Ojibwe traditions said we should celebrate – mirror joy – so he could pass to the spirit world. This time I wouldn’t let him down

I used to think “letting go” was for happy people who did yoga and wore shirts that said “Good Vibes Only”. I thought it was for people who read the self-help books I never finished. When my friend Bryan died this August, the phrase took new meaning and helped lift me up.

Bryan was Ojibwe, a poet, a blackjack and poker dealer at a casino, and he was unwell. He had survived kidney cancer, a transplant and years of dialysis. He also had a seasonal sadness that overtook him eventually. One late night, he asked if he was a mediocre poet – and if he should take an overdose or call a crisis center. I didn’t see the messages until the next morning, and it was too late.

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