All sable and sleekit, the raven was perched upon my mount today as I did leave to toil.  He mocked me with his open eye and cawed as he took flight. I tried to dismiss it as I threaded among the behemoths of the perimeter for advance toward the battle which awaited.  An old crow wouldn’t slow me down.

The first call of any day sets the tone, and we were posted to the nearest hospital for a brief moment before receiving an out of town call for transport to hospice. Our destination was a small place near SC I had heard of but never visited, named for an ancestor, whose grandfather, an Englishman from Ireland, had established one of the early indigo plantations in Charlestown, Carolina. My paternal great grandfather had ran away from his family more than a century ago and never returned, though my grandmother, his daughter in law, referred to it occasionally, and my father’s oldest brother, Joe, my last remaining uncle, had once spent a weekend there. And I still could not shake that old crow. He was waiting for me at the hospital doors, one beady eye and a tremulous screech.

We found our patient underneath a mask, a non-rebreather, on 15 liters per minute of oxygen.  For comparison, if an RN sees fit to put you on oxygen immediately, she will put you on 2 liters via nasal cannula.  She was swollen, edemous, and completely unresponsive to the most noxious stimuli. Her daughters and son were with her in those final moments before we loaded her, and her oldest daughter followed along for the whole ride.  Nothing was in our favor.  Her heart rate was elevated, her blood pressure down.  It took all my skill to keep her oxygen levels remotely acceptable.  She had long suffered from a rare vascular disease that only recently became impossible to resist, leaking serum into her interstitial spaces, leading to the acute congestive heart failure I found her experiencing.  The same death my father experienced, and his twin brother too.  The death I feared most of all.  And if I closed my eyes, all I could see was that same old crow, mocking me all the morn.

It was 2 hours to our destination.  Her daughter rode in the cab, but several times I thought I’d be screaming for my partner to stop, so I could bring her back with me.  Her mother was a DNR/DNI (Do.Not.Resucitate) and, at any moment, that life would slip beyond my grasp. Many EMTs love DNRs; less work.  Me?  I hate having my hands tied, my options limited; forced to share a compartment with the dying, when I have the knowledge and equipment to force them to live, God willing.  They say DNRs are easier, less work.  I find if you take seriously the calling to preserve life, DNRs are so much harder.  It’s the difference between the rhythm of a miner’s hammer and a maestro’s baton.
But we made it to our destination, with no stops. No wailing. No gnashing but my own.  We transferred her gently to a hospice bed, reported to the nurses, got our signatures and slinked away, knowing we had done our best but that this light would very soon extinguish.  I was distracted but my partner engaged the staff while I gave report.  He later told me all that remains of my ancestors’ memory is a country club.  The doctor at hospice called it a “Gem of the South”. High praise with Augusta not 45 minutes away. And as I burst through those doors into the dying light, my old friend was there on the bumper.

“Loser! Git on outta here!”

“CAAW!!!” and I was alone in a ruffle of ebony feather.

I had a chicken sandwich with a new friend I had recently made who lived nearby.  We talked.  I asked him for prayer for my patient. He asked prayers for his family. And we parted.  I had cheated death, that old crow, and made a fast friend to boot!  The rest of the shift passed in a pleasant blur, like a heroin addict before he realises he is hungry and constipated.  And morning came, and I returned to my own life.  I checked my voicemail and heard my sister’s voice, that voice of strength and power which runs our whole family, so reassuring…

“Uncle Joe had another stroke and died tonight in Houston…”

This is the most delicious dessert in the world! I can, and have, make myself sick on these. We used muscadine juice at home, but Welch’s concord grape is a passable substitute.

Mix 2cups flour, 3t soda, 4t sugar and 1/2t salt in a bowl. Cut in 2T lard or shortening. Mix in 1cup grape juice. Roll dough in your hands and break off peices about the size of big grapes.

Drop them in a pan of boiling grape juice and boil 10 minutes or so.

If you can make chicken dumplings, grape dumplings are a snap!  Granny said long ago we used the innards of cattails instead of flour.  And homemade muscadine juice is pulpy, but like I said, I use Welch’s when I just want some comfort food.  These and a grilled cheese made with block american and oleo, and I am consoled for days.  Or some frybread.

Tonight, tomorrow night, and the night after, the Orionids will be visiting us.

Go outside after midnight and look up. Be patient and you will see a shooting star, and then another, and then a ton more. 

They will be heaviest tomorrow night/Sunday morning, but if there is cloud cover, and if you live in a well-lit place, it will affect your experience.  I am decamping down south of Atlanta to the land of the Creek, where there is less light. I’ll spread a few quilts, lie back and eat grape dumplings and watch the stars streak across the heavens.

I am working on a post related to this experience, so stay tuned.

And happy viewing!

One question I often hear is,”Are you Chickamauga or Cherokee?  You say one and then the other, sometimes in the same breath!”

The simple answer is that there is no difference.  This isn’t entirely accurate, but it usually satisfies the questioner.  For the longer answer, the eye must turn far back over the shoulder, down the road we’ve already walked…

Before the war that you call French and Indian, and that Europeans call the Seven Years, Cherokee were one people, against the Creeks and Tuscarora, Shawnee and Osage, French and English and Spanish.  But as our enemies made friends with the French, and were given guns and powder and hatchets and many fine things, we found it difficult to defend our hunting grounds using the old weapons, the arrow and the war club.

And so we made friends with the English, and they sent us guns and powder and many fine things too.  And in return, they asked us to simply do as we always had done, fight our enemies.  But they asked us to do it according to their needs and their timing.  And had we done so, it would leave our women and children open to attack.  And so a deal was struck whereby the Great Father across the Sea would send us Red Coats to defend our people, while we fought their enemies.  And so the walls of London were built just outside the walls of our Peace city, Chota, center of the universe.

But the Englishmen on our eastern border, while claiming to be loyal to the Great Father of the English, would not do his bidding.  And so when, returning victorious from war against your enemies, we requisitioned a few horses, as we had been instructed to do if need arose, 13 of our warriors were killed by rabble-rouses, what you call ‘militia’.  This upset the balance between our peoples, and so we did the civilised thing and killed the first 13 Englishmen we came across.

Civilised people would accept this loss as justice, but you did not.  You killed even more of us, men, women and children. And so Adg’Nstata and Adg’Kala led many warriors on the path we call the War against the Red Coats, and we slaughtered nearly every soldier within the walls of London, and starved the rest until they ran away.

But at London was one great man, the second in command of the Red Coats, John Stuart.  He was also a great Cherokee, adopted by Adg’Kala and named Bushyhead.  He was instrumental in negotiating peace between our Nation and the Englishmen, both Virginian and Carolinian, separately.  He was always thereafter separated from us by distance, working across the sea on our behalf before the Great Father. But he stayed loyal to the people he loved.  And so peace came and the War against the Red Coats ended, with the command from the Great Father that his Red children would always and forever hold the land God had given us, our beloved mountains and caves, and that his White children would always live between us and where the Sun began her journey across the Great Vault each day, never to enter our mountains, on pain of death.  And so peace was held.  We dispensed the Great Father’s justice to a few outlaws who would not abide by his words, and began moving toward the house of the daughter of the Sun, that is to say westward from the east.
But the Englishmen in Virginia and Carolina, especially Carolina, were dissatisfied and began to grumble.  And soon, they were like the parakeets which used to block out the sun for days, swarming into our mountains, burning down trees and building houses and fields foreign to us.  And Adg’Kala appealed to Bushyhead, but Bushyhead was powerless.  He said the Great Father had many wicked children in Virginia and Carolina who would not act as Englishmen ought any longer.  These men, he said, were revolting.  And it is true.  They did not bathe, they drank the whisgy until they could not stand, and they killed the game and trampled the berries with no care in the world.  They were very revolting. But he sent us another good and loyal Englishman, Alexander Cameron, who was adopted by Tsiyu Gansini as a brother, and so I count him as an ancestor by the name Scotchee.

But Adg’Kala, being a peace chief, a diplomat, stayed the hand of my people and many Cherokee opposed him.  He signed treaty after treaty, giving up more and more of our hunting grounds, until finally we were asked to give up Kaintuckee, the Great Hunting ground of All, where no man could live, but all men could hunt, Cherokee and Shawnee and Iroquois alike.  At this last treaty, his son, my ancestor Tsiyu Gansini, opposed him manfully.  I cannot do justice to his words, but they were recorded by Scotchee in English:

“Whole Indian Nations have melted away like snowballs in the sun before the white man’s advance. They leave scarcely a name of our people except those wrongly recorded by their destroyers. Where are the Delewares? They have been reduced to a mere shadow of their former greatness. We had hoped that the white men would not be willing to travel beyond the mountains. Now that hope is gone. They have passed the mountains, and have settled upon Tsalagi land. They wish to have that usurpation sanctioned by treaty. When that is gained, the same encroaching spirit will lead them upon other land of the Tsalagi. New cessions will be asked. Finally the whole country, which the Tsalagi and their fathers have so long occupied, will be demanded, and the remnant of the Ani Yvwiya, The Real People, once so great and formidable, will be compelled to seek refuge in some distant wilderness. There they will be permitted to stay only a short while, until they again behold the advancing banners of the same greedy host. Not being able to point out any further retreat for the miserable Tsalagi, the extinction of the whole race will be proclaimed. Should we not therefore run all risks, and incur all consequences, rather than to submit to further loss of our country? Such treaties may be alright for men who are too old to hunt or fight. As for me, I have my young warriors about me. We will hold our land.”

And this is the beginning of my people, the Chickamauga.  For many years, with the help of Bushyhead and Scotchee, with supplies from our Great Father across the Sea, we fought.  We were only a few families at first, Mostly Red Paint and Wolf.  But we were successful!  Tsiyu Gansini once said, “We have never lost any of our land through war.  All our losses have been by the peace path.” And though most Cherokee, and all our great leaders of that time were allied against us, revolting Englishmen are their own worst enemies.  And as depredation after depredation were visited on peaceful Cherokee who always protested that they were NOT Chickamauga, our numbers swelled until we were very nearly the whole of the Cherokee people, and the peacemakers were left with no one to lead.

And because Tsiyu Gansini saw a vision from the Great Father of All, sent to him in a trance, that all Red Men were brothers, our numbers swelled even further as our enemies from the beginning of time began to join us against those who would wipe us from the land of our ancestors.  Creek and Catawba, Seneca and Shawnee, we were many.  Every man and woman followed the ways of their own people, but in defense and in war, we were one people, living and working together, building a new way to be Indian.  This second war against the English, Dragging Canoe’s war, would last for decades. During this time, some Shawnee came to live among us. Included in their number were 3 brothers, the younger two mere boys, Lalewithika and Tecumseh.  Tecumseh, the Leaping Jaguar, learned to be a man in the shadow of Tsiyu Gansini, who was like his uncle.  His own people were patrilineal, so he saw him as a father.  We are matrilineal, and so Tsiyu Gansini diligently served as his uncle.

One night, in 1792, on land now drowned by your hydroelectric dams, Tsiyu Gansini dropped dead in the glow of the firelight, dancing in celebration of the success of the diplomatic mission sent south to the Creeks, chewing between his teeth the fresh scalp of an enemy.  White medicine describes this event as a cerebrovascular hemorrhage, but it is enough to say the Great Father smiled on him and beckoned him to Him.

Within two years of his death, Chickamauga were dispersing, with some moving to Arkansas, some to Mexico, some moving a bit south to live among the Red Stick Creek.  Many stayed and were reunited with the rest of the Cherokee nation proper, actually leading the Cherokee until the revolt of the Young Chiefs.

Many things were excised in the interest of brevity, but this thumbnail sketch will have to do.

Go read this article at the Independent.

Ten were either rulers of Nations, (or, in the case of the English, rulers of subsets of people within those nations.)  6 of those 10 were English, or conquerors of England. 1 was Russian. 2 were African. 1 was a ruler in India. The wealth of these men were the wealth of their peoples, and it was used, in the main, for their benefit. They were responsible for using the wealth of their people in responsible ways, for the good of the people.  Did they all do it well, or even try?  No, obviously not. (Meet Muammar Khaddafi of Libya).  But those who didn’t can be criticised rightly for failing in their duties. 8 lived before the modern era began. Nicholas II, Tsar of Russia, was deposed by civil war eventually leading to the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Muammar Khaddafi was little better than a gangster, though he had the decency not to elevate himself to Flag officer, so that counts for something. I guess.

Thirteen were private individuals beholden to no one.  These men built personal fortunes.  Some did philanthropic work with portions of their fortunes, but this was charity, not fulfilling their duties to justice. 12 of the 13 were Americans.  1 is Mexican.  All are firmly ensconced in the Modern era.

We’re one short, aren”t we?  It was a family, some say THE family of Moderns: the Rothschild ‘dynasty’.

18 were countrymen of a sort, considering the relationship of the US to Britain.  None except the Rothschild, were from Europe proper.  There is much more to be teased out of this list, but my head aches from even trying.

He was lying in the dark under suicide watch when I first saw him. He wasn’t old enough to drink. He didn’t look old enough to shave, truth be told. One eye blood red from his encounter with the curb, half his face was hamburger. His only question was “Are you cops?”. We assured him to the contrary, but it is understandable. We showed him the Star of Life on our shoulders and that seemed to reassure him. While his nurse gave me report, my partner gathered vital signs. All stable, to be expected. According to his nurse he fell while drunk and he told someone he wanted to run out into traffic. Thats all it takes for a diagnosis of SI (suicidal ideation.) His choices, now that he was well enough to leave, were not his own. He was now a 1013.  He didn’t know though. Almost none of them ever do.

You can learn a lot about a 1013 from how he greets our arrival. Most are just resigned. Some cease being calm or cooperative when they realise I am there to collect them for a psych ward. But this kid jumped at the chance. Jumped out of bed, in his hospital gown, grabbed his only possession he was allowed to keep, a bible someone had brought him, and strolled out into the hallway, not confidently but still with purpose.  We waited for his other belongings from security, gave him a chance to verify it all was there, and we were off.

During transport, I have to ask some delicate questions in these cases. Apparently, he thought he was voluntarily entering an alcohol rehab.  And the facility we were going to is known for that.

He opened up a lot more than most patients in his shoes, and told me far more than his nurses knew.  How he’d been partying with friends a week ago. How he was out for a cigarette run when he hopped the curb at QuikTrip, and would have taken out a fuel pump had he been able to just get his car through that brick column.  He was so drunk that even though he saw the 3 cops across the parking lot, he just walked in, shirtless and unshod, and bought his Camels. Walking out, he heard them call. And he ran.

Toward his car.

He made it there about the same time they did. And when he spun to run elsewhere, his blood pressure couldn’t maintain, and down he went, out cold, onto the curb.  They made his passenger blow, and took that girl, his girlfriend, into custody for underage drinking. They called a colleague of mine for my patient.  Had it been a day sooner we might have met under far worse circumstances.

He crashed en route. Acute respiratory failure. In laymen’s terms, the boy was too drunk to breathe.  Entubation is painful in the best of circumstances, even more so at the hands of a green paramedic in the business end of a Mercedes ambulance doing 80.

He told me his blood alcohol level was 4.72.  I corrected him and explained it was .472 or 47.2% (yes, 95 proof blood.) I added, for a point of reference that the butt-chugging frat boy in Tennessee only had a .42 when he arrived nearly dead at the hospital.  He was awed in the negative. He should have been.

He told me how his parents didn’t want the embarrassment of a son in rehab, but that it was time he made his own decisions.So they probably won’t be there for him anytime soon.  How his girl came to end things, and when he immediately endorsed it for her good, she wouldn’t leave his bedside until forced by his nurses.

And I had to ask when he started.  Regularly at 16, 4 years past. But, he said, when his younger sister died 3 months ago, he bought a handle jug after her funeral, then another, and on and on without stopping, until that brick column stopped him. He told me how this was the end of his drinking. He expressed a firmer purpose of amendment than I have ever had, but I also know it takes more.

I tried to sound casual when I said, “that book on your lap is a good start.”  And he began to tell me his plan was to read it without ceasing, especially when his old buddies come around.  He knew they’d leave him alone just by reading it.

I changed tactics suddenly. “Thats just an old book by itself. If we are Christ’s body, then we’re his hands and eyes and ears.  Without a face to look into, one which knows you better than you know yourself, that book may as well be kindling.”

And we arrived, in the middle of the night, at his destination. I said the Memorare to myself, and when we rounded the corner, 3 ambulances were ahead of us.  That bought us 40 minutes sitting on the ramp.

I moved around so we were face to face, and I broke every protocol of my profession.  We talked of Screwtape (The most disgusting thing about the Enemy is how he loves the vile little creatures. If only the will to love Him is there, He loves even their stumbles.) And of Augustine (“I love even my sin” and what a partying dude he had been.) About John (how he was still a boy going to have sport with the prophet and instead wound up asking the Lamb of God, not “How can I do right?”, but “Where do you stay?” And how 60 years later he could still remember it was about 4pm.)  And I honestly don’t remember more than the highlights. It was so real to me that He had taken over. They were no longer my words,it was no longer my gaze. I do recall challenging him to read all 4 gospels and watch closely how our Lord dealt with sinners, by just being there, and that the Church is no country club, but a hospital. Before we exited the truck he said “No one says these things!” He really was astonished at what I take for granted.

And for the first time in a long time, I was too.

I passed him to a social worker, but I gave him 16 quarters for buying cigarettes from fellow patients until his girl could come. He wanted to shake my hand. I embraced him.  I have never hugged a patient.

Later I called back and left my number with his nurse, in case he ever wants to reach out. I have never given out my personal number before.  I don’t really care if he calls though. He is in God’s hands.

And the proof for me that Christ was there isn’t in whether he changes. It is that the encounter changed me.

My step is lighter this morning. I feel alive!

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