by Wanda K. Frenchman
In my lifetime, I have never had to face death from a pandemic, as many of us haven’t. This event that we’ve lived through has been the darkest period of my life. We stopped our in-person Native American Urban Ministry worship gatherings for over a year. I self-isolated for months, which meant no work, no church, no pool playing, concert-going or traveling-things I feel are essential for my existence. Many of us didn’t gather with family or friends for a year or more. Babies were born, people got married, many funerals happened and still we stayed apart.
The one thing I didn’t stop doing however was praying. In fact, I found myself praying more than ever, now through Zoom meetings with fellow students and online worship groups instead of at church. Prayer brings a connection with God through the Holy Spirit. I wasn’t raised as a Lutheran, I was raised with my Lakota religion. This means when I face times of trial, I fall back on those ways, just as many Christians pick up their bibles. I don’t consider that my ways are any better but I find as much comfort in tying and offering prayer ties as I do in reading scripture.
I will burn cedar or sweetgrass, usually as I do my daily devotionals. These things bring me an explicable joy, one that I cannot describe. I am blessed to be able to have God in my life and the Creator of my ancestors. At one time, for my people, the Lakota, this wouldn’t have been possible. I am proud of my heritage and happy that I can have that with me on my journey into the Lutheran faith.
Living through Covid 19 has taught me not to take tomorrow for granted. I am embracing the things I missed while we quarantined. The lunch breaks with friends, seeing family that I put off even before the pandemic, saying yes to every breakfast/dinner/coffee get together, attending Bible study, playing pool, seeing concerts, and yes, even grocery shopping.
Do the things that you know bring you joy. Then do the things that you always wanted to do but didn’t take the time to do. Then do more! Try that yoga class, take those swim lessons, book that trip, take that class, write that article, learn a new language, dance every time you feel the urge, because if you’re reading this beloved, you survived. Learn to live again.
Wanda K. Frenchman is of the Oglala Lakota and Lenape tribes. She is one half of a set of twins and daughter to ELCA Pastor MaryLouise Frenchman. She is currently a Research Coordinator for the Strong Heart Study, one of the oldest and longest cardiac studies on Native American Health and a student at PLTS in the TEEM Program. She is the vicar for Native American Urban Ministry in Downtown Phoenix. Wanda has served on the Grand Canyon Synod WELCA Board from 2014 to 2021 and has started a Native WELCA Bible study group at NAUM. Her passions include playing competitive billiards, doing yoga, traveling again and attending Native American powwows.
This post is adapted from “After Resurrection: Learning to live again” by Wanda K. Frenchman from the May 2022 issue of Boldcafe.org. Today we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in United States.