Interlude: Swoop


In the dream I am a baby eagle.  I’ve fallen from my branchy abode and speed down toward a rocky grave.

This is it.  I am done.  In my carelessness I suppose I could’ve fallen?  Or maybe an eagle sibling shoved me out?  Did I jump?  How did I get here?  I can’t remember.  Either way, whatever the reason—deserved or not—it’s over.

I’m watching it from afar, but also very present in this little hatchling’s body.  The granite zooms closer as gravity hurls me to my demise.  But wait, what’s that?  A brown blur.

As it gains momentum I can see it’s my Mama Eagle, coming to the rescue.

I mumble: Too bad she won’t make it in time.  Why would she come and save me, anyway?  She doesn’t know whether I have earned this terror or not.  Save your energy, Mama Eagle, just let me go.

In her quickly-approaching eyes I see the answer:  Silly thing, I don’t need to know your circumstances or choices.  All I know is that you’re in trouble, and I will never let you reach those rocks.  

Moments before I splatter she swoops underneath my urine-soaked feathers & flesh and carries me back up the nest.

Ohhhh.  I exhale.  This is what Grace feels like.

This is the simultaneous gutting and glory of a being who’s chosen to trust in a Love that makes zero god-damn sense.  She didn’t care about my lifestyle choices, my religion, or the dreadful stories I counted as Truth.  All my Mama Eagle saw was a little thing, forgetful and perfect, in need of a some swooping.

How many times have I mumbled, too bad She won’t make it in time?  (See sister dying, dads leaving, mom hitting, marriage vows broken, chronic pain after bone marrow transplant, infertility, addiction nearly costing me the life of my son.)  At least seven, but probably closer to 300.

How many times have I hit the rocks?  Zero.


Swooping is God’s full-time job, and She is so Goodhardgood at it.

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Chapter 14: Ash

As Ellen neared the end of her life I made an oath. “When you wear one I wear one,” referring to the diapers she would soon require.  The day came, and it was as horrible as you could imagine.

“I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this,”  she slowly moan-mumbled.

My mom and I held her and cried with her; then we strapped the scratchy, absorbent nightmare onto her graying, atrophied, weary fourteen-year-old body.

I sat squarely in the Fuck You God camp, but Ellen still believed.  Probably more so, because eternity was coming closer and she smelled like death topped with glory shavings.  Her only fear was living away from Mama.

Abruptly, the sobbing stopped.

“Now it’s your turn Claire, oh Claire, oh Claire, oh Claire.”  In an interesting turn of events her voice synthesized into a weepier version of Julia Child’s.  She would get stuck like a skipping CD, moaning “oohhh” in front of certain words.  “Claire” was one of them.

So I stepped into the same nightmare she did, and did my best supermodel impersonations up and down the hall for her, as any 5’10” sixteen-year-old would do. Then a little diaper dance.

Her slow Julia Child laughter barrels down the brightly lit hallway, still.  I can see her bumpy head tilted back in that gray hospital bed.  A human heart never felt bigger than in that moment.  Our tears were transformed.

There’s this picture I took after one of the Malibu fires burned up the hills surrounding my neighborhood—charcoaled soil punctured by sharp green needles of grass.  For a moment the charred ground that brain cancer and impending death left behind suddenly burst alive with love and laughter.

Each cackle and joyful boogery snort punctured the darkness, allowing the solemn scene to morph into a comedy of verdant life and love.

It was here, at this moment, that I decided my Fuck You God stance wasn’t going to serve me so well in the coming month.  I knew I would die in some way, too.  If she trusted Jesus with her bumpy life, maybe I could cling to the same Divine Love that Ellen knew so completely?

Could something be both Good and Hard at the same time?  Can God exist as Good and Hard at the same time?  Do Good and Hard even really exist?  Does anything matter anymore?  Because I’m about to watch my sister die in the back bedroom of my house and I want to pummel the pause button.



Oh Claire oh Claire oh Claire oh Claire.  I can hear it still.

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