Thursday, November 06, 2008

In memory of a courageous man

Dum spiro, spero. While I breathe, I hope.
He was a native man. Early fifties. Proud. Quiet. Once broken, he was fitting the pieces of his life back together. He wanted to be a leader. A good father. A friend. A decent human being. A role model.

When we met, he was in a self-esteem class I teach at the DI. It's part of a three week Career Training Initiative program that provides individuals the chance to get job certificates, computer training and life skills coaching so that they can rejoin the mainstream of their lives; get a job, clean up the debris of the past, save money, get a home, move on, get going with their lives away from homelessness.

In the class, I ask what kind of ‘man’ each person wants to be. My criteria word is ‘magnificent human being’. Les told me that being a 'magnificent human being' was too big for him. His criteria word was 'role model'. He wanted to be a role model for the friends he made here at the DI, for those who crowded round his table on the second floor in our day area, searching for answers. He wanted to be a role model for the young men on his Reserve who danced with the devil of addictions, abuse and anger. He wanted to be a role model for his two sons with whom he was not in contact because of his dance with addictions, abuse and anger.

He talked about his struggle to claim his right to a drug and alcohol free life. His need to make sense of what had happened; to him, his family, his community, his life. His desire to make amends.

When we met just one month ago, there was hope. Hope that one day he would step free. One day he would leave this lifestyle that was bringing him down and leap into a life far from homelessness, as he moved back to his people to be the role model he dreamt of being.

Yesterday, hope died. Yesterday, Les' heart quit beating. Gave up the fight and set Les free of his earthly struggles. Yesterday, Les died.His friends at the shelter are in shock. Angry. Confused. Afraid. Those who worked with him, admired him, supported him, grieve.

Les wanted to change his life. He wanted to reconnect with his two sons, to show them through his example the spirit of a man. He was a courageous man. He had given up alcohol. Drugs. And though he slipped sometimes, he brought himself back to the place where he could be proud of his courage to let go of the substances that were destroying him.

Today, we mourn for Les. We mourn for the man who dreamt of stepping back into his community a proud and courageous man, a role model for all to follow. And we celebrate the man who taught us through his example, the meaning of courage, of fortitude, of integrity.

Let us learn from Les' journey in this life. Let us pray for his spirit's journey into the next life, however we believe it will unfold.Les' life on this plain has ended. There is no more hope for a different life. But hope lives on for his sons. They can learn from their father's journey. They can learn from his mistakes, from his fall and courageous struggle to climb back up.

And hope lives on for each of us. There is hope for all of us left behind who have been touched by Les’ courage to live in this moment and dance. There is hope that we will revel in the joy of being alive in this very moment, fill it with all the wonder in the world and set ourselves free to soar above the sad stories of our past into the joy of telling stories of our lives in freedom.

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