The loss of our Wakanyeja
By Vi Waln
Lakota Country Times Columnist
lakotacountrytimes.com An angel in the Book of Life wrote down my baby's birth. And whispered as she closed the book, "Too beautiful for earth." ~Author unknown This past week many Tiospaye suffered a great loss when four young women and a baby boy died in a car crash on the Rosebud. More lives were forever changed when a 13-year-old girl was shot and killed on the Pine Ridge. These were our Wakanyeja. We are all affected. All week, I’ve felt the overwhelming sadness of the Lakota Oyate. These tragedies have affected young people. This past week has left moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, extended families, best friends, team mates, class mates, coaches, teachers and others hurting really bad. To lose a loved one unexpectedly is life-changing. When a family loses a child, it alters their entire world. I witnessed many Lakota people express their feelings about these deaths through social media. The outpouring of love and sympathy for the grieving relatives was amazing. The empathy and generosity Lakota people are known for was demonstrated this week as many came together in prayer to support those who are suffering. A candlelight vigil to remember those who passed on, as well as the two people recovering in hospitals, was held at the Todd County Football Field in Mission. This event brought people from all faiths together to pray and comfort one another. Local schools offered access to counselors for our young people who needed support. I noticed people being a bit nicer to one another. Even though the temperatures hovered close to the 3-digit mark, the people I encountered in public were more kind and understanding than they have ever been. This was amazing. Lakota people sometimes talk about how a blood relative can take away all the bad from our lives when they pass away. For a long time, I didn’t understand what this meant. When someone died, I would look for the bad to go away from that family but it didn’t seem to happen very often. When my Takoja died unexpectedly from an illness, it was the saddest time of my family’s life. It changed us. Those first few days after her passing were marked with emotional shock. We cried. We didn’t sleep. We wondered how we would go on. It was the hardest thing we ever went through. Still, that experience also helped me understand how a relative could take the bad with them. Emotionally, nothing seemed to matter anymore when my Takoja died. That is, I didn’t want to have any hard feelings. I didn’t want to be mad at anyone. I wanted people to be happy and be good to each other. Takoja’s death showed me how precious life really is. So, in addition to the suffocating sadness I felt this past week, I’ve also felt this willingness from people to let go of hard feelings, to let go of grudges that have perhaps been carried on for generations. This gives me hope. We want our children to live happy. And the only way we can truly be happy is to let all the bad go. As sad as the departure of Katie, Jenna, Jordyn, Kayden and Baby Bryer was, they also bought together the people in Rosebud like no one else ever has. I believe they feel our great sadness. And as hard as it is right now, they want the Lakota people to be happy, not sad.
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They are in a spiritual place where they have the ability to take all our bad away. It’s up to us to let the bad go with them. They are in a beautiful place where deep sadness can be instantly transformed into a higher emotion. They will prepare a place for us to be with them when it’s our time to leave this world. We can honor these four young ladies, as well as the precious baby boy, by allowing their passing to help us let go of the debilitating emotions that often cripple our communities. We’ve all made an effort to be more kind to one another this past week. A reservation-wide transformation like this doesn’t have to end after four days. Please continue praying for the Tiospaye affected by these recent deaths, along with all parents who have lost a child. Let’s honor the memory of our children who have passed on by being good to each other. Nothing is going to change unless we begin living the changes ourselves. Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain. ~Joseph Campbell (Vi Waln is an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and is nationally published journalist.) Find the award-winning Lakota Country Times on the Internet, Facebook and Twitter and download the new Lakota Country Times app today.
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