It is difficult when we lose our loved ones especially when it is early and unexpected. On June 1, 2021 my only sister Anna passed into the spirit world at aged 61. Anna was a beautiful woman with a wild spirit and penchant for joking and laughter. She was genuinely kind-hearted and compassionate with a connection to animals beyond words. She loved life and would often say to me “I’ve never been bored – I don’t understand how people can say that.” She was the single mother of three now adult children Valerie, Bette and Will and self identified “crazy Grandma” to several grandchildren and great grandchildren.
I recall one Christmas Anna invited an elderly man to dinner and introduced him simply as her friend from down the street. He was quiet and reserved and seemed to enjoy his time with our family in Anna’s first floor apartment “in the hood’. It was at least a year after that I asked who he was and she disclosed that she saw him often at the beer store asking for change so invited him for dinner. About 4 years ago she saw a man yelling obscenities while yanking the leash of his Doberman pincer so of course she promptly ran down from the third-floor balcony and with her 120 lb frame took the dog away from its owner. She called the SPCA who came and took the dog to shelter.
The truth is Anna was haunted with guilt. You see she was holding our father’s hand when he went under the water and drowned. She was all but 12. Given that my mother was raised by a mom who lived her entire childhood in residential school, she was not equipped to help us kids through the trauma of witnessing our father’s death. For Anna the experience cut her to the very core. She told me once “Karen I don’t know who I am”. I would not be telling the full story if I didn’t say that one of her struggles was addiction, and in the end, this is what took her life. Why do I tell you this? Because addiction is a symptom and NOT an identity. It is not unlike cancer in its potentially remitting and relapsing nature. It consumes people from the inside out. It requires the non-addicted to heal our own perceptions and judgements so that we can release our family members from the bonds of addiction that WE create through tethering their identity to the symptom that we loath and despise. We must replace the loathing with love and human connection so that we create a relationship free of the bonds that addiction holds in our minds – the mind of both the addicted and the non-addicted – to change our view of who our family members are who struggle with it.
Anna was a beautiful woman with a wild spirit and penchant for joking and laughter. She was genuinely kind-hearted and compassionate with a connection to animals beyond words.
And I love her!
Karenna’onwe June 2021
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