Reflections: The effectiveness of a single life

George Rowe


My wife and I just returned from a short but busy vacation with members of our family. We spent a beautiful evening with our grandchildren at their school and listened to “Spoken Word Cafe” as students shared stories and poetry they composed during the school year.

We went with our grandchildren to the Lethbridge Orcas Invitational Swim Meet and were excited in watching medals being presented to young swimmers from Southern BC and Alberta—our grandchildren were among some of the medal winners. We spent a weekend in Glacier Park, Montana and coming back to Sparwood we enjoyed the Canada Day celebrations. In the evening of Canada Day celebrations we attended a Rugby game in Fernie and stayed the night for the fireworks. We also attended a triathlon in Elkford where one of our granddaughters participated in swimming, running and a five kilometre bicycle race—she took first place in her category.

During our short and busy vacation I did find time to somewhat satisfy my insatiable craving to catch up on my reading. I dove into books as if my life depended on it. Some of the books included, I heard The Owl Call My Name, Walking After Midnight, They Fight Like Soldiers But Die Like Children, Finding Me, and the story of Elizabeth Smart.

In my reading it was difficult to get my head wrapped around some of the emotions that were being stirred in my spirit. The books told stories of sacrifice, the brutality of one human being against another that included murder, rape, confinement, families turning against families and communities against communities. Some of the information (real stuff) was horrific to the point where I wanted to scream out in anger and at other times I was humbled and in tears as I listened to victim talk about hope and forgiveness and moving forward. The tragedy of human atrocities certainly reached to the deepest of the deep in my spirit and will continue to impact me down the road.

I Heard The Owl Call My Name is a best-selling book from the 1960s by Margaret Craven. It is an intriguing read based on the life of a Mark Brian who is suffering from an unnamed terminal disease. Mark is a young Vicar sent by his Bishop to the First Nations Village of Kingcome in BC in order to learn life’s hard lessons in the time left to him, though Mark is not aware that he has been inflicted with a terminal disease. It is a beautiful story of a young diseased man who gives of himself for the wellness of the village people. He brought some of the white man’s way of thinking while he himself was learning life’s experiences from the First Nations village – he was eventually considered to be part of the Village Tribe. Just before the time for Mark to be recalled by his Bishop he heard the owl call his name which according to the village people foretold imminent death. While boating on the river, just returning from a rescue mission and a funeral, Mark was engulfed in a landslide and is killed.

The story is about two cultures accepting and embracing each other because they had more in common to unite them than the petty differences that would divide them. The Christian Science Monitor said of the book, “Memorable……a shining parable about the reconciliation of two cultures and two faiths.” The thing that every person on the planet has in common in the fact that we are all human and thus it is imperative that we treat each other with respect and dignity – we treat people that way we ourselves would like to be treated. The diversification of culture in Tumbler Ridge should now and forever make us a stronger community as we learn from and embrace each other.

Finding Me is the story of Michelle Knight, a twenty-one year old single mother who was kidnapped on August 21, 2002 and was rescued more than a decade late on May 6, 2013. It is a brutal story of transparency where Michelle tells it the way it was. Shackled, beaten and raped almost every other day, Michelle failed to fall victim and give up on life though there are shadowy indications that she might just do that. Her captor showed no mercy and in addition to the brutal rapings, beatings and chains, she was starved, refused bathing privileges (her first shower was almost one year after she was kidnapped) and demoralized to the point where she felt life slipping away from her. But when life got to this point Michelle thought about her handsome young son and the hope of one day being reunited with him. Then, shortly after being kidnapped two other young women, Amanda Barry and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, were also kidnapped and held prisoner in the same house. While it is a brutal event in the life of Michelle, the story is one of hope and forgiveness, determination and the will to live. While she experienced a decade of darkness she has reclaimed her life and today she travells extensively to speak hope and love into the lives of others.

Michelle said of her captor, Ariel Castro, “He wanted to make sure I was fully broken and that’s something he couldn’t do.” Wow!!!! Michelle has every right to hate and despise and consider Ariel Castro as the very scum of the earth. However, in order for her to move on and have a meaningful life she knew she had to look deep inside herself and determined whether she was fully broken or not. After looking back on more than a decade of the most despicable treatment a human being could receive from another human being she said, “Forgiveness is the only way I can truly reclaim my life.”

Why is it necessary to use Reflections as an avenue or as an opportunity to talk about atrocities and in the same breath talk about hope and forgiveness and moving forward? The gift of life is very precious and is sometimes balanced by good and evil, right and wrong, justice and injustice. I have written in previous articles that while we have just one life to live, then one life is enough if we live it right.

The story of Mark Brian in I Heard The Owl Call My Name, is a story of giving and giving and giving. Vicar Mark Brian was buried in the village where he gave of himself so that others might enjoy life to the fullest. The story of Michelle Knight in Finding Me is that of an individual where everything was taken from her—her dignity, self-respect, her young son, and while hope was sometimes far distant she resolved to have twelve years of her life reclaimed and she moves into the future with great expectations.

One of the most difficult phrases in the English language is, “I forgive you!” Have you been mistreated or misunderstood? Have you had best friends and even family turn against you? Have we done something in our own lives where we find it difficult to forgive ourselves? Let’s get our lives back on track with some healthy decisions and learn again the importance of the phrase, “I forgive you!” or “I forgive myself!” Remember that the effectiveness of a Mark Brian and a Michelle Knight has and is and will continue to change individuals, communities, nations and cultures from around the world.

I will share three more books with you next week but until then enjoy life and remember that the sun is always shining!