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We all want to be remembered

Orange Shirt Day still plays a valuable role
Stewart Burnett is editor of Kivalliq News. Photo courtesy of Stewart Burnett

For the second year in a row, Eva Kirkwa, joined by family and loved ones, set off balloons on the anniversary date of her 19-year-old son’s passing to remember him.

The Rankin Inlet teen, Brandon Suluk Kirkwa, had been preparing to graduate that school year when his life was cut short Sept. 18, 2021.

For Eva and her family, the act of remembering was important.

“He’s with us,” reminded grandmother Shirley Kirkwa several times, pointing out the sun peaking through the forest fire haze.

As the ceremony of songs and a prayer took place, I found myself reflecting on the value in being remembered.

We’re all scared of death to some degree, and a large part of that is the fear of being forgotten.

How long might your farewell last? A Facebook post or two that gets some likes, and drifting into faded memory beyond? Most of us hope there is some level of permanence to our existence and that our legacy or memory can carry on beyond us.

I thought to myself, I’d like to be remembered like Brandon is. How meaningful it was for his mother and family to continue putting in the effort of remembering, even if there was no way to know if he was aware of it.

That holds true as well for Orange Shirt Day. Many of those lost to residential school are still nameless and without inked places in the history books. At least in some small way, through wearing orange shirts, we let them know that we remember them, and that part of their legacy is leaving a commitment for Canada to do better in the future.

It’s easy to write off these sort of days as token gestures. By now, every day of the year has about 10 different reasons to celebrate it nationally or globally. Some are more corporate and hollow, but Orange Shirt Day continues to mean something real.

Life moves fast and it’s hard to stop the flow of needs and errands to take time and remember those not continuing the journey with us, but at least by the act of remembering, they remain in our lives and on our path, even if it’s a memory for just one day.