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Reporter’s Notebook | A mother’s comfort: Signs from above


On a hot day a few years ago, I walked from Gallup toward Church Rock, New Mexico, sort of hitch-hiking.

Cars and pickups passed with a rush and the sun shone strong from a clear sky.

I stepped along the familiar highway and felt the familiar miles. Intense heat was not unexpected on this summer day. Neither was thirst.

I continued near Rehoboth, stepping in an easy rhythm on what is usually a two-hour walk.

I tried not to let my mouth and throat get too dry. This was nothing, I thought, since my ancestors walked long distances every day.

The midafternoon sun bore down bright with high heat. I looked above and saw a few bits of cloud.

No one stopped to give me a ride.

As I reached for the distance with each step, a sudden coolness enveloped me. I saw a small, round cloud that had floated to a position to shield me from the sun.

Elizabeth Beyal

It stayed, motionless, its small shadow protecting me from the heat and the sun’s fierce rays.

I paused and considered how the rest of the sky was clear except for a few scraps of cloud here and there.

Feeling an immense comfort, and a familiar helping hand, I thought, “Thank you, Mom.”

My mother, Elizabeth Beyal, passed away on Aug. 22, 2010. She was 76.


On an evening in July a few years ago, my granddaughter, Nisha, 5, and her grandmother left my apartment in Gallup after a few days stay.

As we loaded her stuff and she clambered into the car, I kept saying, “Be a good little girl” and “I’ll see you.”

As the car drove off, I could see her little hand as she waved goodbye. I waved back.

Then I walked the stairs to the second-floor walkway where I could see the car after it turned the corner and started down the hill. Her little hand still waved as I made a big wave with my arms.

Standing at the door of my apartment, I felt sad – more so than I had felt in a long time.

The sky was bright with yellow and orange color and rain clouds filled the view to the west and the sun was low.

I could feel Nisha’s absence and missed her voice and laughter.

I stood there for a minute when, all of a sudden, a hummingbird swooped up and hovered right in front of me.

It seemed to aim at my chest – my heart – as it buzzed, motionless in the amazing way these tiny birds fly.

It stayed an arm’s length away for a few seconds before buzzing off into the evening. I lost sight of it quickly.

Immediately I felt relief, warmth and calmness wash over me.

I looked into the sky with swirling colors and clouds and said, “Hello, Mom.


One evening I was driving along, my head filled with a difficult day’s issues, my face (I assume) stern and unyielding, holding fast to professional dogma in the face of human frailty.

In other words, a little upset.

The road was clear under a sky dappled with August rainclouds. As the sun got lower, colors erupted in smooth waves above.

At the side of one towering thunderhead, next to its giant tower of boiling cloud, I saw the beginning of a rainbow.

My little car rushed toward the east as I watched the rainbow form. It reached full color, arching in a half-circle on the right side of the thunderhead.

I smiled. The image brought once again the memory of my mother’s spirit. She always seems to send a sign when I am in need, feel sad or simply need an uplift.

As I watched the rainbow, the day’s events fell away and the feelings of freedom and contentment took their place.

I said, “Hi, mom. Thank you.”


And recently, as the gods answered our prayers for rain, I got up early and prepared for work.

My small coffee pot huffed and wheezed. Travel mug in hand, I walked out to the parking lot.

This early in the morning, a hint of the sun was in the east. Rain clouds rode the horizon, their cluttered masses creating a patchwork of color.

Through one opening appeared a bright star, about 40 degrees above the eastern horizon.

I stopped and prayed.

The coming day’s deadlines departed. My mind cleared. I smiled.

“Hi, mom,” I said. “Thank you.”

And on Monday, 12 years after the date of her death, I walked the Pyramid Peak trail in Church Rock, New Mexico.

I walk this trail whenever I can, usually two or three times a week. Besides exercise, it is a mind-clearing hike as you climb the hills up to the top.

On this day, the rain clouds gave me a break as the sky was clear above while around us here and there dark masses dropped veils and curtains of rain, transparent in the distance.

As I reached the top, walking the last steps, I could see the vast view of the world around. I walked to the very tip where a post is embedded. I say a prayer every time I arrive here.

Then I looked around at the distance and the earth basking in another of this year’s rare rainy seasons.

To the east, near Fort Wingate, a fresh rainfall had begun, its feathery fingers flowing from a thundercloud gently brushing the valley.

At about 6:20 p.m., as I watched, two rainbows began to form. If a full palette of moisture had been present, they would have formed two full arcs framing the eastern sky.

For once I was speechless. Two rainbows!

After a while, I began the walk down, my head filled with meaning and deep thought.

It was another sign, I am sure, that she is there, watching over us.

Ahéhee’, shimá.

About The Author

Duane A. Beyal

Duane Beyal was editor of The Navajo Times until retiring on Sept. 30, 2022.


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