‘I don’t want to go home in a coffin’: Five years on, Lake St. Martin residents dying to go home

IMG_3798.jpg
Margaret Traverse (left), 77, weeps as she offers her condolences to Edee O’Meara, whose mother Maryanne O’Meara passed away on Mother’s Day.

By Austin Grabish For Metro

Edee O’Meara stands in a hotel room preparing to say goodbye to her mom, wearing a shimmering black dress and sparkling new high heels.

Her mother Shee Sheeb, a Lake St. Martin elder, left specific instructions and a prepaid debit card for this night.

“She said make sure all my grandchildren are dressed nice.” So, her three daughters are in “pretty dresses” for the funeral.

Shee Sheeb, known only on paper as Maryanne O’Meara, died in St. Boniface Hospital on Mother’s Day. She had a heart attack in March and was suffering from anxiety. She was 68.

She is the latest band member from Lake St. Martin to die.

It’s gone now, but a portable hospital bed once filled the cramped hotel room that She Sheeb called home.

O’Meara said her mom developed stress-related illness and anxiety two years after Lake St. Martin flooded in 2011, which left the band’s 2,000 members homeless.

“She was a picture of health,” she said. “If we were not evacuated we would not be doing this right now.”

Austin Grabish / For Metro
Edee O’Meara prepares the blanket to go over her mother’s casket in the hotel room she lived in before she died. Shee Sheeb is the latest band member to pass away.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held in June of last year to symbolize the rebuilding of the community. However, hundreds are still waiting for their homes to be rebuilt, and there is no firm completion date, according to the federal government.

The province is also cutting a channel from Lake St. Martin to Lake Manitoba, to help it drain more quickly in times of higher water.

In the meantime, the community is suffering dramatic losses due to suicide and to their people being exposed to higher-risk lifestyles in the city.

There’s a knock at the door. Lake St. Martin’s oldest elder Margaret Traverse, 77, arrives to offer her condolences.

Traverse lives two doors down from Shee Sheeb and is frail as she weeps. “It never used to be like this.”

Shee Sheeb’s body arrives and is waiting down the hall outside.
Women drum asking the Creator for help as the casket makes its way into the hotel’s ballroom – the same room evacuees pick up their monthly living allowance.

It becomes standing room only as hundreds come to say their goodbyes.
Standing in front of the casket, Lanna Moon, 7, stands proud and sings, “I love my granny.”

She’s so small you can’t see her at the back of the room, but her voice still manages to bring the room to tears.

“I don’t want to go home in a coffin,” said Traverse, staring ahead at Shee Sheeb’s casket.

“That’s what they all say,” a relative sitting next to Traverse replied.

 

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