When I was about sixteen, I heard on the radio about a little boy of five years old who was shot dead and his father shot himself but was still alive. The broadcaster gave the name of the father. I recognized the name and later when I turned the news on the television, I saw the little boy. I knew him! I panicked and could not stop crying. Claude (my boyfriend and man I married later) called me to confirm what I had heard on the news. His brother’s brother-in-law could not accept that his wife was divorcing him; This little boy was spending the weekend with his father. He took him to his flat, pretended to play cowboys giving him a play gun but he had a real shot gun. This innocent, trusting child died instantly with a smile on his face. This was the first murder, I had ever heard of in my little town of under 5,000 people. (I bet there were others but I was only six when my GrandPapa died to ask him about his experience as chief of police.)
At the time, I had no empathy for the father. I knew his family. My GrandMaman (midwife) had delivered all his siblings. At least three of the children had serious mental health issues but in those days, you did not get treatment or support. Both parents were alcoholics, so it was no wonder the children suffered abuse.
In this town, in those days (60’s) you got judged, shunned and set aside from society if you had any kind of mental or intellectual disability . I know better now but knew very little at sixteen. Yes, some of my compassion for the underdog and innocent children seeps in here, I know. They never asked to be born into chaos and starting off with effects of alcohol in the womb of their mother, who knew then, what they were up against?
At that time, however, I thought more of Patrick, that young victim who deserved to live. I thought of his mother who was abused by her husband and had finally found the courage to leave him…how I cried for her and Patrick.
I wonder if my reaction to that phone call last Friday was countertransference. Perhaps it was or maybe I just needed time to remember this innocent boy again. I find any news about deaths by guns disturbing…no! I find it shocking!
The Montreal massacre at Ecole PolyTechnique in December 6th, 1989 killing 14 victims and the perpetrator…a man who needed to avenge women was the next tragic shooting in our city. Yes, I know there has to be mental health issues here but still… I remember feeling so vulnerable being a woman at that time. I worried for the future of my daughter growing up in a society where there was so much hate and then the fact that guns were too easily obtained.
At that time, I was working at a community mental health clinic and we circulated a petition started by one of the mothers of the girls shot at Ecole Polytechnique. This spread wide and not just in Quebec but all across Canada. Over the years we eventually had a Firearms Registry in Canada but Prime Minister Harper (never liked that fella…he let money and gun happy people influence him) had a bill to remove it, but in Quebec we still kept the registry. I guess that is why former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau confirmed that Quebec is a “distinct society”. That is one thing I am proud of… the gun registry.
This past week, there was another tragic shooting in Texas and although some may say it is related to mental health issues, one would have to have blinders or have their head in the sand, not to acknowledge guns are certainly part of the equation
I think of the world today and it saddens me that there is so much suffering. Child brides, children (boys and girls) physically and sexually assaulted, women being raped, children starving and not just in third world countries! What is frustrating is that so much of this is preventable.
Advocating, lobbying and demonstrating are some ways some are trying to make a difference. And then when you feel most powerless, it is time to look within and pray…chant…repeat the Serenity Prayer and accept what you cannot change, but try to find the courage to make changes you can. It is true that you cannot change everything all over the world but you can make some changes in your little part of the world, starting with your family, your community, your work, your town or city. Some are helping the planet by making changes to the environment in their community and I admire that so much!
I do believe it is contagious when you have a passion and act on it. Working on the helpline for youths and college students is not just a job for me; it truly is a passion. I did this for free on other lines for years, and I feel so blessed to be able to work in what I love.
Getting on committees to work as a group to bring change is something that empowered me in the past, starting up an in school daycare, being part of a group that offered support to isolated people who were new to the community, offering them skills to improve their lives. Volunteering with bereaved children for several years allowed me to learn more about how to help these youths who call us now.
I stopped volunteering at a mental health agency supporting friends and families who had a loved one struggling with mental illness after my mother died. I keep putting it off to go back. And last week I had a flash that surprised me. I wanted to inquire about volunteering for veterans. I have never thought of that before and have no clue where this is coming from but I know I am slowly preparing myself to do something to continue being active in reaching out when I retire. I turned 65 this year and I am hoping to continue working until I am 70 slowly cutting down to a few days in the last two years.
I am not sure yet, what I will do. I am so used to saying, “I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.” And I hope I keep that mindset, to continue exploring and learning.
For now, I am taking it slowly. When I was trained in facilitating groups years ago, I remember my supervisor used to tell me, “Don’t fall in love with your plan. Go with the flow and respond to the needs of those around you even if it means you have to chuck those plans.”
So, for now, I am exploring. I am doing much self-reflections as I notice I weep often for those who suffer and not just my work but reading about what happened in Texas was so devastating! Watching videos of crimes in America worries me. Reading stories and looking at photos of Syria, Iraq or Palestine…so many innocent lives. When I was a child there seemed to be war zones; now wars break out within towns and cities where innocent lives are at risk every day. I cannot imagine the threat of death looming over their heads 24/7.
Now, as I reflect, I try to take solace in nature and writing with thanks, to the Great Spirit. Haiku is a wonderful way to truly embrace nature’s splendour (TournesolDansUnJardin) And when all gets too complicated and upsetting, I chant my mantra Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) gave me. I am blessed with three mothers looking over me, GrandMaman, my mother and Amma and that gives me hope.
deep under muddy waters
a lotus appears
on the ink black surface
lily pads embrace the beauty
despair not dark skies
on the other side
the sun always shines
© Oliana Kim 2017/11/07
Oliana Kim writes at Traces of the Soul where she can reflect on herself, journal uncensored and experiment with writing different forms of flash fictions and poetry of various forms. Her passion has evolved in waka, a Japanese form of poetry where she writes almost solely at TournesolDansUnJardin under her nom de plume, Tournesol (sunflower). She is mother, grandmother and a youth counsellor on a national helpline and that is the reason for her pseudonym here at Traces where she can write freely.
Written for Rage Against the Machine Month. If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more information Here. But first, leave a comment and let Oliana know what you think about her words, and be sure to visit her over at Traces of the Soul when you’re done.
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