Indigenous Arts & Stories - Grieving Processes

Grieving Processes

2014 - Writing Winner

The elderly man looks around and remembers that she is gone. He remembers that he is alone in his two-person house, too big for just himself. He remembers the way her hair always smelled of cedar. He remembers the soft curve of her aged smile.

Read Summer-Harmony Twenish's Grieving Processes

Summer-Harmony Twenish

Lasalle, QC
Kitigan Zibi
Age 17

Author's Statement

I wanted to write something that was meaningful, and not at all like what I had written before. I decided to write about what I think the after-life is like. I was having a conversation with my mother one day, and I mentioned how I thought that there was a grieving process for those that had passed on, just like there is for someone that experiences the loss. I explained to her that I believed anyone making the transition from living life on Earth probably needs time to accept that they are no longer surrounded by their family or friends.

My mother laughed, and agreed with me. Recently, we lost my oldest brother. It hasn't been easy, but it has given us all insight into what it is like to lose somebody that close to you. .

You could call it being spiritual, or just being keen to pose philosophical ideas. Writing this piece, I hope to really draw attention to the different perspectives on where it is we go after our journey here is over. I believe that everyone has their own belief that helps them when they need it, that comforts them.


Grieving Processes

There is an elderly man walking down a forest path, lined with birch trees ripe for the peel. He could take some home to make baskets if he had the time. The sky is stuck in place, the colour of a crisp mountain lake when the sun is high. He never saw grass as lush, as dewy, as clean as what tickles the well-worn path. He aches to stand still and breathe in the crisp air, letting his legs rest for just a second. However, a sense of urgency fills his chest and he knows that he needs to keep walking. For whatever reason.

And as he walks on, the man becomes aware of the lump in his throat. He begins to really feel the aching in his chest. The sky does not move, and the sun is just warm enough to brush his brown skin softly, like fingertips on a newborns head. Wary, he walks faster. He is not aware of where it is he is going, but he continues forward. The trees do not change, or break. They do not offer any sort of marker for how far he has gotten, or whether he has even made any progress.

Suddenly, the man is in his kitchen. He is sitting at his table in front of his kitchen clock, sunlight streaming in, sipping his coffee. The clock reads that it is one in the afternoon. On the table in front of him is a fishing magazine. He had never learned to read. However, he would look at the articles, and the pictures, and pretend every afternoon that he could. His wife would laugh at him, kiss his cheek, and continue on digging around for whatever else it was she was looking for. She was always digging.

The elderly man looks around and remembers that she is gone. He remembers that he is alone in his two-person house, too big for just himself. He remembers the way her hair always smelled of cedar. He remembers the soft curve of her aged smile. He remembers the way she would open her eyes in the mornings; slowly, one at a time, with her eyebrows furrowed as if the sun worried her. He remembers every the morning when they did not open.

The man is on his path again. He is still walking, and he is unaware of how long he had been walking, or whether he had been walking throughout his flashback. Like before, the treeline remains packed. There is no life in the trees, or on the ground. There is only the steady sound of his footsteps against the well-worn path. His thoughts are his only company.

The man is twenty-one again. He is walking up a path towards a red house. He vaguely recalls this moment in his life. The further he walks up the path, the more he begins to remember. Just as he does, the most beautiful woman he has ever seen walks out of the front door. But, he thinks, he has seen her before. Or, rather, later. He would see this smiling woman nearly every day for the next fifty-four years. Yes, he would marry her. He had nearly forgotten just how beautiful she was when she was young. The years would be kind to her, and her aging would be graceful. He hears her call out to him from the doorway, and he begins to run.

He is back on the path again. He is wrinkled again. He is still walking. He begins to rub his eyes, frustrated. Frustrated because he is on this never-ending path. Frustrated because he is alone. Frustrated because there are no sound, and no signs, and he has no idea how he got there. He is lost on a forest path he doesn’t remember ever walking on before. He collapses in a sobbing heap on the ground. He is tired, he is alone, and he finally remembers why he is there.

He is in his kitchen again, and the clock reads midnight. Slowly, he shuffles his way to the bathroom. He washes his face, brushes his teeth, and looks at his face in the mirror. He examines the lines around his eyes, and his mouth, and around his eyebrows. He has aged, and he realizes it now more than ever. He had never had issues accepting it, but he had never really seen it, either. Not until now.

And with a sigh, he hobbles his way out of the bathroom and towards his bedroom. His bed is made, one side looking as though it had not been touched in months. He pulls his side of the blanket away and crawls in slowly. With a grunt, he rolls onto his back, grimacing slightly at just how achy his bones had been lately. And then he turns off the lights and falls asleep.

He is back on the path again, kneeling with his face in his hands. He remembers now. He felt no pain, and he did not awaken. He knew. The entire time he was walking down this path he knew what had happened, but he had not accepted it. He is crying, he is alone, and he is fully aware of the weight of it all. Yes, he had left.

He thought quietly of his sister, who was currently living down the road from his home. He thought of his two children. They had both married someone they cared so much about. They had found what he had found in his own wife, and he was happy. He thought of his grandchild who, eleven years ago, made him the happiest man in the world again. He thought of his friends, and the places he had gone in his life, and his own parents. He thought of everything he had ever learned, and all of the good and the bad things that he could recall.

It could have been hours, or days, or even years of him sitting there, remembering just how wonderful, and awful, and beautiful his life had been. It could have been just a few seconds. He sat there until he felt like he was ready to stand again.

When he stands he blows his nose into his handkerchief and tucks it back into his pocket. Then, he starts walking. And with each step, he felt himself grow stronger. And with each step, he saw that his hands grew younger, and that his breaths were not so ragged. And then, he was running. He runs down the path, the towering trees just blurs, scraping by. He knows the path will not veer, or dip, or change course. He is running, and laughing, and whooping with his hair blowing back behind him.

And then he sees it. He sees her. And she is just as beautiful as the first day he saw her, and as the last time he set his eyes upon her resting face. She is radiant, and she is happy. She waves from the path ahead, and he wills himself to run just a bit faster, so that he could see just her a bit sooner. He runs right up to her open arms and pulls her into his own, crying again.

All she says is “I’ve been waiting,” and he swears it is the most beautiful sound he has ever heard. He takes her hand, and they continue walking down the well-worn forest path. Together.