Every so often a story comes to me in an email that I feel compelled to share. The last time this happened was when someone forwarded an email to me called “Hope in Japan” about how many of the residents of the city of Sendai were sharing everything they had following the recent earthquake.
The other day I received an email called “An Eagle Kissed by God.” I have copied the story below. One of the reasons this email touched me in such a powerful way is because Jeff, the story’s narrator, battled cancer and won, with the help of this healing eagle. In a very real way an eagle also helped me to overcome cancer, albeit in a different way.
Stories Are Our Life-Line and Strength in Difficult Times
Eight and a half years ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I asked my friend
Artemesia, who is a trained healer, if she would do a meditation journey for me to find out as much as she could about my current situation. At the time, I had an enormous tumor in my left breast and while I didn’t believe I was going to die, I was scared, shocked and feeling like I really needed some guidance.
When Artemesia journeyed for me, she had a vision that she described as one of the most vivid experiences she’d ever had during a healing meditation. She saw the two of us walking together in the Underworld. There we were met by a woman dressed in deep purple, a kind of guide, who took us to the edge of a very high cliff. Far, far below, stretching all the way to the horizon, was a preternaturally beautiful rainforest. As we were gazing out at all this beauty, all of a sudden the cliff began to crumble. The woman grabbed Artemesia and pulled her back, but I lost my balance and plummeted downward.
However, as I was in freefall, Artemsia saw me shape-shift into an eagle, and soar out
over the magnificent rainforest. As she watched, I rotated my body 180 degrees and began flying upside down, “as if the earth had become the sky and the sky the earth.” The woman in purple told Artemesia that getting cancer was a choice I’d made before I was even born so that I could undergo a life transformation. With this illness, I was embarking on a journey where my perspective on my life’s purpose and everything I thought I knew was going to undergo a radical shift. But she assured Artemesia that I was going to beat the cancer and live, and that I would most certainly be all right.
I can’t begin to tell you how much this message meant to me. Hearing that I was not a victim and that I had chosen this illness for a higher purpose, in order to learn, grow, and help other people face their own suffering changed everything for me. This story gave me courage and faith that I had not fallen into chaos, but was following a path Divinely laid out at my feet in order to become a better and more loving human being. I was not a helpless sick person, but a radiant warrior standing in the light. My suffering at that moment became our collective suffering, and what I was undergoing and learning became, for me, part of our collective healing.
I gained a very important lesson from this: When we are ill or facing tragedy, one of the single most important things we need to do is to find a new perspective, an empowering story that enables us to make sense of our terrible hardship. As Leslie Marmon Silko says in her book Ceremony:
I will tell you something about stories,
They aren’t just entertainment,
Don’t be fooled,
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off
illness and death,
You don’t have anything
without the stories….
Eagles are amazing birds. This spring and summer, via the live nest-cams, I watched several Catalina Island eaglets hatch, be lovingly cared for and taught by their parents, and fledge from the nest. While hummingbirds take three weeks to fledge, eaglets take three months, so there is time to watch their lives unfold within the power of Nature and
deep nurture. One day, after weeks of practice and encouragement from their parents, they suddenly take to the skies. No wonder America has made the eagle a symbol of its nation and that so many Native American tribes see the eagle as one of the most powerful and sacred birds. There is nothing like an eagle.
So, because the story below about Jeff and Freedom the Eagle deeply touched my heart, I want to pass it on to you.
An Eagle Touched By God
“Freedom and I have been together 13 years this summer. She came in as a baby in 1998
with two broken wings. Her left wing doesn’t open all the way even after surgery. It was broken in 4 places. She’s my baby.
“When Freedom came in she could not stand. She was emaciated and covered in lice. We made the decision to give her a chance at life, so I took her to the vet’s office. From then on, I was always around her. We had her in a huge dog carrier with the top off, and it was loaded up with shredded newspaper for her to lie in. I used to sit and talk to her, urging her to live, to fight; and she would lie there looking at me with those big brown eyes. We also had to tube feed her for weeks.
“This went on for 4-6 weeks, and by then she still couldn’t stand. It got to the point where the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldn’t stand in a week. You know you don’t want to cross that line between torture and rehab, and it looked like death was winning. She was going to be put down that Friday, and I was supposed to come in on that Thursday afternoon. I didn’t want to go to the center that Thursday because I couldn’t bear the thought of her being euthanized; but I went anyway, and when I walked in everyone was grinning from ear to ear. I went immediately back to her cage; and there she was, standing on her own, a big beautiful eagle. She was ready to live. I was just about in tears by then. That was a very good day.
“We knew she could never fly, so the director asked me to glove train her. I got her used to the glove and then to jesses, and we started doing education programs for schools in western Washington. We wound up in the newspapers, radio (believe it or not), and some TV. Miracle Pets even did a show about us.
“In the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I had stage 3, which is not good (one major organ plus everywhere; so I wound up doing 8 months of chemo. Lost the hair – the whole bit. I missed a lot of work. When I felt good enough,
I would go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks. Freedom would also come to me in my dreams and help me fight the cancer. This happened time and time again.
“Fast forward to November 2000, the day after Thanksgiving. I went in for my last checkup. I was told that if the cancer was not all gone after 8 rounds of chemo, then my last option was a stem cell transplant. Anyway, they did the tests; and I had to come back Monday for the results. I went in Monday, and I was told that all the cancer was gone.
“So the first thing I did was get up to Sarvey and take the big girl out for a walk. It was misty and cold. I went to her flight and jessed her up, and we went out front to the top of the hill. I hadn’t said a word to Freedom, but somehow she knew. She looked at me and wrapped both her wings around me to where I could feel them pressing in on my back (I was engulfed in eagle wings), and she touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes; and we just stood there like that for I don’t know how long. That was a magic moment. We have been soul mates ever since she came in. This is a very special bird.
“On a side note: I have had people who were sick come up to us when we are out, and Freedom has some kind of hold on them. I once had a guy who was terminal come up to us, and I let him hold her. His knees just about buckled, and he swore he could feel her power course through his body. I have so many stories like that.
“I never forget the honor I have of being so close to such a magnificent spirit as Freedom.
“Hope you enjoy this! May God Bless You All.”
But they that wait upon the Lord
shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.”