I never had the opportunity to get to know you because you died when I was only five. Later on I was told how you had known ahead of time that you were dying, that you had made arrangements for Josie, your second eldest living daughter, to come home and look after us.
We're not quite sure how you died, at the tender age of thirty-nine.... All we know is that "Wetigo", a neighbour lady, heard you moaning in pain in our outhouse. She came to your aid.
Easter Monday.... Blue Monday.... I'll never forget.... That memory is permanently etched in my brain. Josie walked into the house. She gathered everyone around to tell us that you were gone. It was a bright, beautiful day.... Sunlight streamed in through the windows, yet everyone was crying. I couldn't comprehend the meaning of death but I was uncomfortable with everyone's tears. I started laughing, in an attempt to "lighten the mood", but it didn't work.
Mom, I wish you would have had more time to hold me. I remember one time when we were on the shore of some river waiting to leave by canoe. You sat on the grassy slope of the shore. I was cold and I told you that I was cold because I wanted you to hold me and warm me up. You told me to run around, that I would warm up that way. I did, but I was disappointed that you didn't hold me. Yet I never told you.
I sometimes wonder now what thoughts are going through my children's mind that they aren't articulating to me.
I remember another time when my little brother, Ordean, and I were sent to the store to buy some lard. You gave us a whole dime to spend so that we could buy ourselves a treat. We could hardly wait to divide up the dime into two nickels. I knew money was scarce. That's why that memory stands out.
I also remember you lying in your coffin.... You were wearing green.... An Auntie held me so that I could kiss you goodbye.
Mom, I wanted to hold you, to tell you that I love you, to bury my face in the hollow of your neck.
Mom, I wanted to tell you that you were a remarkable woman; a good, kind, strong woman; someone with a great capacity to love. But you were also a tired woman; a Roman Catholic, Metis woman who bore thirteen children. You were always working, baking for our cafeteria, washing clothes, tending to all the needs (or so it seemed) of your household of eleven children. Joseph and Marie died at birth. You were also a progressive woman: you were politically involved with the CCF, the forerunner to the NDP. You obviously recognized the inequities that existed, especially for Aboriginal women, and you were committed to changing things.
Mom, I want you to know that most of your children are formally educated, and are carrying on the tradition of commitment for change. You would be quite proud and excited by what's happening.
There's one story I heard about you that seems to capture the essence of your being. One day, a neighbour woman, who shall remain unnamed, walked by our house and saw you outside with all your children. She snidely commented that you looked just like a schoolteacher with all your schoolchildren gathered around you. Rather than retaliate, you chose to utter a Cree word, "Kiam", which loosely translated means "let it be", "it's okay", "it doesn't matter".
But I know that "Kiam" can also mean you pick and choose your battles; you save your strength to fight against the oppressor, not against others oppressed; you forgive and you continue on in the struggle for equality for all.
Mom, Veronique Marie Carriere, I admire your courage, your strength, all that you were.
You never had the opportunity for a formal post-secondary education, but you were far more educated in other ways. Yet I know you would've liked the challenge.
I wish you were still alive to meet your grandchildren, Joshua and Sasha. They are both beautiful children. My hope for them is that I can raise them to be caring, loving human beings.
Mom, I feel your spirit close by from time to time, guiding me and giving me strength.
I am who I am because of the cultural, economic, racial, and other sociologically defined realities I was born into. But, most of all, I am who I am because I was shaped in your womb, and in your likeness. That gives me a sense of power and a sense of completeness. Thank you Mother for carrying me into this world.
I Love You
I Miss You
I am a Metis woman of Cree, Saulteaux, and French ancestry originating from the settlement of Cumberland House, Saskatchewan. I am also the proud mother of Joshua (7) and Sasha (4). As the Curriculum Resource Coordinator for the Northern Division of Saskatchewan Education based out of La Ronge, my primary responsibility is researching and compiling appropriate non-biased Aboriginal and multicultural resource material for the Mistasinihk Place Resource Centre. I also have the exciting challenge of co-ordinating an annual Elders Gathering. As well, I am the president-elect of CRIAW (Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women).