August 18, 2015,Prescott- Each year, on this date, my mind goes back to an area called Burntwater, about an hour’s travel west of Gallup, NM. Here is the Native American Baha’i Institute, where many gather to discuss the growing ties between our Faith and traditional Navajo teachings.
On August 18, 1984, I set out with a Baha’i friend and neighbour, Gordon Tong, three of his children and several Navajo elders. We were headed to the Institute, to attend a meeting that was designed to address concerns of the traditional Navajos, as to how some visitors from the cities to the south could be more aware of customs and etiquette, when among the Dine people.
As is customary in that area, in August, it was raining heavily and the roads were thick with mud. We got stuck in some of that mud. Gordon got his shovel and a couple of young men got boards, to put under the tires. My task was to man the wheel and follow Gordon’s instructions on which way to steer and when to give it gas. At some point, as we were making slow progress, one of his sons decided to “go for more help”. I left the truck, for one of the young men to drive, and headed after the boy. Five minutes into my pursuit, a truck came in the opposite direction, with the boy inside, and the driver explaining that he had received a radio report that Gordon had collapsed and died. I got in, rode back to the Institute, then to the sheriff’s substation, where Gordon’s body was brought, twenty minutes later.
The meeting became a time of mourning, and two days later, Gordon was laid to rest, under a torrential rain. People came from as far afield as Seattle and the Pine Ridge Lakota Nation. Gordon was Native Hawaiian and Chinese, so his family came from Hilo, to honour their brother and son. He was 38 years of age, at the time of his passing, and his still young family left to carry on. They have done so, by and large. There is no overcoming a deeply-entrenched spirit.
As I write this, the scent of rose oil wafts through the air. I have no such oil, but I know how much Gordon loved it. He loved all such fragrances, having grown up with hibiscus, coconut and all manner of tropical fruit trees, with their own blossoms. After 31 years, he is telling me that all is well.
I can only marvel at the way the Creator has seen fit to let such as myself remain on Earth, for so many years after the passing of a very worthy man. All I can think is that there is so much more to do. Gordon, and all my departed loved ones, are in the next plane of existence, or perhaps higher, lending their support. I cannot let them down.