On November 13, my dad would have turned 60 years old, but he didn’t. Instead, he is buried near a tree alongside a creek in New Mexico, in the town that he loved. I did not get to see my dad turn 50, because he was taken away at just 48 years young after a year-long battle with multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer.
It has been 11 years since he journeyed into the spirit world, and although I think I am doing okay, I still cannot think of him without wanting to breakdown in tears.
My dad was a beautiful soul. In my Navajo culture, we have a saying, “Diné be at’eé adeen”, which means “this man has no faults”. That is how people regularly described my dad, Raymond, and it is a fitting tribute to the kind, loving, compassionate and hardworking man he was.
His work ethic was legendary—he rarely took sick leave, even when he needed rest. Although he would work 80+ hours a week as a department manager, he made sure to prioritize time with his family, often participating in ceremonies, and giving back to his people.
If you had a shovel in hand and you were digging into the ground, he would start working and digging alongside you. That is the true spirit of the Navajo philosophy of what it means to be industrious.
We are a people always in motion, with a belief that our shadows should not be still- and that is what my father embodied. For 20 years, he worked leading his department and was recognized as State Manager of the Year.
Through his hard work and dedication, my dad achieved his professional goals and had a career that he loved.
But no matter how busy life became, there was always prayer and song in our home, beginning with his daily pre-dawn rising and prayers to the gods.
Love in our home was constant- he was our biggest supporter and made time to attend our school events. Even when the ugly cancer was taking its toll on his body, he attended our college dinners and awards ceremonies. That is the father I love, remember and honor each day.
I look at my life now and I think I am doing okay for myself and my family. I thank my dad for instilling in me to work for the life that I want, and to always love, to be kind, and to forgive.
I miss you, dad. Happy birthday, shizhé’é.