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Lenten walk

This season invites us to take much-needed steps with each other

By Carolyn Pogue

I never want to think of Mary walking alone. During the 40 days of Lent, I walk with her to that lonely cross where her son died. I cannot change much for her, but I can let her know I’m in solidarity with her.

She must have known what was coming — and walked in hope and in terror. Maybe that's how our sisters in spirit walk, too.

The call of Aboriginal sisters to walk together is stronger than ever. In January, I visited the Walking With Our Sisters display at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife. It was a tender exhibit of a brutal fact of life. In two large rooms, all around the walls and within, there were handmade beaded vamps — or “uppers — the part of a moccasin that covers the top of the foot. Each pair represents one missing or murdered Aboriginal woman or girl.

Before entering the centre's exhibit area, volunteers welcomed us and offered to answer our questions. Women arriving in slacks were invited to borrow a skirt; wearing one is a sign of respect. We were offered a smudge, plus a pinch of tobacco to carry.

It was powerful to see the exhibit with my daughter, Andrea. Each of the Missing and Murdered women is, after all, someone’s daughter. We walked slowly, catching our breath at some of the expressions of grief, hope and strength. Certainly the most arresting pair was a beaded name tag. Spelled out in tiny glass beads was, “My Name is . . . ” And below that: the words, “Who Cares?”

The Walking with Our Sisters exhibit is travelling across Canada. I hope that millions of Canadians will see it — and care. Walking slowly along the rows of uppers is like following the footsteps of spirits.

How would Mary respond to the hundreds of murdered and missing Aboriginal women today? I think she would join the walk and the call for a national inquiry. The walk will be long and rocky. There are tears of rage and sorrow, but I need to be there.

Idle No More offers other opportunities to walk in solidarity. Recently, my partner, Bill, and I attended an event at the library theatre in downtown Calgary to hear stories from families of women lost to violence. These are, indeed, sad stories but ones of courage and determination, too. Perhaps that's what the story of Mary of Nazareth has always given me. This, too, is what I hear in stories told by survivors of the Holocaust, the Holodomor, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as other tragedies. Courage in the telling of these stories builds strength. Story gives us a place to stand together.

This year, I’ve been privileged to contribute stories to the United Church Lenten booklet, Longing for Home. This year, a moderated conversation is also available on their Facebook page.

The walk through Lent is an invitation for reflection, mystery and remembering. Good Friday is a seemingly bottomless pit of despair, but we do not need to stand there alone. And, we know what comes after.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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