Back in 2001, when my mom was diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer, I began thinking about her life. She had at that point, lived to the ripe young age of 61, had given birth to seven children, had adopted one child, and fostered and/or step-parented several others. She had married three times (I think), and had divorced three times also. She finally settled down into a great relationship with her sweetheart from her teenage years. She had worked as native courtworker for many years for N'Amerind, helping folks steer their way through the justice system at a time when there were many language and cultural barriers for the average Aboriginal person.
For Mother's Day, in 2002, as a gift for us both, I had given her a blank journal book, and a beautiful pen, with a handwritten note asking her to tell her grandchildren her life story. I wanted her to tell us things about her life that we otherwise wouldn't have known. Like what her favourite things were when she was growing up, and fond memories she had of her parents and grandparents. She thanked me for the idea of writing to her granchildren, so that they could know about her someday.
Mom died in June of 2002. A mere month after my request.
In the days after her funeral, I was taking charge of the task of going through her belongings, and giving them away, as per our religious custom.
I found the journal in her dresser drawer.
I was excited to find it, full of wonder at what it may contain. Surley there would be happy memories, and perhaps a few not so happy ones. I wondered if she talked about her childhood. Maybe she professed her love to children, something she had trouble doing throughout her life.
I opened the journal.
And found it blank. Just the way I had given it to her.
Several years have past since then, and I wonder what she would have written. What would she have wanted us to know about her past? What would she have wanted us to never know about? All those things went with her the day she died. I will never know if she had a childhood pet, or if it was her mother or grandmother who taught her to knit.
I was fortunate enough to know some things about her childhood, stories that I treasure. Like the story about the time my grandmother and her waited for grandpa and her brothers to return home from hunting. They were very late for supper. The dog came back without the boys. When they finally returned home after dark, my grandmother chased my grandfather around the house with a broom, furious with him for making her worry that something had happened to them. My mother sat in the corner, as a very young girl, giggling to see my grandmother act in such a way.
But there are so many other stories that have been lost with her passing, and with the passing of many of my other relatives. I can never get those stories back. But I wish with all of my heart that I will be able to pass down what I do know to my children and grandchildren, along with some stories of my own. I will write these stories, the old-fashioned way, with ink and paper, for my daughters and son to find some day. So that they will know my life story. So that my grandchildren and great-grandchildren might know me a little.