The following year, my mother hosted a gathering in our home for a group of people from an outreach ministry in another town. Among the guests that day were a Native American woman and man who were part of the community being served by the ministry. Intrigued and attracted to their beautiful beaded necklaces and turquoise jewelry, I settled down near them. They explained the significance of some of the stones on the rings and belts and necklaces they wore. A metal medallion on the man’s belt buckle, inlayed with turquoise to form an intricate design, symbolized what he described as “the afterlife.”
I asked if they had ever been to the afterlife. Looking surprised by my question, they laughed kindly and said, no, then, teasingly asked if I had ever been there. Maybe, I said, and told them about what happened the day at the water slide. They listened intently until I had finished my story and, after a bit of silence, the woman looked deep into my eyes and said, “You were very blessed to receive a message from Creator.”
Not yet having had the opportunity to process my near-drowning experience, the Lakota woman’s words made me feel seen, heard, and understood.
A few weeks later, the couple showed up at our home unexpectedly. As the grownups sat around the kitchen table drinking coffee, the Lakota woman waved me over and placed a small pouch in my hand. Inside was a beautiful, delicate necklace strung with tiny seeds and rings of pink and blue beads that looked like flowers. She told me the pattern was called “daisy chain.” The necklace, she said, honored me for all I was learning and what I had still to learn. My ma looked confused, but I felt deeply acknowledged. That was the last time I saw those people, but the necklace remains with me today.
The Navajo couple modeled a way of being present to children, of listening, seeing, and reflecting back their value and worth. Looking back, I see how that way of being stayed with me, guiding me to my life’s work.