Meeting Relatives

There are moments in life that are so beautiful that they bring tears to your eyes. This past Friday evening I attended a lecture put on by the Healing of Memories Institute that was held in the District Six Homecoming Centre. The Institute was starteFather Lapsleyd by a man named Father Lapsley, whose work I have followed for years. During the apartheid years here in South Africa, he would have been a voice speaking against the regime. He received a letter bomb that blew off both his hands and damaged his eyes.  Later, his work began to focus on bringing people in South Africa together to tell their stories and share their trauma.

When Bishop McDonald, the presenter for the evening, greeted us he used the language of the Cree people.  I had never heard that language spoken aloud, but that is the language of my grandfather’s and therefore my people.  My grandfather’s family migrated from Canada to Montana.  The story is told that my grandfather was riding cross country by train and stopped off at a small North Carolina town named Pembroke.  He met my grandmother, a Lumbee Indian, fell in love instantly and never got back on the train.  So, in my veins runs the blood of both the Lumbee and Cree.

Bishop McDonald shared the stories of the Indian residential schools for Native American children in CanadaBishop Mark McDonald. They have been charged with actually being extermination camps because of the high mortality rate. They had a 69% death rate and children reported sexual and physical abuse. “The schools had graveyards, not playgrounds,” shared Bishop McDonald. As I listened to the stories, memories of my grandfather who died when I was six years old were flooding my mind. These stories were stories of wrongs done to his people.  Yet, I knew him well enough to know that he lived making sure wrongs were done to no people.

It was a very strange moment to be a US citizen sitting in the District Six Museum listening to stories of my roots being traced right before me. Tears literally welled up in my eyes. I had arranged for a taxi to pick me up after the event and they went to a different location, so I was waiting out on the street as the crowd began to die down.  A group from inside came to stand with me as I waited for the Taxi. They were some of the Khoi Chiefs of South Africa who had been participating in a healing of memories retreat prior to the lecture. I shared with them that my grandfather was one of the Cree people and they told me they learned a practice of the Cree that was to make a relative of everyone you meet. They invited me to attend an event they were having later in the year and when we parted ways, I felt overwhelmed by the gift of being in the right place at the right time.

My grandfather was someone who never knew a stranger.  He lived with love for all people.  I am thankful that my roots trace back to him and challenged in my own life to mirror the Cree Practice that sounds so much like Jesus’ call to love our neighbor.


Walter Pinchbeck

My Grandfather

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  1. George Howard

     /  August 31, 2015

    What a beautiful tribute to your grandfather. Knowing where we came from we often discover we have come full circle and it is a wonder to behold.


  2. Sandra P. Bond

     /  September 4, 2015

    Michelle, it is a small world!! The story about the Cree Indians and Daddy brought tears to my eyes. He would have been so proud of your life and the influence He made on yours. I must share this with Sister. Thank you very much and I love you. Mom



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