By Xavier Kataquapit
I am so tired of losing people. I am only in my late 40s, but it seems as though most of the people I grew up with my age, and even younger, are passing away. A generation older than me, including my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents are gone. The whole landscape of my life has changed in what seems like a very short time.
For some reason, this past couple of weeks was very sad and surprising. My partner and I realized that several people we knew of and were connected to passed away. Jason Batisse, chief of Matachewan First Nation, passed after an illness. I am sad to see this very traditional man leave us too soon. He was the son of past chief and Elder Mario and the late Ann Batisse, who my partner and I have known for many years. I wish his children and the entire family a healing, in time, for this great loss.
Also recently we lost James Babin of Wahgoshig First Nation and David Chookomolin, a friend and relative I grew up with in Attawapiskat First Nation. Both these individuals were middle aged.
I think I am a little more affected these days by so many passing as I am living and experiencing difficult days in dealing with the serious illness my partner is struggling with. He is suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, which is a scarring of the lungs. This disease is a progressive condition that is fatal. It makes life difficult because of one’s inability to breath, and it is hard to have a normal life.
Although he has been to see specialists there is a consensus that no treatment exists for this disease, although there are some drugs that might slow the progression. Mike is my best friend and mentor and, through him, I was introduced to a life of sobriety. We have travelled to 35 countries together and he has provided me with a learning in journalism.
Mike was doing OK until he was stricken with COVID 12 months ago. This really knocked him down and he has been fighting for many months just to be able to enjoy life and get back to some form of normal. I have been with him through all of this ordeal, and I really got to understand just how difficult it is for doctors and nurses and all health practitioners to deal with trying their best to help someone who is dealt a fatal disease.
I have come to understand that these professionals have to deal with sick people and sad situations every day and that cannot be easy. I think just how terrible it must be dealing with the past few years of COVID and how that made the lives of health professionals even more challenging. To add to these difficulties on our medical professionals, the government is bending to big corporations and introducing private health care into our province. We need to remember that our doctors and all our health professionals need our help to push back on these private health care promoters who care only about making money.
One thing I have also found in dealing with losing so many people over the past recent years is that I am realizing more and more how precious life is. I see my partner having to isolate because of his disease and he is slowly seeing life diminish before his eyes. He reminds me every day how wonderful the world is and how lucky we are to be in it at this moment. I am noticing how beautiful all the wild flowers are in the fields, how bright and sunny and complex dandelions are and how magical the stars are in the night sky.
This summer we also witnessed one of the most amazing northern lights show ever over a lake with Mike’s neice’s boy Jack, and that was a night to remember.
I know people will continue to leave us and that makes me very sad, but at the same time I am understanding more and more that this realization should make us more aware of our own lives and the opportunities we might have to make the world a better place.
Maybe in losing so many that we love we will take the time to be more kind, more open and more understanding of others. Maybe we will become more interested in becoming aware of those critical things that are threatening our planet and sit up to do something to help out.
We have proxy wars going on between huge countries willing to sacrifice lives so that money can be made on the war machine. We have anti-democratic fascist type movements that are trying to oppress our health care workers, privatize our health care and education and turn back protections on the environment and conservation. Perhaps we will become brave and aware enough to stand up against these movements.
All of those loved ones we are losing have fought in one way or another to help and make our world as good as it is today, and we owe it to them keep up the good fight.
We need to stand with Mother Earth and for fairness and democracy in the spirit of those who have passed on.