Mourning or Morning?
Mourning or Morning?
from Perry Robinson
The loss of a loved one is hard to bear. Perry shares his experience of how he felt when his father passed away and the world seemed hopeless. The two had spent many days and nights together in performing ceremonies and living through daily experiences before Perry went to college. Just as he was finishing his degree, his father died, the son’s world shattered, and with it went the hope for a bright future.Devastated, Perry entered a period of his life where sadness and his own death seemed to be the only way to remove the pain of this loss. The brightness of the Glittering World held nothing of comfort or interest. Perhaps joining the Marines and getting into combat would be a good way to end it, but Perry’s grandfather thought otherwise.
Grandfather cornered Perry before the ceremony of protection began. He had been asked by his grandson to perform it, but he had also been watching what was happening to this young man who wanted to go into the military. The answer was all wrong.It was based in grief over a loss and a desire to end his life, fed by an existence bereft of hope. Grandfather lost no time in challenging this attitude. “I know you loved your father and you believe you cannot live without him, but that is not true. Half of your body is your father and half your mother. Whether they are physically here or not, they are still part of you and you are living their life. You will carry their lineage on to the next level and your children will have the part of them you pass on. A grandfather’s bloodline never ends but continues to grow in other people and in different ways. It never stops.”
Perry began to realize that he had been trapped in a negative web that had “no life to it.” Instead of thinking about the good things that had filled their father-son relationship, there was only sorrow and loss that overwhelmed the happiness that needed to be remembered. He realized “the things that you shared together you save and keep it inside, alive, then talk about it with others. Those good things should be celebrated.”Grandfather’s teaching changed his grandson’s views, but the reality of what he said was not confirmed until later.
Early one morning, as an all-night ceremony moved toward conclusion, Perry felt his father’s presence. The songs were strong with everyone putting all their energy into singing but there was more than just those visible in the hogan. An unseen presence sat beside Perry, assisting with the words and energy that seemed so abundant. He became aware of this helper and at times intentionally paused just to see what would happen but the lyrics and song continued to roll forth. There was no denying that Perry’s father was there, participating with his son. In Perry’s words, “Suddenly I heard somebody singing beside me and it sounded like my father. I stopped a number of times to listen and finally just did not sing a whole part of the song, but he just kept on singing. I didn’t say anything, just smiled and told myself, ‘I know you are here with me.’”
After that experience, he never returned to his father’s grave and stopped mourning. Perry believes that his work now as a medicine man is not all his own doing. “Today, the teaching, counseling, and ceremonies I perform come from my father. What is inside of me is my father who talks continually of important things which makes me feel complete again. That is why I say ‘I am my father.’ My mother, brother, and sister are also a part of me. They may be gone but they live inside. Everyone should do something good with their teachings and experience before it is time to go. We can’t just let it sit there, but rather we have to use it to explore, talk about, and help each other.”
Grief counseling, whether with family members, friends, or as offered by UNHS is there to assist people going through difficult times of loss, pointing them toward a brighter future. Everyone, at some point will have a loved one pass. Sadness is a part of life experience, but how we face the future and help others in their journey is just as important as celebrating the memories of those now gone. As we think about them, it is not about mourning but rather morning or a new beginning. At times they may not be that distant.
I am Perry Robinson my clans is Edge Water born for Nakaii’dine. I am from Pinon Arizona born and raised there. I finished high school at Intermountain H.S. in Brigham City Utah in 1974 went to school in Utah State University for a year. I got inducted into military. I was in Marines for 4 years. Worked in construction, as a Boilermaker and iron worker for some years. I slowly worked my way back into schools to get licensed in counseling grandfathered in and a license to do traditional counseling- ceremony. I worked for Navajo Nation behavioral health for 25 years as a traditional practitioner. Retired last year. Started working with UNHS. Now as traditional consultant- practitioner.
Many articles in this section were adapted from WeRNative.org, a website for Native Youth by Native Youth