For The Love Of Carrie Harjo
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For The Love Of Carrie Harjo
Stephen A. Peterson
Carrie Harjo was 13 years old when Alicia Monaghan met her at Boy Scout Park in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Alicia walked a distance of 7 blocks whenever she felt the world beginning to close in on her. On this day, Carrie was sitting on a concrete table reading a book. When Alicia arrived, Carrie looked up with her dark brown eyes and long shiny black hair glittering against the back drop of the noonday Oklahoma sun.
“Hello,” she said.
Alicia responded with a half-hearted nod as she was in no mood to interact with a teenage Native American girl.
“I’m reading about Jesus Christ,” said Carrie boldly.
“Oh, yeah. What did you learn or find out?” Alicia asked.
“I learned that God is love and that Jesus wants us to be happy and not live in fear and uncertainty,” responded Carrie.
“Okay. That’s nice,” as Alicia sat down on the hard bench next to the youth.
An eagle flew over the canopy of the blackjack oak of the park then landed and perched on one of the trees.
“On Eagle’s Wings. According to my religious education teacher and granny, the eagle is strong, brave, wise and will protect its own,” Carrie stated with excitement and conviction.
“On Eagle’s Wings. You know Psalm 91. The Eagle—Bravery, strength, wisdom, protection. The eagle is also part of my culture! I’m Seminole! I’m proud to be a Seminole! I’m a Christian too! I’m a child of God! I’m so happy to see the eagle! Maybe it will leave us a feather! If it leaves us a feather, it will leave us its strength!” responded Carrie.
The eagle bounced up to fly high above the park. When it did a feather was released but settled in a tree. “Bye, bye Mr. Eagle! Bye, refuge and strength! Did you know, Miss, that the eagle is the spirit of God?”
“Yeah, right!” thought Alicia to herself. “Welcome ignorance, superstition, bigots, closed minded Christian people.” Alicia was down on the world this day.
“Say lady. What’s your name? Do you know Jesus loves you?” Carrie would not stop talking about Jesus and the joy this teenage girl had about her person.
Alicia answered: “My name is Alicia Monaghan.”
“Nice to know you Miss Alicia Monaghan. My name is Carrie Harjo. I’m a child of God!”
“Nice to know you Carrie Harjo, child of God. I am Mrs. Alicia Monaghan. I have a husband.”
Carrie smiled: “Mrs. Monaghan, I think you’re a nice lady. Can I be your friend?”
“Well, yes! I guess so. That would be nice!” I have to go now but take care of yourself, Carrie Harjo, child of God, okay”
“Sure. I will Mrs. Monaghan. We’ll have another great and beautiful tomorrow,” promised Carrie.
Weeks passed before Alicia visited Boy Scout Park again. On another sunny, very hot Oklahoma day, Alicia walked sadly to Boy Scout Park. “Man, I need the wings of an eagle,” said Alicia to herself. “Oh, now I’m thinking and talking like that teenage, Indian girl! God! There ain’t no God! I don’t need no God. I need a tree and a cold drink. That’s what I need.” Trying to gather herself to recapture her train of thought for her own positive state of mind, Alicia sat down having forgotten about Carrie only until she had made her presence known.
“Hi, Mrs. Monaghan! How are ya doin? Wanna talk?”
“Sure. What do you want to talk about?” asked Alicia.
“I don’t know. What do you like to talk about?” responded Carrie.
“Well, how old are you Carrie?”
“13. 13 years old” she responded
“Where do you live?”
“Over there.” She pointed in the direction of an older house right across the street from the park on Pesotum Street.
Alicia and Carrie began talking about their favorite things—ice cream, French fries, hamburgers, pepperoni pizza and tacos. Alicia came to learn that she and this absolutely beautiful looking Native American girl had quite a bit in common even though Alicia was a little more than twice her age. After about two and a half hour girl to girl talk, Alicia felt good about herself and her talk with the younger Carrie Harjo. There was something special about this teen but she could not determine what it was.
Two weeks passed. Once again, Alicia took her walk through Boy Scout Park. She was in no mood to discuss anything with anyone least of all to an inquisitive teenage girl.
“Hi. Mrs. Monaghan! How are ya doin!”
“Not so good! Well, if you have to know my husband divorced me. That evil, scum of a man left me for another woman. She was a little younger supposedly more beautiful than I am,” Alicia responded angrily seemingly annoyed by Carrie for asking the question. “I have to go! Just leave me alone! Leave me alone, you brat! Don’t you have anything better to do than bother me? And don’t you talk to me about how God loves me! There ain’t no God!! You hear me! There ain’t no God! Why would he let me suffer like this!”
“Mrs. Monaghan, God does love you. He will help you get through this. Just look to Him.”
“God! Where is God when you need Him or It? There ain’t no God! If there is, He’s absent! Where was God when my husband was abusing me mentally and physically. Where was God when my husband spent our last money on lottery tickets or for drugs and alcohol? Where was God when I’ve gone for days without food and a place to stay? Where was God? Huh? Can you answer?” shouted Alicia.
“I’m so sorry.” Responded Carrie. “I’ll pray for you, Mrs. Monaghan. God will help you. I know He will.”
“Yeah, right! Let, me tell you this right now, you little twerp, THERE AIN’T NO GOD!” Alicia angrily stated than walked away in the direction of her house 7 blocks away.
Three months passed. Alicia walked towards Boy Scout Park on a warm November afternoon two weeks before Thanksgiving. Sitting on a park bench, Alicia expected the 13 year old Carrie Harjo to appear. Feeling guilty and ashamed for having shouted at Carrie, Alicia sat rehearsing over and over again the speech she planned to make to her. How do you apologize to this kind girl who listened to me when I was going through a divorce? She didn’t cause my divorce. She never said an evil word to me. Gosh, I just could stand her talking about God!”
Alicia sat on a park bench for an hour. Carrie never appeared. Hesitant Alicia got up then slowly walked across the street to face Carrie and apologize for her behavior. She hoped that Carrie would be her friend again once she faced her in a repentant manner. Reaching her house, Alicia took a deep breath then knocked softly on the door. “Hell, Miss Harjo. My name is Alicia Monaghan. I’m a friend of Carrie. May I speak to Carrie with your permission? Please!”
“Ah, yes! Mrs. Monaghan. Yes, Carrie told me about you! She said you are a nice, beautiful, friendly woman. She is right,.” said Carrie’s grandmother.
“Can I apologize to Carrie Miss Harjo?” responded Alicia in a low tone of voice. She is one of kindest teens I’ve ever known. She is an absolutely beautiful girl. I said some pretty mean things to her following my divorce. I was very angry when I talked to her about three months ago. I’m sorry Miss Harjo. Now can I apologize to her?”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible, Mrs. Monaghan.”
“Why? Why not?”
“Carrie died a month ago. She had HIV—AIDS . You mean she never said anything to you about that?”
Alicia sat stunned and unable to say a word. Tears began streaming down her checks.
Mrs. Monaghan, Carrie knew she was dying but you would never know it. She loved God and loved people, too. I’m her grandmother. Her mother and father have died already. My daughter, her mother, died 8 years ago abusing drugs. Carrie was only 5 at the time. Her father died violently in a gun fight two years before her mother. Carrie’s mother gave her AIDS. She had HIV when she was born. Carrie was always full of happiness and joy in spite of everything she has gone through. She was a remarkable child. Mrs. Monaghan, Carrie knew you would come back some day to see her. She left me this letter to give to you.”
Carrie’s grandmother handed Alicia a bright white envelop with the printed word “ALICIA” printed in blue ink. Opening the envelop, she found a single 8 ½” X 11” blue-lined paper:
God loves you, Mrs. Alicia!
And He will raise you up on Eagle’s Wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His hand.
Alicia now cried uncontrollably. “Miss Harjo, I miss your granddaughter. I will never forget her.”
“Mrs. Alicia it is not about Carrie but about Jesus whom she loved unconditionally. It was her prayer that you not be said because she is in perfect happiness with her Lord, her God. She was very concerned that you come to know the Lord as she did and I do. I will pray for you, Mrs. Monaghan. I am rejoicing that Carrie is with the Lord and you should too!”
“Miss Harjo I angrily told Carrie that there is no God. I still believe there is no God. Why would God let people suffer so much? Why? I don’t understand.”
“Mrs. Monaghan I do not know the mind of God. But Father gave His Son to suffer and die. Because Jesus suffered and died does that mean that the Father hated His Son? I don’t know why I, Carrie or you suffer. But God is not angry with us nor is suffering because we are evil or bad. But I believe in my heart that Carrie is happy and smiling on you and me in Jesus’ arms. That is what she is telling you right now. Believe, Mrs. Monaghan, believe! Carrie is absolutely happy! She will suffer no more!”
Stunned Alicia left Carrie’s grandmother’s home a changed woman. Given a small color picture of a smiling Carrie Harjo. Alicia placed the teenage girl’s letter and picture in a frame of gold. Alicia, shortly, came to recognize the unconditional love of God. An invaluable gift from a Native American, teenage, girl was given Alicia of eternal life flown “On Eagle’s Wings”.
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Your story says many meaningful things. I can't help but think of Romans 8:28 where he says "all things work together for good to them that love the Lord." I have seen many times that the Lord is able to take sadness and tragedy and bring beauty and grace in the results. Thanks for sharing.
Bravo, Carrie! Bravo! This is one of many reasons I dislike writing about many tragic events in my life, because God's love is so fulfilling and gracious that it's all I want to share. But like with Carrie, it is oftentimes the tragedy in our lives and our trust in the Lord throughout them all that ministers to people most. It brings hope and light to people who've lost hope and whose lives are filled with darkness. Wonderful, most encouraging story. Bravo to you too! And bravo to the Lord who has our names written in the Lamb's Book of Life!!!