Archive for January 15th, 2008

The Wounded Eagle

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Twelve years ago I took my oldest daughter backpacking to Coyote Gulch out on the Hole in the Rock Road. She was home on break from her freshman year at Cornel University. She had said that all she wanted for Christmas was a trip to the desert so we went.
As we bumped down the dirt road I saw what appeared to be two figures standing on the side of the road ahead. As we came along side of them I could see that they were two Golden Eagles. It is odd to be able to get close to these birds. As we came to a stop we were maybe 10 or twelve feet from them. I carefully opened the car door and got out. They still didn’t move. Looking at them closely I could see that one had a gash on its breast bone and was dripping blood onto the ground at its feet. I took a step closer and the one that was not hurt flew off to the south. The wounded eagle puffed him self up and tried to look menacing. I took a couple of more steps toward him and he jumped up and spread his wings, flying off to the east.
As Louisa and I drove on down to out trail head we remarked on how strange that had been.
We enjoyed a great hiking trip and returned home where she prepared for her journey back to New York for school.
A few days later I got a call from one of my sisters telling me that my father had suffered a mild heart attack and was in the hospital in Joplin,MO awaiting bypass surgery. It was too late to call him so I retired to bed. During the night I had a very vivid dream in which I saw a man dressed in white enter a small room with a bed with a lamp next to it on a stand. The man in white was carrying a person over his shoulder who he lowered onto the bed. The person he carried was dressed in a hospital gown and I recognized him as my father. After he as laid on the bed the man in white left and I looked at my father lying there. He looked small to me. As I looked at him he groaned and began to roll off of the bed. I leaped forward to catch him. As I lifted him back onto the bed our eyes met in a very intense gaze. He looked very small and frail. It was then that I noticed a line of blood soaking through his gown down the length of his sternum. As I observed this wound I awoke in a rather emotional state.
It was morning so I called my sister and asked her for the phone number of my father’s hospital room. When I reached him he was being prepared to go into surgery so we only had a few moments to talk. I could tell he was afraid. He had never had major surgery before. He said, “Son, they are going to butcher me.”
I had watched him butcher beef and venison many times as a boy growing up, his arms red to the elbows pulling steaming organs from the body cavity. I was fascinated with this work of taking apart God’s creatures so we could eat. He would talk to me a bout the function of each part. I never wondered about where meat came from or what its cost was.
He had seven bypasses performed that day. The heart attack had not damaged his heart muscle and the surgeon said the days work would buy him ten more years if he was lucky.
I called Louisa and told her about the heart attack, the dream and the surgery. She observed that the blood on the gown in the dream was just like the wounded eagle we had seen on the road in the Escalante desert. I had not made that connection. That evening I talked with my friend Forrest Cuch, a full blood Ute, who told me that anytime those big birds come that close to you it is to give you a message from the Creator about what is going on in your life. It seem that was the case that day on the road to Coyote Gulch.
The wounded eagle had flown off to the east rather than the west. East is the direction of life, the west road is the way to death. Dad was given ten more years with his rewired heart. It has been twelve and the reaper is back. Dad is in the ICU at a hospital in Joplin. This time there will be no surgery just drugs to keep his blood pressure up and to keep him sedated so his strength will be saved fro his weak heart and lungs. He is walking down the west road. As he waited for the ambulance to come to his home on Saturday he told my mother that he is ready to go to that other place now. He had just come in from a walk and felt poor. He knew it was time. He is 85 and has had a good life.