Nursing Notes From the Navajo Nation

On July 18, 2020, I left everything comfortable and safe for a place and a people unknown to me. I seriously doubted my ability to get in my vehicle, start the engine, and back out of my driveway. I’m over fifty. I have some joint problems. My Achilles tendons are damaged, and some days I don’t seem to have enough energy to put one foot in front of the other. My sweet husband, my children, and their children, my silly, happy, brown-eyed pup, my precious friends, my routine, my grocery store, my home, my garden, my fluffy curious hens…all in my rear-view mirror and the complete unknown stretching before me.

There are some of us whose self-identity has come from who we are to others. I am my darling’s wife. I am the mother of seven children. I am a grandmother. I am an aunt. I am a sister. I am a friend, and I live for the humans that identify me by each label. I am content. I am so very comfortable. I am so richly blessed.


Such an unyielding call began in my very heart and traveled throughout every part of my being and completely consumed me. Truly. A people I’ve never known. A people who are gentle by nature and also strong. A people who need help and yet are completely self-reliant and self-sufficient. So with the support of my husband, my children, my friends, I backed away from my little Pearlie Grace house with the green grass and the trees and my vegetable garden and rose bushes, and I headed west to the Navajo Nation.

Eighty percent of the Navajo people live with no running water and no electricity. Eighty percent. 80%. No running water. No electricity. 80%. It is not just an issue of the horrendous expense of drilling a well in the desert; it is also a matter of the water being poisoned by the mining done by our government to harvest uranium. When a well is punched, maybe the water will be good, or maybe it will be tainted with radioactive poison. Maybe the well is safe now, but in six months, it is possible that it will pump liquid death.

And yet these are a people who smile. They are a people with generous hearts who are already encouraging me to learn their language. They are a people with hope. They are a people who see the beauty in the barren and who hold tight to life.

I am here as a nurse. More than any (yes any) race, the Navajo people die in much greater numbers when infected by Covid-19. More than whites. More than Asians. More than the black community. More than the Hispanic community. Their numbers are also the largest for infection. Their homes are often multigenerational, and as already stated, 80% of them live with no running water and that makes infection control (among other things) more challenging.

The Navajo Nation.

In the United States of America.

Has 80% of their population living without running water and electricity.

As it is with every race, they are not flawless. Alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, are a plague here. However, make no mistake, they don’t need to be rescued from themselves or saved by the bilagáana. I am a guest here on this sovereign nation. I am here to be a servant, not a savior (as if that were even possible). I don’t know how long I will be here, and I’m not sure I will escape being infected by this vicious sickness, but I pray daily for the strength to submit my physical body to the will of the mighty God I serve. I wish I knew what would happen next week or next month and that I could have a say in it all, but I serve at the will of the King of all kings and the day I chose to follow Jesus, I gave up myself and entrusted my life to his care.

I miss my husband. My loved ones. My life. I am a creature of comfort, security, and days that I can predict. I can also be horribly selfish and weak, and I’ve cried a lot this week. But I’ve also rejoiced. Mother Teresa said that we belong to one another and when we have no peace we’ve forgotten that. I’ve felt that truth this week. These unknown people are my people even though my skin is white and their’s is brown. Peace is present despite the unknown. There is no guessing what the next day or the next month or months might bring but as I know the Author of all days there is, at this moment, no fear.

You are never too old, too broken, or too used up to begin. You have a purpose for being on the earth at this exact moment in time and regardless of your beliefs or nonbeliefs, you are part of something so much bigger than yourself. There is a plan and you have a place at the table.

Ayóó ánóshní,


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