Truth and Reconciliation

Meditation by Rev. Diane Rollert, 28 April 2013

On Wednesday, April 24 and Friday, April 26, 2013, I spent time at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  This prayer is for all the children of the First Nations who lost their innocence, their culture, their language and their lives to the residential schools established by the government and run by the churches of Canada.

Oh Great Spirit,
in the halls are all your children,
some too overcome by emotion to speak,
others have let go of silence
so that all who are gathered
can hear the truth,
and together we can be reconciled.

 Walking to the Grand Salon
through the hundreds of people
milling around,
waiting for the next event to begin,
there are moments to be caught:
One woman listening attentively as she
rubs the shoulders of a another woman in tears.
Slipping past, I hear the woman say,
“I’m having flashbacks.”

I cannot tell you if she is aboriginal or not,
I can only tell you
that this place is filled with painful memories,
with pain and healing.

The stories flow from witness to witness,
as they speak before one of the commissioners.
A woman draped in a shawl painted with eagle wings,
begins in her own language
then speaks in French.
As a child she saw her own village from the windows of the school
but could never go home,
could never see her parents,
and when she returned she was broken
unable to reconnect with her family.
“My spirit, my soul, was stolen,” she says.
Yet healing comes in marching,
in standing witness to injustice,
Out of the dark hole of loss,
out of  the emptiness that got filled with drugs and alcohol,
she rises,
a grandmother,
a wise elder.
She has heard from the spirits how to continue on.
“Tell the priest, we are not his children,” she says.
“We are children of the Creator, we are children of the Earth.”

 A man tells the story of childhood joy,
of love and belonging ,
of his own father telling him in the forest,
“The birds are singing for you, my son.”
Then the priest takes him away.
“Come my little one, we will take a trip together.”
It takes a lifetime to heal from what was done,
a younger brother lost for forty years
until his mother finally learns where his body lies buried.
“There were so many of us there from my village,
so many of us who cannot speak.”

 Beside me a woman sobs,
and volunteers rush forward with tissues,
glasses of water,
gentle hands that offer solace
as best they can.

 A man speaks of unspeakable abuse,
of the shame,
of a body that can never forget,
of wounds that worsen with age.
He weeps,
and gives his thanks for the hundreds who have come to listen and bear witness.

 The last man speaks.
We think we know him.
Today he is a politician,
but his childhood was spent in a residential school in Quebec.
“I may seem normal,” he says,
“But I am not normal.  I can never be normal.
No one who went to those schools can ever be normal.
The history of Canada, the politics of Canada did this to us.”

Now we are all crying in the hall,
crying for what has been done,
for what has been lost,
crying for reconciliation,
for forgiveness,
for the smallest steps taken toward healing.

O Great Spirit,
May we say “Never again.”
May we never forget.