his foster parents who had loved him and cared for him for the first year of his life.

We brought Emma home, on Christmas Eve, and joined last minute Christmas shoppers who were not buying diapers, wipes, bottles, formula, and whatever else we could get our hands on in our formerly baby-less household. Our youngest was five years’ old and I had not saved anything other than a wicker bassinet that all of my kids had slept in.

Emmaline Sophia Nicole was home.

God had given her to us.

Ethan Tomas Nathaniel would join us in a few months, and he was the icing on the cake.

My girl Emma, whose 21st birthday is the reason for this missive, was held by God and delivered to me through prayer, hope and faith. Are there really angels here on this earth?

Well one lives at my house.

All her siblings have moved out into the world and are making lives for themselves.

Emma remains with me, the greatest blessing in my life, bringing renewed hope, inner peace and light when I am in my darkest moments.

She is a great teacher.

She touches everyone’s lives and brings to them happiness, generosity, gratitude, kindness, innocence, and love.

Anybody who rejects her, mocks her, bullies her, or scapegoats her must live  a dark, pitiful existence.

She saved my life.

While they say she has special needs, I say she has special gifts.

She is perfect.

Passing the Torch of Remembrance.

I hate November 11.

Growing up with my mom and dad, both of whom served in WW2, ,it was the only time I ever saw them cry.

Not an ugly in your face sobbing cry but a quiet cry, holding deeply, much pain, pain for those they lost.

My mum explained to me that she and dad had a local they went to several times a week.   A local is a pub where friend co workers and spouses go to socialize.

Mum said there were about 50 people who knew each other very well sharing their trials tribulations of every day life, drinking, laying darts, playing cards, talking about the war.

Slowly and steadily the men of the Local were called for service and off they went in airplanes, boats, boots on the ground. Young men’s adult lives would start and often end on the battlefield.

Return dates passed, conversation at the local was about Dylan Jenkins who lost a leg, Gerry Williams whose plane had gone missing, Barry Jones, missing, whose wife had just delivered their first baby while he was out there fighting the Germans.

Over time the patrons at the local diminished and the mood became somber. More pints were ordered, less talk was heard. Soon it was almost all women at the Local. Every man who frequented The White Horse except for a handful of older men, had gone to serve.

And instead of coming home on two feet, every man who frequented the White Horse came home in coffins, or never came home at all.

Stunning.

Sobering.

A testament to the perils of war.

This is what my parents remembered on November 11, their lost friends, broken families, fatherless children.

Years later, my parents remembered every one of those “boys” as they called them, and it hurt. Deeply.

My parents are gone now, perhaps hanging out at the White Horse, Heaven’s version.

And with them, the touching commemoration to these individuals, a classroom size full of men who missed out on living their lives.

But, one year on November 11, I asked my mum to write down their names. And she did. And she and my dad told me about them. Thirty years after they died in war, she and my dad remembered them. Intimately.

So here’s to the boys of the White Horse in Cardiff.

I honour you.

 

 

  • Barry Jones
  • Cecil Thomas
  • Harry Haines
  • Davey Haines
  • Garland Smith
  • Robert Brown
  • Frank Martin
  • Malcolm Harris
  • Glen Taylor
  • Franklyn Cavet
  • Rex Willis
  • Jack Long
  • Chester Lovely
  • George Hammong
  • Charles Jones
  • Charlie McDonald
  • Hamish Nichols
  • Wilson Haffer
  • Robbie Evans
  • Louis Louis
  • Sam Morgan
  • Charles Morgan
  • Ivor Morgan
  • Rhys Griffihs
  • Peter Driscoll
  • Eddie Moss
  • Sterling Owen
  • Davey Williams-Dodd
  • Andy Fitsgerald
  • Molly Fitsgerald (took her life when her husband Andy didn’t come home)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

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Letter to an animal dumper.

Dear (former) pet owner.

Do you think your dog/cat is still waiting for you at the spot you dumped him in the woods or logging road, far away from the sites and smells he is used to that bring him comfort?

Do you think he is confused but remaining loyal to your scent, hunkering down at that spot you drove away, until frigid temperatures or intolerable heat cause him to abandon his post and find shelter in a place where he doesn’t know where his next step will take him?

You took an innocent animal who loved you and relied on you to keep him safe, and abandoned him far from home where he would be lost, terrified, cold, hungry, traumatized and trying to figure out how to get home. The panic he felt is unimaginable. Was that your intention?

To cause him to suffer and die an excruciating death, where crows and turkey vultures pick at him, perhaps before he is quite dead.

Was that your intention?

Will you think about him, ever?, out there alone, and wonder what happened to him, or just naively assume because he is an “animal” he is meant to be in the “wild” anyway and will be just fine.

But the truth is, he would either be killed by a bigger wild animal, ripped apart and terrified, or wounded and infected, or, without nourishment or shelter, he would have lingered with untreated illness or wounds, suffering horrible pain through each stage of his physical deterioration, eventually succumbing to pneumonia as he tried to find a quiet place hidden away in the bush or garbage pile , or under a log, or perhaps out in the open, where he would struggle to breathe, convulse, and pass away, alone and scared but amazingly, probably still thinking about you and wishing you were with him.

Or he may have found a road and in trying to get home, was hit by a car, and became an anonymous body to be scooped up and thrown in a garbage bag.

 

Can you actually sleep at night knowing you left him to cope in the pitch black of night, an innocent animal who never understood why he was being taken away from his home to be lost and alone in winter storms terrifying lightening, the blinding heat of the sun, freezing or burning?

Did you enjoy all your meals this past week, or month, while your pet starved, losing muscle mass, weakening, until his organs started shutting down?

Your friends, co-workers, acquaintances would be sickened if they knew what you did. Most people find this kind of act deplorable and cowardly.

What have you told your kids about where their pet is? Did you lie because of your shame or to avoid them crying and worrying about what ever happened to their pet, for years to come. You, as their role model, have now taught them it’s ok to throw away living beings who love you if they become inconvenient, expensive, or you have failed to train them properly and they pay for that. It is hard to understand the kind of cold heart that goes into this kind of act.

It is never too late to make amends and go and look for your pet. He is likely still close by to where you left him if it has not been too long. Please make this right, look for him, put up posters, you don’t have to admit what you did at this point, just say he is lost, ask others to look for him, and if found, take him to a shelter where he will be cared for, have his injuries and illness treated, humanely euthanized if he is too sick to recover, or be cared for in a safe, warm, loving environment and re-homed to a person or family who will return his loyalty.

You cared for this living being at one time. Please end your relationship with him with kindness and grace. And never have another pet.

 

__________________ _______________________

Happy Birthday to Me.

Thirty-two years ago right now (9:25 pm) I know where I was and what I was doing.

I was swearing out loud, about to smack my husband up side of the head, and not yet experiencing any “joy” in parenthood.

I was in my 28th hour of labor, soon to deliver a baby we never thought we would have and fought hard to conceive.

I was so fed up with the situation at 10:24 pm I heard my husband say something very un-father like , “Holy Shit”, as I delivered our daughter with half a push at the speed of a bullet…well, almost. The doctor didn’t even catch her she came out so fast, she landed like a wet fish in a silver bowl the nurse quickly stuck under my airborne infant (well, she was..something was hurling and it wasn’t me.)

I did not feel the immediate maternal bonding that you read about or hear about. I was hungry. Starving. It had been about 30 hours since I last ate, except for the bag of jujubes that my husband snuck in early in my labor, and revealed themselves a few hours later in that kidney shaped blue bowl that I couldn’t hide fast enough before being busted by the nurse. This nurse wore the traditional outfit of nurses back in World War Two days, or maybe the 60’s, white uniform, white stockings, white shoes, nurses cap. She was intimidating. Even more so when she smacked me on the leg after I started losing it during that horrific stage called transition. I still remember her telling me I was going to be a mother soon, start acting like it.

My husband had a look of pure terror in his eyes, I think expecting me to do the exorcist head spin at that moment.

So after the projectile delivery and a cheese sandwich from one of the nurses lunches, I embarked on my journey of mother hood.

I had not really been around babies before I had one of my own.

After a few hours sleep I embraced the role and my daughter and spent many hours rocking her, studying her, thinking about what the future might hold. I remember when I was dressing her for the trip home, my hands were shaking and I told her I was going to try my best, and asked her to be patient with me because I really wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing. She just stared into my eyes and I think we understood each other.

There were six more babies after her, some born from my body, some adopted. The journey in life is never predictable. Each birth was very different, each child unique, but all loved and cherished.

I consider that date, June 18, 1984 as the day my life officially began. I have been somebody’s mother for over half my life. It is a privilege, a pain in the ass, a blessing, a curse, a joy, a heartache, easy, hard, rewarding, taxing, lonely, crowded, and definitely changes you as a person, more than one time, as the years go on.

My oldest child is now married, a mother, and is not in my life.

It is a loss that is too heart crushing to talk about.

A loss that has taken a long time to come to terms with.

A loss that has scarred my soul.

There is no greater burden than grieving for your child who is still alive, but whose heart beats for others but not for you.

It is pure, authentic loss. The loss of grandchildren, and for my other children, the loss of a sibling, for my mother, the loss of a grandchild and great grandchildren. We walk around with the overwhelming emptiness of the absence while carrying the heaviness of their irreplaceable memory.

Estrangement is a hidden epidemic. Studies show that if you ask ten people about their family relationships, at least five will report an estrangement.

And sometimes against all odds and all logic we still hope.

When she was small, it was the happiest time of my life. I was so privileged to share those moments of her proud achievements, her embarrassing mistakes, her moments of growing in every way, exciting to be there for her discoveries, her victories, to be her advocate, her sidekick, to look at her when she didn’t know it, and think “How could I have made something so perfect?” What I experienced as her mum, such sublime joy.

I am not perfect; there’s no such thing as a normal family. We do our best in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

I even warned her about this when she was five days old and I was afraid the zipper I was closing on her bunting bag might pinch her skin, I was afraid I would not feed her enough, or not hear her at night when she cried, I was afraid I would forget I had her (ok, well, let’s not talk about the one evening we actually forgot her in the house as we got into the car to go to the movies. No harm done except to my sense of accomplishment as a mother!)

The reason I write this…birthday/eulogy on this her 32nd birthday, and make it funny, laughter through tears, is because that is what this child brought to my life. And how I appreciated it. She was my calm in many storms. She was the Lucy to my Ethel. She was my first egg, and a damned fine one at that! I miss her terribly. I miss the opportunities now and in the future to tell my grandchildren about their mother. About how she loved to sing, even though she couldn’t, what a ham she was in the front of the movie camera, how she loved to give fashion commentaries about her teachers, how she was madly in love with her Grade six teacher and used to practice writing her “married” signature, all her “ism’s” and I remember almost every one of them, our mutual love of the movies, her fabulous birthday parties we used to have, she shined at school, when she walked into a room she brought a lightening rod with her, what a wonderful older sister she was to her special needs sister (oh how she misses her big sister and niece). Her children will never know their aunts and uncles on my side, their new two year old cousin and other cousins who will soon arrive, their great grandmother whose last years will be spent without them, not photographs to cherish later or to share that heritage with their children a quarter of a century from now.

How I wish God could have played a movie in my mind the day I brought her home from the hospital. If He had given me the gift of hindsight maybe she would still be with me, maybe she would still love me, maybe she would be like other daughters of other mothers and be there to share the road ahead.

Maybe if I had known I would not have her in my life as long as I had thought, from her cradle to my grave, I would have not pushed so hard in that delivery room, keeping her inside me, under my heart, for as long as possible.

As I finish this, and will publish it in its first draft, (because she was my first draft!) it is one minute to the time, exactly thirty-two years ago when this precious spirit entered my life. She is happy. She is a good mother. She has people she loves.

One day maybe she will come back.

In the meantime I am buoyed by her siblings, my fabulous children who keep my heart alive, her grandmother, and the memories I have of the first 28 years being her mum. I cherish them, as I will always cherish her.

I have been a mother for 32 years and 1 minute, and counting.

 

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Truth, Reconciliation and Healing.

The first Indian residential school in Canada opened in the 1870s. The last school closed in 1996. During that time, over 130 Indian residential schools were located across Canada. More than 150,000 Aboriginal children attended Indian residential schools.

They were forced to attend. They did not sign up.

 About 80,000 Indian residential school survivors are alive today.

 The Government of Canada funded the schools. Churches ran the schools.

 Although Indian residential schools are now closed, generations of Aboriginal people in Canada are still affected by their horrific experiences.

I worked as a Legal Advocate for over 20 years. I helped people in crisis, people with disabilities, people living in poverty, try to access justice, to better their living conditions, to improve their lives.

 Then came the Residential School Settlement Process, the result of a class action

lawsuit that was started by a number of Indian residential school survivors against the

Government of Canada and the churches that ran the Indian residential schools. The settlement agreement was an effort to address the damage caused to generations of aboriginal people.

 Under the settlement agreement, the government would pay Indian residential school ‘survivors’ for their experiences while they were at an Indian residential schools.

 Based on some relationships I has established with Aboriginal community members I was sought out by some Elders involved in this endeavour and part of the requirement was to get their stories down on paper.

 It was a series of the most difficult interviews I have ever had in my career.

 Firstly, the trust that was given to me was an exceptionally humbling experience.

 Secondly, I have never witnessed a person speak such horrors and demonstrate, decades later, that the trauma was as fresh as if it had just happened.

 Finally, my experiences is hearing their stories cause me to question the use of the term “survivor”. Their hearts might still be beating but they “survived” only to be remnants of beautiful lives never realized.

 These stories go back generations and in my opinion, rival the holocaust.

 The legacy of removing children from their families and communities, first though the residential schools and then through the child protection system makes it imperative that we consider the events of the past and why the rates of poverty and homelessness and suicide and addictions and children in care and people incarcerated are so much more prevalent in Aboriginal communities. Generations have come into adulthood from institutional care, abuse, slave labor, no identity, certainly no connection to their heritage, to their kin, to their language.

 It was a cultural genocide in a systemic, routine manner.

 My client, an elderly woman who possessed a quiet dignity, a grace to her pain as she spoke in whispers about her experiences in a residential school. It was like she was afraid someone was listening in and she would be punished.

 She and all her siblings were taken from their mother, had their hair cut off, cold showered, separated from each other, forbidden to speak their language and physically punished if they did, including the use of some kind of electric chair, used on my client when she was 7 years old. She said the adults laughed when the smaller kids were in the chair because their legs wouldn’t reach the floor and would flail around with the electrical current.

 She was belittled, lied to, mocked, called a savage, strapped, told she would never amount to anything, raped at age 10, first by a police officer and onwards by priests, staff members and other students.

 She told me there was no such thing as love.

 If she threw up her meal she would be forced to eat her own vomit. The older children would try to make light of the porridge served with maggots buried in the oats, saying at least it was some protein.

 When she got out, at age 15, she went on to have six children who were eventually taken from her by child welfare services because she had a drinking problem and really could not provide any parental role model.

 These six, like so many other offspring of residential school prisoners grew under the hearts of mothers whose hearts were crushed long ago. There was little to give.

 Their parents were struggling. Their grandparents were struggling. Usually no one asked why. There were very dark secrets that remained cemented in cold stone anguish, shame, fear, and grief. It was better not to speak of it. It was better to numb it.

 Some of her children were returned to her on and off, but they themselves grew up disconnected from their heritage, culture, language, looked down upon, and subjected to racial discrimination.

 They do not trust the outside world.

 They do not trust people in authority.

 And the legacy continues, generation to generation.

 A broken culture.

 Her story will stay with me forever.

 I learned we as service providers have to make a shift in our perspective and heal that legacy one person at a time.

 One act of kindness at a time.

 Show each shattered soul that there is such a thing as love.

 I learned some things in the RCMP when working on the Blackfoot Indian reserve.

 You have to be honest with Aboriginal people. Never lie to them even if what is going to happen is not something they want. You have to walk the talk and follow through.

 They have every right to demand this of us.

 You have to listen to them and not fill in the pauses. They have stories, not explanations. Their behaviour might be connected to something outside the immediate situation. They do not move at the same pace as we do.

 Let it be.

 While most of us have no responsibility for these horrific acts of evil committed by the people in the residential school system, and other systems that crushed the lives of aboriginal people for generations, we have been left with the responsibility to repair that damage, to make amends for those monsters before us, to share our world openly and genuinely with those who are different from, to mourn with them their pasts and work to show them there is such thing as love in their futures.

 We just have to show it to them.