On August 14, 1994, a young woman named Karen Lewis was murdered and her body thrown in a dumpster. For several years after her death, Calgarians gathered to remember Karen and other women who were murdered. In 1999, Edmonton survivors, grieving parents, and CEASE Board members decided to hold a similar event. The first Edmonton Memorial was held August 14, 2000.
This year was the 19th annual service in Edmonton. Friends and loved ones gathered together to share their grief and support each other in a media-free environment. I was honored to share a few words on behalf of the families. Part of my reflection follows:
“Our memorial is a time to remember all who were taken too soon. Some are missing, some were murdered and others may have died from addictions, suicide, or illness. Tonight we invite their spirits to join us so we can celebrate the time we had together.
The people we remember are daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, and for some even parents. They were part of a world many of us do not understand and where we could not follow. They returned to Creator with many questions still unanswered.
I would like to share a new word I learned recently. It is EPI-GENETICS and means, very simply, how our cells react to environmental changes. EPI means ‘bigger than’ so that over and above physical genetics like hair and skin color, personality traits are also passed from generation to generation.
This helps us understand how trauma can have lasting effects. We are learning more through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the MMIW Inquiry. Many of us have been impacted – emotionally and genetically – by trauma to past generations.
If I had been treated better as a child, I would probably have been a better parent. The same is true for my mother and for her mother before her. We can’t just ‘get over it’ because we need to learn to shift our life at a cellular level.
We know trauma can be inherited. The good news is that it can be reversed. Qualities like courage, strength, compassion, endurance, and resilience can also be inherited. We have the ability to heal ourselves through our Medicine Wheel.
We can learn to reconnect with Creator and feel the heartbeat of Mother Earth. As we create harmony for ourselves, we also build healthy cells and gift that strength to future generations.
The last twenty years have been full of humility and reflection along with my grief. I am still learning many lessons I wish I had known earlier. We all wonder how the past might have been different. We all wish we could have prevented the death of our loved ones. And yet the only choice we have is how to go forward…”
Please stay tuned for more reflections from the 2018 annual Memorial.