Escape From Despair
I can remember as a child living in a very small house on a reserve with my father, mother, and baby brother. The house had two small rooms and an attic. I can remember being by myself on several occasions with my baby brother, eating raw porridge and giving my brother canned milk in his bottle. My mother and father would take off to town to go drinking and not return for a day or more. Many times we sat in a vehicle outside the bar until late at night waiting for my parents. They would come out and give us chips and pop and go back in.
I remember one night my mother and father put me to bed and left. I could see them walking in the dark towards the highway to hitchhike to town. I was calling out and crying to no avail as they kept walking. They were gone for several days. I remember going to the neighbor’s place and staying there. I would run home to see if my parents were home and finally one day they were. My mom was washing clothes but I’m not sure where my father was. Sometimes my mother would leave my father and go away and my father would go looking for her and bring her home. They fought a lot.
I think it was during this time that someone reported them to Social Services because not long after that the police came and got me and my brother. I remember trying to run away and my father chasing me and crying and telling me I had to go. I was sitting in the police car crying. They took me to a strange place. Later I was taken to a foster home. I was with a man and woman. The man was not a nice man. It was a bad experience.
Then the social worker came to pick me up and took me to a residential school. I just turned 6.
I remember going to where my aunt lived. I ran up the hill to an old log house where my aunt was sitting at the table eating. My mother was there. I was overjoyed to see her. She went with me and the social worker to find my dad. We stopped at a bar where we found him. He was so drunk. He took me to a store and bought me all kinds of treats for school. When we got to the school they sent me out to the playground while my dad, mother, and the social worker had a meeting.
My dad came out to the playground staggering and crying and wanting to say goodbye to me. I cried and screamed and did not want to let him go. It was the last time I was to see him. He died that Christmas Eve, drunk and fighting. I grieved for a long time by myself. I would cry and walk in the field talking to God and my dad up in the clouds. I would leave pieces of paper or items in a certain place and tell my dad to take it away if he hears me. A lot of times it would still be there.
I remember going home that summer to where my grandfather and grandmother lived. My mother was there. I was still expecting to see my dad. My mother cried a lot and would sing “How Far Is Heaven, I’d like to know. I want my daddy, he’s there I know.” I loved my mother; she called me her baby girl. She was very pretty and always dressed nicely. She would leave and go south to pick apples in the fall.
My mother came home one year with a strange man. Each year she came home to my grandparent’s place she would be pregnant and leave the child with my grandmother.
I was the second eldest of nine children. My grandmother had quit drinking and took on the responsibility of looking after us. My grandfather would go haying to earn money. My grandmother got money from the government for looking after us and life seemed normal for a few years.
Our house was old and big and a lot of relatives would stop at our place and stay overnight and drink and party. My sister and I were attending a public school. My grandmother did a lot of sewing and made sure we were always dressed nice. She also was a very good cook.
We did all the normal things children did. Ride bikes, go swimming, skating, fishing, sledding, and house hold duties. In the summer we would walk down to the stream at night to get our baths. We didn’t have much but grandmother taught us all the basics of etiquette, cleanliness and work.
When I was ten it seemed my grandmother was very strict. She would spank us with a willow stick that we had to go pick for ourselves and if it wasn’t big enough she would get a thicker one.
Then she started drinking again. A woman had persuaded her to try lemon gin because it was so good. Our normal world started to crumble.
It was during this time that I was raped. After that I just didn’t care what happened. I was fighting, missing school, and started to smoke and rebel.
My brothers were taken away, except for George. He had been adopted into an English home when he was a baby.
The last year we were sent to the residential school I got into a lot of trouble. I would steal food from the kitchen and I still wet my bed. I tried so many things to quit wetting my bed. I felt bad, looked down on, ashamed, less than human, angry and hurt. It seemed I was always walking around with this hurt that I could not understand or identify. I remember going to town on a Saturday. I was with a couple of girls and we stole a bottle of whiskey from a drunk man on the street and we got drunk. I was sent to reform school for girls for six months.
Then I went back to live with my grandmother. It was the last time I saw my brother Manny until 21 years later at my brother Tony’s funeral. He had hung himself and was found by his two sons in his basement. Manny was severely F.A.S. because of my mother and his father’s heavy drinking addiction. He is about 4 foot 5 inches tall with a protruding forehead, small eyes, large lips, and a mentality of a 6 year old. All because of alcohol. He could not believe I was his sister; he was so happy to see me. He kept touching me, smiling and staying close by my side.
I came home that summer only to find I really didn’t have a home. I lived with my grandmother and her sister part of the time and in friend’s sheds part of the time. We went to the dump to get food that the grocery stores took there. That year I had several bad experiences with alcohol. In the fall my grandparents bought a little 15 by 15 shack that we lived in. I was going to public school and was ashamed when I couldn’t find clean clothes or matching socks to wear so I would skip school. The school contacted my grandparents and it was then they turned me over to Social Services.
They put me in a foster home. The woman was white and the man native. They were strict, but taught us a lot. He would spank us with a garden hose when we got out of line. In the summer we would plant a huge garden of fresh vegetables and sell them to the city people. It was a beautiful place. We swam in the river all summer. Our foster parents would give us an allowance for the work we did.
When I was hurting or lonely I would go for long walks up the hills close to where we lived and talk and cry my heart out to God. I didn’t realize at the time it was an inner healing therapy for me, but it helped.
I started attending public school and it was okay until I started struggling with my grades and started skipping school and getting in with the wrong group. I always felt inferior because I was a foster child and native and didn’t seem to measure up.
I had started to experiment with L.S.D. and marijuana. I had a bad trip on L.S.D. after trying it the second time, which I guess was a good thing because I was afraid to try it again. I had side effects from that bad experience on L.S.D. for a couple of years.
I got involved with a man and became pregnant. Our relationship was very stormy. After my son was born we bought a little trailer. I was struggling with alcohol and it was getting worse. I had difficulty staying by myself at night so I would drink to go to sleep and my addiction progressed. I had an accident with the car and didn’t remember. I didn’t have my driver’s license. Now my family was moving closer to me but it was not helping my alcohol problem. I attempted suicide several times because I started hating myself and my hopeless alcohol problem.
I tried to escape through drugs and drinking. Life became hopeless. I tried several treatment centers and AA but couldn’t seem to stay sober more than three months. During this time I split up and reconnected with the father of my three boys a number of times. Finally I took my children and left. It was not easy to raise the children on my own but I always believed in God and somehow He worked things out for me. I met many people who were always willing to help.
I came across a good job with a native organization. I interviewed all aboriginal status women doing a survey for the government. It was at a sober club that I met my husband. Shortly thereafter we got married. We had to try to sort out our life around six boys, aged 5-16 years. It was very difficult. We had a lot of struggles. I was very insecure. I had decided to leave him when he had quite a serious accident and I couldn’t leave him then so I stayed with him and he recovered. At this time there was a tent meeting going on across the street from our place, and my husband said he was going back to church and back to God and he was going to go to this tent meeting. He asked if I wanted to come along and I said no. He started going and I changed my mind and went with him. This was the start of our journey to the Lord.
We started going to church. There we met a pastor couple. I told them about my life. They told me God could help. They asked me if I would die where would I go? I told them I wasn’t sure. I felt that way because I was ashamed of myself. I knew I wasn’t right with God. They explained Christ’s love for me. They told me He loves me and would forgive me. Oh, the forgiveness! Only He can restore me, build me, and forgive me. I am nothing without Him. We all make mistakes. No one is perfect. Everyone has shame, hurts and wounds. I cried and cried and asked God to forgive me. Something happened that night. Jesus came into my heart. He saved me. We don’t have to be burdened with sins of our past. We can be forgiven and move on with a clean slate.
I would like to say that life was perfect after that but it wasn’t. I had to continue to deal with the challenges that life brings. But now Jesus was there with me. I stayed sober and started to grow in my Christian life. I started to attend church.
As the Lord showed me more about Christian living, my thinking, actions and beliefs changed. I started coming against issues that were not Christian at work and lost my job. I was devastated, but later realized it was the best thing that could have happened to me.
I started to become a mother to my children. I started to read the Bible every chance I could. God started to convict me about my appearance. I began to dress more modestly. I also got rid of my TV and bad reading material. I didn’t realize how much I was addicted to the TV until I didn’t have one.
One place we lived I noticed the children our daughter was playing with. I wanted to have a Bible School with them. I made out invitations and took them around. We had Bible School for five days, Monday to Friday. Each day there were more children. The last day we had a wiener roast and twenty-six children showed up. We gave them all Bibles. They were so happy to have their own Bibles and find the verses they had memorized. What a blessing!
Some years later our daughter had a personal experience with the Lord. We knew it was the Spirit that touched her. It was the best thing that ever happened to her. We believe that God wanted us to be here for her. It’s a wonderful, beautiful life.
God has given me a peace in my heart and has changed my life. He is there every day for me.
“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:3-5).