Hello Dear Pine Ridge Enthusiasts!
It is time once again for a Pine Ridge life update. This week has actually been full of roller coaster emotions. I say this because of extreme circumstances... First of all, plenty of excitement is surrounding the State Tourney (at which our boys are ranked 3rd and stand a good chance of pulling off a championship)...but also, Thursday night a tragedy occurred in the Red Cloud community, sending so many people into a state of shock and grief. Casey Zimiga, a Red Cloud 2008 grad, passed away in a car accident- which involved several Red Cloud students, both graduates and currently attending. The accident was on a gravel road, with the driver losing control. A two-car caravan was traveling together, so the first car turned back and discovered their friends and siblings had crashed. It is all still so awful- and I've wept on multiple occasions- partly in grief for the loss of Casey's young life, and partly in empathy for the pain the living students and family are going through. The wake begins tonight, and the funeral will be tomorrow morning- hence, the roller coaster emotions, since later that evening we are going to get our 'pep' on for the 1st round BB game!
In some ways this whole experience of Casey's death has taught me that I do feel a definite love for these students. I'm pretty sure that if any student in Red Cloud would lose his/her life, I would feel an equal grief and empathy, and it breaks my heart knowing that these tragic deaths occur at alarming rates here on the Rez... We had a prayer service both on Friday and on Monday- the latter involved his family and friends as well. I was asked to say the opening prayer, and I hadn't even begun yet before I was weeping. Death is a crazy thing- and I know it is just as much a part of life as life itself, yet when it happens so suddenly and to someone with such a zest for life, I have to question it. Inevitably death also necessitates prayer, since we know so little what to do or how to feel in response to death; thus, we must acknowledge the love of our Creator. Prayer is the only solace I know of in times of grief.
Speaking of loving the students- I have begin to see some major developments with a few students with whom I'm particularly close. One student, Daisa, (I believe I've mentioned her before) is a remarkable young woman- so driven, so dedicated to her heritage and family, so fun-loving and fashionable, so kind-hearted and other's-focused, and as confused as ever about boys. You know, the general female adolescent experience. :) The other day she was in my office speaking about a few particular guys in her life, and the way she speaks now is such evidence of her growth in self-confidence and maturity, especially from being a timid sophomore to an outgoing junior. I let her know I saw these growing qualities in her, and Daisa's response touched my heart. She agreed with me and said, "And Emily, you know it's all thanks to you!" Of course that's not entirely true, and I let her know she was the one responsible for discovering her self-worth. Yet to think I was able to inspire that- even in the least- gives me such joy!
Just a few minutes ago a young man whom I spoke of before, Chandler, came into my office and asked me to read something he had written. It wasn't an assignment or school work at all...it was a self-reflection, which I read with a good amount of surprise. I told him I wouldn't repeat what he said, but it basically is a plea for understanding- and a cry for help from the black hole of pain he is experiencing. I say I read this with surprise, since he is one of the happiest and kindest students I know. He struggles with classes, and socially, yet his heart is so pure and full of love. It amazes me how students can completely ignore the good in one another and in themselves. Perhaps I am wired to see the good in others, but for whatever reason, I cannot help but to see the beauty that is within each soul. And it hurts me to realize that so much pain exists behind the curtains of resiliency or a survival facade.
The one bit I want to share with you about Chandler coming in just now brings me to tears. Another student (in my office) asked what it was he had written and he responded with, "Just something I wanted to share with people who I consider like family to me... like Emily." If I have ever received a greater (and more humbling) compliment from any student, I'm not sure what it would have been. And to think that I'm leaving in just a few short months. Wow, I think I'm going to have an emotional breakdown when the time comes for goodbyes.
Another caveat about Daisa. Today I wore a shirt with Minnie Mouse on it (I think I got it for $1.00) underneath my black sweater... and she looks at my shirt, gasps, and says, "Emily! I have Mickey Mouse on my shirt today too!" I showed her the writing on top of my shirt, which says, 'taken', and she responds with, "By MICKEY! That's me!" Just an example of the exuberance she possesses, and one of the many reasons why I find it so enjoyable to love these students.
Okay- we have a big weekend ahead, with State Basketball- and possibly 2 fan busses...woohoo! I shall report the outcome next time, and hopefully have a few pictures to include as well! Next week we also have the spring senior retreat, so I will be having quite the emotional time! Ah, to be honest, I think the emotions of leaving have begun, and I don't think they'll stop. My goal is to be as present as ever (something I solidified in my mind during this past weekend's volunteer retreat). I forgot to mention the retreat, yet it was a wonderful time- truly soul-restoring.
'Tis enough for now. Thanks for your continual interest, I love sharing this life with you- whether or not I know you- I still appreciate that you take the time to read. Until I can write again and report that Red Cloud took the state championship! :):)
Sending my love from a slightly cloudy head, and a fully grateful heart,
6 months ago