Saturday, October 24, 2009


Prior to her death my mother was adamant that she be allowed to die on her own terms. She did not want life support or any such means of prolonging the inevitable. When she was still strong enough to care for herself and well enough to drive she told me not to fret if she decided to take her own life. Her prognosis depressed her sometimes. Her plan was threefold, "drive-walk-die". She would drive to a remote place at the end of a rut road in the forest then walk so far that she could not return to the car. There she would lie down and wait for death. She thought perhaps her body would not be recovered but didn't mind being eaten by wolves. However, she eventually died in hospital with her family crowded about her. Michael McNally's book has brought other things to mind, too. As I teeter on the threshold of my seventh decade I wonder, "Have I lived too long?" I can see the possibility of becoming more and more a burden to my children and an embarrassment to my grandchildren. Such is not the elderhood I would wish to preserve. So sometimes I look out into the forest and ask myself, "How far could I walk before I fall down and die?" Perhaps I would walk in a circle and find myself back at the beginning! Furthermore, I am becoming increasingly ashamed of myself for neglecting to sustain my position and office. As my physical prowess diminishes I have slipped into an early retirement from elderhood. I've become less public and more private. Not so quick to raise my voice or my pen to protest what I view as a betrayal of trust by public officials. Even in the women's circle I've surrendered my place to younger females. I've reasoned that they need the experience to practice such leadership while the elders are still in their midst. But what about memory and example? We certainly leave that behind when we go to the other side. I remember Camp Justice, too. Mom and I traveled to White Earth several times to bring food and show our support. Larry Cloud Morgan was always there to greet us with his big warm hug, his hearty laughter and his gentle words. I can still see them sitting under the arbor, smoke binding them together. I watch as they lean forward to share a funny story, cover their mouths with their hands and laugh. They glance toward me now and love is shining in their eyes. Yes, it is important to meet death on your own terms but only after you've lived life in the same manner.

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