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The Funeral

I know it wasn’t the first funeral I attended, but it was the first time that I actually experienced death in my family. I know I went to my great grandma’s funeral, but it was my great uncle Howard’s funeral where I finally understood what death was/is. Growing up I was told that death was a long term sleep. My mom and grandma always said that we’ll see the people who have passed away again, but for now we just have to keep living life one day at a time.

My great uncle Howard Snakeskin was a man out of the ordinary. He was about 6 ft 2in, native with slick back hair looking like a greaser. I remember when I was like 3 or 4 he always talked to himself and was very random. I never knew what he was talking about; I always thought he was the craziest person in the world. He always made me laugh because he always talked about something crazy. Now that I’m older I understand why. I guess when he was younger he was brilliant, and he skipped 3 or 4 grade levels, but he got into a car accident when he was young and it caused permanent brain damage. I remember he was so good at drawing anything. I remember him drawing my older cousin Ashawnta when I was 3 or 4 I remember the picture looking just like her.

As I grew up I paid less attention to him because I didn’t see him everyday because my grandma moved to Yakima. So when I was over there I wanted to spend time with my cousins, but he was always there in the background with my other uncle Ervin who also had brain damage from a heat stroke when he was younger. My family has the worst health conditions on both my mom and my dad’s side of the family. It was the spring break of 4th grade when I last seen him (my uncle Howard). I remember he was irritable when I was over there, and his panics were getting worse and worse. He always used to yell at me and my cousins when I was there. His words came forcefully out his mouth and I’m not a punk, so I yelled back, and I can remember disliking him when I left. I think my attitude would have been different if I knew some way I could have made it right and actually I had known what was wrong with him, Instead of thinking he was crazy but then again I was only 10.

The night was a long night. I had school the next day. I just turned off the television. I was sleeping on the couch like I always did. So, it was just a regular day for me. Then my dad came in; he just got off the phone with my mom. He broke down to me what happened. I didn’t think much of it because I really didn’t know what it meant. I went to bed, and the next day was a regular day.

The death of my uncle didn’t hit me until the funeral. It was here in Spokane. They brought the body down from Yakima. Everybody was there from distant family members to our little Brady bunch, family friends, his friends, and people from my grandma’s church in Yakima. My great aunt Elizabeth was there, she’s one of the last of our elders. She passed away last year. I remember her speaking in Cree (my native language) I don’t even know what she said but I know she had nothing but good things about Howard. Then it was time to go up and see the body. The casket came closer and closer to my eyes and as I stood above his body that’s when my heart dropped out of my body. I started tearing up, and it felt like world’s strongest man had me by my neck squeezing me until his veins popped. My mom grabbed me as she sobbed and took me in the other room and helped me get a hold of myself. It was hard to regroup but I pulled it together. Then we went on our way to bury the body. We buried the body right next to my great grandma and my great grandpa. I remember the casket going down. Then we left. Afterwards, we had a big feast; Indian tacos with fried bread and banick bread I remember eating so many Indian tacos. The day ended like a celebration. We were all happy, family was altogether, and most important my stomach was full.
I guess that’s what life is. It’s just a cycle from low times to high times, fun times to boring times, happy times to sad times then back to being happy. I learned that life is to be celebrated and to be cherished and not regretting anything you do. I will never forget the first time I experienced death and what happened that day and the lesson of life.





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