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Memorial reflection: Who cries for the children?

| News

Shoes and flowers placed on a steps in remembrance, with a pillow that reads "Peace"

By Rick Sievers, MA, Bereavement Counselor

In the spring of 2021, the First Nation in Canada of Tk’emlups te Secwepemc found the remains of 215 children buried in a mass grave in Kamloops, B.C. The grave contained no markings, no names, no family recollections, no stories attached to the final resting place of these children. Buried without thought of dignity or humanity, by a system that promoted the erasure of Indigenous culture, tradition, language and connection by forced boarding in Indian Residential Schools from 1860-1978. These children were missed and mourned by parents, siblings, families and communities as they were taken away from their homes. And yet the families were also silenced and left without the dignity of having their beloved children’s remains coming home. Who cries now for these innocent and bright young human beings? Who remembers?

On June 6, 2021, Whatcom Hospice spent moments in reflection on these shocking and heart-rending discoveries. What ceremony, what ritual could possibly reflect the reality of these tender hearts and flawless souls so haphazardly discarded? All we could do was tie simple ribbons on the stairway to our building. All we could do was set out the empty shoes which are silent reminders of the people, some as young as three years old, were never forgotten, but are now finally found. A beautifully sad poem written by Alaska Native Abigail Echo-Hawk was read. Tears fell like the silent rain of the morning. Throughout the day, our staff tied ribbons on the rails and sat in stillness with the grief that must sing a poignant misty song upon sacred earth near Kamloops.

We asked, Who Cries for the Children? And we answered: We all do. We all must. Seeing the children in our own way. We were left recognizing the loss of the sweet and mischievous feet that could have walked upon the earth, that could have sung the song of the clouds, that could have held the hands of their mothers and fathers. We cry for the ones who never were offered the chance to breathe and laugh and sing. We cry for the children. We cry for those innocents who were lost to our beautiful and sacred world.

When They Buried the Children

When they buried the children
What they didn’t know
They were lovingly embraced
By the land
Held and cradled in a mother’s heart
The trees wept for them, with the wind
they sang mourning songs their mother’s
didn’t know to sing
bending branches to touch the earth
around them. The Creator cried for them
the tears falling like rain.
Mother Earth held them
Until they could be found.
Now our voices sing the mourning songs.
With the trees. The wind. Light sacred fire
ensure they are never forgotten as we sing

~Abigail Echo-Hawk