by Sasha M Araba (Navajo)
Student, Associate of Science in Public Health
I come from a long line of strong and independent women. Growing up, I was taught at an early age that what you put out into this world is what you get in return. My great-grandmother, the late Mable Bia was a humble woman. She was kindhearted, wise, and always knew the right thing to say. She was who we all aspired to be. She was the rock and leader of our family. Her smile could light up any room with her infectious laughter. Her lessons and wise words molded me into the woman I am today.
Growing up, Grandma Mable smelled of baby powder and freshly baked bread. Sometimes, when I visit her home, I can still smell grandma’s bread, hear her voice, and the echoes of laughter. Her home holds all the memories of my childhood. Grandma’s house will always be a time capsule. I can always come to reminisce and escape the reality of adulthood.
Grandma Mable was gracious enough to teach us in the same way that she was taught – she believed generational knowledge was meant to be passed down, from me to my children. She taught us to be self-sufficient and that hard work pays off. Every harvest, my family got to eat and share the reward of grandma’s hard work. Grandma Mable’s happiness and joyful life are just another example of how important hard work and self-sufficiency are.
My grandma Mable was an extraordinary woman. She always led by example. Up until I was in high school, my grandma would tend to her garden and her fields down in Canyon De Chelly. She showed us how resilience can feed yourself and your family. Mable’s generosity knew no bounds. She was well known in our community for giving part of her harvest to our neighbors. Grandma would help butcher with her kids,= and teach me and my cousins how to make kneel-down bread. She was the best teacher. Watching her cook various foods and learning step-by-step how to recreate her recipes made it very easy to learn from her. Her patience and willingness to help made her an exceptional teacher.
Grandma did her best to pass on her knowledge. There were no wrong questions with Grandma. She would make sure you understood whether we were learning to butcher or learning to weave. Grandma Mable’s work ethic and green thumb made me want to work hard and continue tending the fields. She inspired me to be strong, resilient, and humble.
Grandma’s lessons were always about life. She would say, “If you want to succeed in life, it is up to you to work hard.” That is something she instilled in us, hard work. She would always tell us to “remain humble and kind… Help others and they will help you someday.” And my favorite, “Always give to those in need. You never know who is an angel in disguise.”
Even after all these years, Grandma Mabel’s wise words remain with me.
Looking back at my life, I realize how blessed I am to have learned from such an amazing person. Although I find it hard to be as kind and patient as Grandma, her example of what a good mother, person, and woman looked like inspires me to continue to be better.
Although life has many challenges, Grandma Mable’s strength and wisdom to embrace those challenges made her stronger. Grandma lost her husband, the late Ned Bia in the middle of her life, and even though it was hard, she raised her nine kids and thirty-three grandkids. Watching her carry herself with grace and strength made me realize that even in death, our loved ones are still here, teaching, guiding, and supporting us.
I hope one day I can look back at my life and say, “I was humble, kind, and lived unapologetically like my grandma Mable.” Her life will forever be an inspiration and an example of who I aspire to be. Now that I am a mother, I find comfort in knowing she’s looking down on me and guiding me. I only hope my children and grandchildren will continue Grandma’s kindhearted and loving ways.
Thank you, Grandma, for all you have done for me until we meet again.
Read more from the Elder Story Series here.
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