When we look at the different nationalities and cultural groups, one thing that seems always to stay the same…difference. These groups always have their own ideas about milestones that should be celebrated. Where many people might celebrate things like the baby’s first tooth, rolling over, smile, word, crawling, steps, and such, the Navaho Indian tribes in the Southwestern United States, who call themselves Diné, have a very different idea of what should be celebrated. This tribe have picked up on the most fun part of life, as the reason for celebration…that first laugh.
We all know how great it is to hear a baby laugh for the first time. It’s great fun, and if you happened to be the one to coax that first laugh out of the baby, it’s even more fun. The Navajo believe that a baby’s first laugh demonstrates their readiness and willingness to fully join their families in life and love. The Navajo people believe that the person who makes the child laugh is also very special. That person is given a great gift…they get to plan the party. It is that tradition, and it stipulates that the person who provoked the baby’s laugh hosts a ceremony and dinner to mark the occasion. The party is called a First Laugh Ceremony (A’wee Chi’deedloh). According to Navajo national Jaclyn Roessel, “This whole ceremony is really meant to show the baby how we’re supposed to be as Diné, as very generous people.”
When I first learned about the tradition, I thought…naïvely so, that it could almost be viewed as a “punishment” for being the one that made the child laugh…depending on the financial status of the person or the size of the family that would be invited. Of course, that is silly. The Navajo people consider it an honor to be that one that brought the laughter. They become very special. I suppose it could almost be like becoming the child’s godparent. In the Navajo tradition, it goes deeper than that. The Navajo believe that newborn babies first live in the world of the Diyin Dine’e, the Holy People. Tradition has it that they stay in this temporary place before they can join their earthly families. As the tradition continues, the Diyin Dine’e are the first people, subjects of the most important myths and stories in Navajo culture. When a baby is first born, the Navajo believe the child lives among the Holy People, until the first time the baby laughs. The act of laughing is a sign the child is transitioning from the spirit world with the Diyin Dine’e and is ready to fully join his or her family in life. This might seem far-fetched, but many people believe that babies and children have the unique ability to see Jesus and the angels. In fact, in Christian belief, many people believe that these children, when they are seen specking to an “imaginary” friend, are actually speaking to Jesus or to their angels. The two beliefs are not really that different. I believe that the “holy people” are, in fact, Jesus and his angels.
Because of the significance that a baby’s first laugh holds in Navajo tradition, family members watch, wait, and listen intently to hear that first utterance of a giggle. Parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, and just about anyone who is close to the family will try their best to get that first laugh, from silly faces to tickles, and everything in between. I guess they have already planned fo any cost and are already planning the whole thing in their heads. Then, when that special time arrives, when that precious first laugh comes, it’s time to celebrate the journey to their earthly family and welcome this new life into the community with a Navajo First Laugh Ceremony!!
As a Christian, I can tell you that I believe in miracles. Nevertheless, I am still trying to wrap my mind around the awesomeness of God. Seriously, can any of us really wrap our mind around that? I think that the mind boggling, realization of the always loving God we serve is, never more prominent than when he reaches down, in our worst moment, and lifts us up, dries our eyes, and gives us instant peace.
That moment came for me on Sunday afternoon, October 14, 2018, in the Walmart parking lot on the east side of Casper, Wyoming at 4:45pm. Some things you never forget, although I might be a few minutes off on the exact time. My husband, Bob Schulenberg and I had just finished buying groceries, and had loaded them in the car. Bob took the cart back to the cart station, and I opened the car and started it. Then, I looked at my phone, because Bob is a very social man, and almost always finds someone to talk to, no matter where we are.
I then heard a man, I now know to be Sean Pesicka-Taggart saying, “Sir…Sir?” I looked back and saw him kneeling near the back of my car, but there was a pickup right behind me, and it appeared that they were talking, so I did not get out of my car. The pickup, that I now know was driven by a Wyoming Medical Center, Progressive Care Unit, cardiac care nurse…Ginger Sims, pulled around the corner very quickly, and I thought she must be mad. Before I had time to contemplate that thought, a man knocked on my window and asked, “Do you know this guy?” It occurred to me that “this guy” must be Bob, so I jumped out of my car and went to the back of the car. The scene that met me there was…horrifying!! There lay Bob, blood flowing from his head where he had hit the pavement. While that would have been enough to bring fear to my heart, one look at his face told an even worse story. His eyes were blank and his skin had started turning blue. It looked as if he was dead, and that was my first thought…”I’m going to lose him right here!!” Then, I jolted my mind back to fight mode, and got down next to him and began talking to him.
At this point, nurse Ginger was behind him with her stethoscope…who has their stethoscope when they are off duty?? Thankfully Ginger does. Because she didn’t see him fall, she thought he had been hit by a car. She asked him to take a deep breath and when he didn’t respond, she asked if he could hear her, while checking for a pulse. Upon finding no pulse, she immediately got him on his back and began CPR. Working alone for a while, a WMC transport worker, Laura Lance spelled her doing CPR. Then, Wyoming Medical Center, surgical nurse…Val Boycheva, who was a friend of Ginger’s came on the scene and they worked together. When they heard me say Bob’s name, they asked if I knew him. When I said that he was my husband, they asked me to do rescue breathing. I did it…with instruction. I don’t think I could have done it without them telling me what to do…I was far too shook up to think straight.
As the CPR was going on, Sean was on the phone getting an ambulance, and Ginger had already told her son to push the OnStar button to give the ambulance driver the exact location. When the ambulance arrived, they took over, and the police officer, also at the scene asked who I was. When I said I was his wife, he had me come over and give him some information. While doing that, the ambulance crew hooked Bob up to the Lucas Compression Devise, and when I turned around, it was engaged. If you have never seen the Lucas Compression Devise in action, all I can say is that it is a shock to watch…especially when it is on your loved one. The devise gives perfectly orchestrated compressions, so the ambulance crew can focus on other tasks. To the untrained spectator, it looks like those compressions are going from chest to pavement!! You can imagine breaking ribs and smashed organs, but in reality, while the ribs are cracked, the heart is simply given the right amount of compression to help sustain life. Bob was quickly prepared for the ride in the ambulance to the hospital where he received the best care available.
It was at this moment that Casper Fire Department firefighter, Jerod Levin, who is a friend of Bob’s from his time as Fire Department Mechanic for the City of Casper, saw me. He knew me as well, and immediately came to me and gave me the big hug that I desperately needed at that exact moment. For all firefighters…never underestimate the value of your hugs at an emergency medical scene. When the ambulance leaves with the love one, that person is left with serious emotions and doubts. Your hugs and encouraging words mean more than you will ever know. No matter what the outcome, those hugs and words of encouragement are vital. Jerod asked me if I wanted to ride in the ambulance, and I said that I did. He got me in, even holding my purse while I stepped in, then helped me get buckled, asked if he could call anyone for me, and if I wanted him to bring my car to the hospital. Talk about going above and beyond!! While en route to the hospital, Bob’s heart had to be shocked once, and when we arrived he was in full arrest. I didn’t know it at the time, but that almost always means bad news.
Bob was treated so quickly that it was almost shocking. He was taken for a CT scan of his head wound, and while there, the Cath Lab became available. He was taken directly up there, where he was met by two techs that he knew, because he has worked on their cars. Jon Cooke and Sam Cann made him feel comfortable and safe during the procedure. They determined where the blockage was, at which time they realized that he was going to survive the Widowmaker Heart Attack. A stent was placed and from the time he fell to the time the treatment was over was two hours. Two hours!! That is an amazingly short amount of time.
Unbeknownst to me, there was at least one person who saw what was going on and called her dad to have him pray with her over the man who fell in the Walmart parking lot. When I called my boss, Jim Stengel, he felt led to call his prayer partners, Donna and “Page” LePage to pray with them. The girl, Chelsea Kessler, who was with her husband Zachary, who called her dad was Page’s daughter, and they were praying as Donna and Jim prayed. It is my belief that nothing happens by chance in this world. God is always involved, and if people listen, they can find themselves in just the right place to be part of a miracle. The two nurses almost never shop at Walmart, and yet both were there on that day at that time. The young man who saw my husband fall immediately thought that if it were his grandfather, he would want someone to help him, so he acted. Each of these people acted in a way that put them becoming God’s hands on this earth. Bob had angels watching over him, and a family who pray for him all the time. When he had a need, God was there to meet the need, and His people, who hear His voice, did what He told them to do, and in the end they were a part of a miracle. In just under two days, Bob was released from the hospital, and his life goes on. Then I found out at church that another church member, Lori Desanti was also praying. Every prayer, and every player in this was necessary, and I want to thank each and every one of those people who helped us. We can never repay your kindness. And I give all praise to our Awesome God!!
Nineteen years ago today, I became a grandmother for the first time, when my daughter, Corrie, and her husband, Kevin Petersen gave me my first grandson, Chris Petersen. It was such an exciting time for me. It seemed like I had waited for this day for years. In reality, I was a young grandmother, not yet forty years old. Still, the wait for this little boy, and his cousin, seemed endless. Then suddenly, they were here and my world seemed so complete…until the rest of the grandbabies arrived anyway.
It seems impossible that so many years have passed so quickly and we are looking at a nineteen year old young man today. Chris is attending college in Sheridan, Wyoming studying the Culinary Arts, and plans to own his own restaurant someday. He is an excellent chef, who is the latest in a long line of chefs in his family. It is becoming quite a tradition, and one that Chris is proud to carry on into the next generation. College life takes Chris away from us for most of the school year, but thankfully he is still in Wyoming, and can come home on nice weekends. That doesn’t really make the rest of the time any easier on us, his family. We miss him very much. I am just thankful that his birthday fell on the weekend this year so he could come home to celebrate it on his day.
This birthday is even a little more special for Chris, since it was just two weeks ago that he had a car accident that could have been bad, but ended up good, in that all is well, and Chris is ok. We are beyond thankful that God’s angels had been given charge over Chris to keep him safe. While he was achy and bothered by recurring thoughts of the accident, he has no other ill side effects. The car was totaled, but it will be replaced. That is nothing really when compared to the life of my grandson. We will not dwell of the could have beens, because we know the reality of what was and is. Chris is still with us, and all is well. We rejoice in that fact. We praise God for His protection, and thank God for his life.
Chris is a young man with a healthy mix of responsibility and a fun sense of humor. He is a joy to be around. His kindness runs deep, as do his feelings. He is sensitive to the feelings of others, almost to a fault, but that is a trait that blesses us deeply. He will continue to grow into a great man, who will live up to his full potential. His love of the Lord has increased exponentially this past year as he has stepped into the position of Spiritual Head of his own life. He takes that responsibility very seriously, making sure that his spirit is fed and continuously growing. I am so very proud of the young man he has become. Today is Chris’ birthday. Happy birthday Chris!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you very much!!
Once a month or so, my cousins Susie and Shelley, hold a get together for my mom and her brothers and sisters and their spouses. My mom is the middle child of 9 children, so the ages are spread from 83 to 66. While all of them that are still with us are in good health, the fact that they are getting older means that there will be less years whereby they can get together, so I think it is a wonderful gift that my cousins are giving to them.
Susie and Shelley make a lunch for them and my mom, aunts, and uncles get a chance to talk about the old days. They reminisce about things they used to do, and laugh about the funny things. They talk about their parents and their sister, Deloris, who passed away in 1996, as well as other family members who have passed away. They talk about what is new in everyone’s lives…new babies, marriages, and sadly some divorces too. Basically, they have a chance to reconnect with each other in a relaxed setting, where none of them has to try to put it all together, because these two wonderful sisters, my cousins, handle all the details.
I sincerely hope that they know how much this monthly gathering means to their parents, aunts, and uncles, as well their cousins, because we all see how much our parents enjoy this time. It is just such a giving, selfless act on the part of my cousins, and whenever I hear about the things they talked about, it really warms my heart. As our parents get older, the time we have to do things for them gets shorter, and we are all so busy. Many of us work, and it is very hard to put the kind of time together that it takes to plan and carry out these gatherings. I want to make sure that credit is given where credit is due. I really appreciate my cousins taking the time out to do this. It means so much to my mom, as I know it does to the others too. Thank you Susie and Shelly for being the sweet angels you are. I hope you know how much you are appreciated. Love you both.