The Final Journey

January 21, 2015 at 7:13 pm 50 comments

for friday fictioneers 100-word challenge 23 January 2015

Georgia Koch
Photo Credit: Georgia Koch

Once she was a young, beautiful, and hard-working woman. Now in her late seventies, Ahnah felt worn out like her dead husband’s abandoned boat.

Unable to do household chores anymore, she earned her keep by using her teeth to soften dried animal skins used for making clothes and footwear. When she lost all her teeth, she decided it was time to take the final journey in the Alaska wilderness. She’d rather die than be a burden to anyone.

“You don’t have to go,” her sister-in-law said as Ahnah was leaving. At the same time, she knew she couldn’t stop her.

Note:This story was based on my conversation with a friend who spent time in Alaska. He said that Eskimo women are tough and proud women. When they get old and could no longer contribute to the family upkeep, they go to the Alaska wilderness where they succumb to the cold or die being mauled by a bear. This is especially true when times are hard and food scarce. Anyway, since we were having a drink at that time, I’m not sure whether he was serious or just pulling my leg,

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50 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder  |  January 21, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    Oh! Really?? I haven’t heard of anything like this..but maybe it’s true 😦

    Reply
    • 2. plaridel  |  January 21, 2015 at 11:59 pm

      maniparna:

      seriously! what kind of a writer am i? i should have googled it first before i wrote it. ☺

      Reply
      • 3. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder  |  January 22, 2015 at 12:03 am

        Same here 😀 what kind of a reader am I? I should have googled first before commenting… 😀

        Reply
        • 4. plaridel  |  January 22, 2015 at 9:27 am

          maniparna:

          great response! 🙂

          Reply
  • 5. aliciajamtaas  |  January 21, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    I have heard about this. Many cultures did this (not so much any more). The old were expected to do their part to alleviate the pressure age put on the rest of the village. You portrayed the idea very well in this story. Love the way you compared her to the aged boat.

    Reply
    • 6. plaridel  |  January 22, 2015 at 12:06 am

      alicia:

      thank you for the information. my friend was sober when he told his story after all. ☺

      Reply
  • 7. Priceless Joy  |  January 21, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    What about the men? Do they go out into the wilderness to die too?

    Reply
    • 8. plaridel  |  January 22, 2015 at 12:07 am

      priceless joy:

      that’s what i was wondering, too. ☺

      Reply
      • 9. Priceless Joy  |  January 22, 2015 at 5:54 am

        A very interesting bit of information.

        Reply
        • 10. plaridel  |  January 22, 2015 at 9:28 am

          priceless joy:

          thank you.

          Reply
  • 11. preciouspen1955  |  January 21, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    There is some truth in this I remember studying a poem which portrayed this , wish I could remember now the details , but the poem did stir so many emotions and the most notable emotion was sadness that such noble women would actually spend the end of their lives like this, once again these emotions are stirred , your poem here is wonderful and does indeed have its root in a reality of something that did actually happen in parts of the world in a different time , if I find any details of this I will let you know. Really a great poem and one that speaks to us of time past and for me speaks of the importance to take lessons from history and try to afford dignity to all our neighbours regardless of age , this poem really does get across a powerful message , I feel I could write a very long essay on the images and the emotions your words here reveal.
    Kind Regards Kathy.

    Reply
    • 12. plaridel  |  January 22, 2015 at 12:10 am

      kathy:

      you couldn’t said it any better. thank you very much.

      Reply
  • 13. Sandra  |  January 22, 2015 at 12:43 am

    Whether your friend was serious or joking, this is a very sad story. Well done.

    Reply
    • 14. plaridel  |  January 22, 2015 at 9:28 am

      sandra:

      based on previous comments, it was likely that he said it matter-of-factly.

      Reply
  • 15. rochellewisoff  |  January 22, 2015 at 2:49 am

    Dear Plaridel,

    Ahnah ended her life the way she’d lived it, as the captain of her fate.

    Nicely done.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    Reply
    • 16. plaridel  |  January 22, 2015 at 9:28 am

      rochelle:

      truly indeed.

      Reply
  • 17. dmmacilroy  |  January 22, 2015 at 2:49 am

    Dear Plaridel,

    A true to life rendering of a moment we all have in one way or another. Makes me hesitate to post my story. Perhaps there will be so many like this that no one will notice. We shall see.

    Good job.

    Aloha,

    Doug

    Reply
    • 18. plaridel  |  January 22, 2015 at 9:28 am

      doug:

      what a nice compliment. thank you.

      Reply
  • 19. Amy Reese  |  January 22, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Now this is terribly sad, but I can believe from a culture where women are tough as nails and full of pride. All cultures are different. Still, it left me rather sad for her. Maybe she would have a few more solid years if she had proper care and enough food. Great story. Well done!

    Reply
    • 20. plaridel  |  January 23, 2015 at 10:05 am

      amy:

      when food was scarce, there was no other choice.

      Reply
  • 21. draliman  |  January 23, 2015 at 12:47 am

    Very sad that she felt she would be a burden to everyone. Apparently this practice was quite common during famine times.

    Reply
    • 22. plaridel  |  January 23, 2015 at 10:05 am

      draliman:

      at least, she chose to die on her own terms.

      Reply
  • 23. FabricatingFiction  |  January 23, 2015 at 5:35 am

    Very sad.

    Reply
    • 24. plaridel  |  January 23, 2015 at 10:05 am

      louise:

      i know.

      Reply
  • 25. Sally  |  January 23, 2015 at 7:33 am

    A sad story but a brave lady.

    Reply
    • 26. plaridel  |  January 23, 2015 at 10:06 am

      sally:

      i agree.

      Reply
  • 27. Sarah Ann  |  January 23, 2015 at 9:01 am

    This reminds me of Doug’s story this week, but I felt his character made a positive decision. Ahnah’s situation comes across as a sad inevitability – there is no choice, and that makes your story more poignant.

    Reply
    • 28. plaridel  |  January 23, 2015 at 10:07 am

      sarah:

      she had to do what she had to do.

      Reply
  • 29. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)  |  January 23, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    I think I have heard about similar stories.. there is reason in it, but still immensely sad.. the way non productive people were discarded in the past (and maybe still are) is very sad. At least she made the choice herself.

    Reply
    • 30. plaridel  |  January 23, 2015 at 7:49 pm

      björn:

      yes, it was truly sad.

      Reply
  • 31. kirsten  |  January 23, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Both sad and strong at the same time. You did a great job at capturing the woman’s strength in this story.

    Reply
    • 32. plaridel  |  January 23, 2015 at 7:50 pm

      kirsten:

      thank you for the compliment. much appreciated.

      Reply
  • 33. Suzanne Joshi  |  January 24, 2015 at 4:29 am

    I’ve also heard that story. I think it was concerning Eskimo women. However, I also don’t think it’s done much any more, if at all. Those old customs have probably died out with the more modern and westerniized generations. Of course, I’m no authority. You’d need to check with a historian. Good story and well done. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Reply
    • 34. plaridel  |  January 24, 2015 at 3:02 pm

      suzanne:

      i think the practice has evolved somewhat. now it’s called death with dignity.

      Reply
  • 35. talesfromthemotherland  |  January 24, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Great use of the prompt. Even without the connection to her dead husband’s boat, the imagery/metaphor works.

    Reply
  • 39. Margaret  |  January 24, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Your characterisation of Ahnah is moving. I love how you’ve shown her dismay and grief as she ages. For me, this is the most poignant part of your story – her melancholy as she recalls her youthful self, and concludes that her usefulness is over.

    Reply
    • 40. plaridel  |  January 24, 2015 at 3:04 pm

      margaret:

      what a great compliment on your part. thank you.

      Reply
  • 41. Nan Falkner  |  January 24, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    Dear Plaridel, He wasn’t pulling your leg – this is exactly what many Indians or Alaskans would do at the end of their useful life. It seems so barbaric – but maybe it is more merciful than dying a slow death in a nursing home. Don’t know. I hope I go quick! Great story! Nan 🙂

    Reply
    • 42. plaridel  |  January 25, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      nan:

      i agree that it might seem barbaric, but it was a decision that she made while she could still do it on her own terms. everybody should respect that.

      Reply
  • 43. penshift  |  January 25, 2015 at 7:44 am

    This is an old practice but in the face of globalised western culture it has died out (or at least no longer advertised). Western cultures predominantly view the elderly as respected elders who should be cared for (though with an aging population in need of care this is changing). I believe the practice was villainized at some point because of this. Colonials are notorious for not trying to understand different cultures. While it is a sad practice, it is also very respectful to the elderly and the community it a very different way.

    Reply
    • 44. plaridel  |  January 25, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      stephanie:

      nice insight you have there. thank you for your comment.

      Reply
      • 45. penshift  |  January 25, 2015 at 12:29 pm

        Thanks. But I’m not sure it’s entirely my own. I swear it’s something I read in the many sociological texts I’ve had to sift through.

        Reply
        • 46. plaridel  |  January 25, 2015 at 6:09 pm

          stephanie:

          i understand. 🙂

          Reply
  • 47. AnnIsikArts  |  January 25, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    Interesting take on the prompt. And I’ve learnt something. Don’t certain animals do similar? Unfortunately, I don’t live close enough to Alaska. I suppose I could take an Alaskan cruise and disappear when ashore in Anchorage. I wonder if it would work if I were to fill the bath with ice cubes and get into it naked?

    Reply
    • 48. plaridel  |  January 25, 2015 at 6:09 pm

      ann:

      i’m not sure if that will work for you. as for me doing it personally, i doubt it as it will scare the hell out of a lot of people. 🙂

      Reply
  • 49. gpcox  |  February 17, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Very sad story, but understandable. As you said, they are strong.

    Reply
    • 50. plaridel  |  February 17, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      gpcox:

      thank you for reading. much appreciated.

      Reply

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