Where There Is Chaos, There Will Also Be Peace

Sunweed by Don Laurent of Dine' College
Sunweed by Don Laurent of Dine’ College

My first day of sixth grade was chaotic. It was a new place with new people, and for a shy and quiet young girl like myself, it was scary. I walked into my last class of the day. There she was sitting in front of the classroom with glasses and curly brown hair. When she turned around and looked at me, her smile gave me a new sense of peace. I knew from that moment I was going to be alright in this chaos.

Julie was my aunt, she was eight months older than me and my best friend, though we had our fights and would sometimes go years without speaking. We started our drug addiction together, but our paths eventually took us on separate journeys. I chose the sober path and she struggled with her addiction on and off. It wasn’t until the summer of 2017 that we regained that same connection we had in the sixth grade. My life was spiraling downward and she showed up in the moment I needed her the most.

She was working at my grandparents’ store that summer. I would sit and visit with her there as often as I could. On a beautiful and sunny day, I stopped in as usual. The office door was closed. I thought to myself, “She’s probably busy. I don’t want to bother her; I’ll see her another day.” I left the store and headed off to work. My shift went by quickly and before I knew it, I was already on my way home.

I was 15 minutes from home when I got a text from my grandma saying, “Julie overdosed again and is being flown out to Fargo.” My stomach dropped. I felt like I could’ve puked. she had overdosed once and was able to recover from it. Still, I could never have imagined how serious her overdose was this time, until I saw her with my own eyes. I couldn’t make the drive to Fargo until two days later. I asked my cousin to take the three-hour trip with me because I was scared to go alone.

When I walked into her hospital room something didn’t sit quite right with me. It wasn’t just the coma. I couldn’t feel her spirit in the room with us. I knew she was gone, and she wasn’t coming back.

When it was time to leave, I hugged my grandma and told her I would be back as soon as I could. She told me, “I’m really scared; I don’t know if she’s going to be coming home with me.” I gave her another tight hug and told her that I loved her. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her I didn’t feel Julie here anymore. I didn’t want to break her heart. I didn’t know if I could handle my own heartache. The drive there felt like it took forever. We spent the drive back trying to convince ourselves and each other that she wasn’t as bad as she seemed.

It was two days before I could make it back to Fargo. I planned to stay as long as I could this time. The next day, our family was going to meet with the doctor once everyone had arrived to tell us the test results. I was in denial. Every part of me was trying to be hopeful that she would wake up; all I wanted was to see her smile and laugh again.

On August 31, the doctor told us she had no brain activity. If she did manage to wake up, she wouldn’t be the same. I was completely devastated; destroyed by the thought that I would be saying goodbye to her soon. After they shut off all of the machines, I sat down next to her bed and held her hand in my hands. As her heart stopped beating, I could feel mine stop as well. I never wanted to let go of her. The warmth was leaving her body while a part of me was dying inside.

I was self-destructive for months. I drank until I blacked out. If I was dead on the inside I might as well be dead on the outside. I wanted to be with her, I couldn’t see myself living life without her. It wasn’t fair that when we were finally in a good place, she left me behind. I began to cry out loud to her, “I don’t know how to heal from this!” I also screamed to the spirits, “I need help finding a way to heal!”

At the end of December, I found out that I was pregnant. I was due in September. To honor Julie’s wishes, my son was named after my father. Leonidas Castiel was born on August 29, 2018. He was born two days before the anniversary of Julie’s passing. From the moment he was put in my arms, I felt at peace in the chaos. I knew as long as he was here with me, I would be alright. He lights up my heart when it is dark.

Crystal May-Prentice is a student at Red Lake Nation College.

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