For my Grandfather: Part III

Written and submitted by Carlinda Crank

Special to the Observer

Editor's note: This is the third and final article in this series. See the Sept. 5 and Sept. 12 editions of the Observer or visit

www.navajohopiobserver.com and click on the "Miscellaneous News" link to view the first two portions of the article.

My sister said the prayer and we all dug into the good food we were blessed with on this wonderful day. I think we all overate.

Then a few of us played cards with my grandfather until dusk. My grandmother, who is wheelchair bound, became tired and irritable. She wanted to go home. That night we celebrated with fireworks at their residence. It was a nice show. At about 11:30 p.m. we all said goodnight and departed. It was an end to a gorgeous day for all of us.

The next morning, something rare and out of the ordinary happened. My father planted two trees in front of my mom's house, two years before he died in November of 1996. Over the years the trees have grown a lot.

At about 7:30 a.m. my sister, niece and nephew had come down from their ranch to visit.

My sister said that when they got out of her truck she was headed for the front door and as she was walking by the trees she heard one of the branches shaking. There was no wind or breeze; it was a calm morning. She kept hearing one of the branches shaking as whatever was there was trying to get her attention. It was as though it was saying, "Hey look at me, notice me, I am here!"

Carmelia assumed it was one of the kids crawling around in the trees. Then she remembered none of the kids ever crawls around on the trees. She became curious and glanced into the tree to see what was making the noise. To her surprise, she saw a handsome young hawk sitting there. Carmelia came running into the house wanting a camera. She said, "There is a hawk sitting in the tree."

We all rushed outside to see what the commotion was about. As we stood there trying not to make too much noise and scare it off, we saw the hawk. We all stood there in awe and stared at the most beautiful sight. The hawk sat there in the tree looking around, not even bothered by the noise we were making. It sat there as though it was at peace with all its surroundings.

My sister and I ran to grab our cameras and take a few pictures before the hawk left. I took a few pictures, and then decided to leave my sister out there by herself so we wouldn't scare the hawk off and she could get better pictures.

Moments later my sister came back in. We looked at the pictures on the digital camera she used. The pictures she took were great. I noticed the hawk had gone from branch to branch in the tree, then to the chair that my grandfather sat on the day before during our barbeque. My sister said the hawk flew off right after she took the pictures of it sitting on the chair. We had never seen anything like this before.

After the hawk left, I told my mom that maybe it was a sign sent to us from Nelson Lewis because he is thankful that he has been found and most of all thankful for reconnecting him with my grandfather to give his brother some kind of closure, too.

This occurrence has led me to believe that there are still signs out there that help us heal. In our Navajo culture, and many other cultures around the world, we believe that a spirit comes back as an animal. I believe that this hawk represents the spirit of Nelson Lewis. In this world we live in today, a lot of us live our lives in the modern fast lanes and don't acknowledge signs like this still exist. Many of us Navajo people, including myself, have moved off the reservation to work or receive an education or both. It seems as though a lot of us get caught up in our own little worlds and forget about our culture, language and beliefs.

I think if we all take the time to stop, listen and look we can still see these signs. I have been blessed with this memorable moment captured with photographs while on this journey to learn more about Nelson Lewis. I share this story with you in hopes that it shines some light into your life. Please, don't forget about where you come from and, most importantly, your heritage, culture, language and families.

I have learned from my contact person at the Golden Gate National Cemetery that although Nelson Lewis died on March, 17, 1945, he was not buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery (Section D, Site 23 in San Bruno, Calif.) until May 18, 1948, three years and two months after his death. Nelson Lewis was first buried at what was supposed to be a temporary site at an American cemetery in Belgium, outside Brussels, called Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial.

I look at this as the beginning of his journey home. He was among one of the 5,600 war dead to be shipped back from Henri-Chapelle cemetery to the United States for what was said to be his permanent burial. I think otherwise. He has been interred at the Golden Gate National Cemetery for 59 years and 2 months, waiting to be found and to continue his journey home to Dennehotso to his real final resting place.

This is only the beginning of my journey. I am going to continue on this path in memory of Nelson Lewis and on my grandfather's behalf. My grandfather wishes to visit his brother's grave in San Bruno, Calif., before he is not capable anymore. I know for a fact that he will not want to leave my grandmother behind because they are inseparable.

I also know that 62 years have passed since Nelson Lewis was killed in action during World War II, yet I am determined to do as much as I can to bring him home to his final resting place. With the help of my sister and whoever can give us a lending hand, I know deep down in my heart it is possible. My grandfather says that to bring Nelson Lewis home to Dennehotso would indeed be a dream come true for him. My first priority is to take my grandparents to California and visit the gravesite.

After this trip, I will concentrate on bringing Nelson Lewis home, no matter how long it takes, and have a memorial service in his honor. I want my grandfather to have a real closure in this chapter of his life, for I know he loved his brother very much.

When Nelson Lewis comes home at last to Dennehotso for his final resting place I will be looking for that handsome young hawk to make its reappearance. The hawk will be circling high above us happy to be home at last with his family and the land he left behind in 1943.

Nelson Lewis has captured my heart and there his face has been engraved. Yesterday, today and tomorrow I will always be thankful to all the men and women of the Armed Forces. To all those who died in combat or have gone missing in combat, to all those who returned home safely, and to all those who are still out there protecting our freedom, thank you.

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