Mayday Mayday Mayday

… and the Great Spirit steps in.

I’ve left my Florida lake cottage for San Francisco. My first-born daughter. Her precious husband. We are together and within a few days we will fly to Santa Fé, New Mexico. We are deeply excited. We go to art galleries and watch lovely documentaries and movies. It is good. They are soon to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary. It is an exquisite marriage.

After fainting or seizing on day three, I am found at the bottom of a flight of stairs in their 1915 home with three floors of architecturally historical beauty. I am bleeding and unconscious. My Kirsten hears me fall and begins to scream into a hoarseness unparalleled. She and her husband, Rick, call 911 and we journey toward help after my clothes have been cut off my twisted body. I am in an ambulance.

I have no memory of this entire day until 10:00pm. I have three times the legal amount of alcohol in me. No food. There is no evidence of where or how I drank. My memory of this day is gone. I do not remember even wanting to drink.

I am in oceanic despair. Total amnesia.

My bloodline is First Nation Cherokee and Irish and I inherited the genetic mutation M-THFR. Both blood lines have difficulty with the genetic aspect of addictions. I have been in Recovery for two years, have lead and mercury levels which are too high, have a 17 year-old gastric bypass which cannot process alcohol to any degree, atrial fibrillation, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, two new hips along with two new plastic joints in my feet.

I am a writer/illustrator living on a lake with wild animals. I am in the lovely winter of my life. About five weeks earlier I begin to hold down one meal every other day, accompanied by severe intestinal issues keeping me homebound and absent from my treasured healing recovery meetings, my daily connections to service work, and my beloved friends.

It is a quandary to each of us exactly how I did this. At the hospital I am visited by a burned out social worker, an oddly flippant case organizer, several endearing and brilliant nurses, and my authentically inspiring surgeon. We are all perplexed. I have no idea or memory of drinking or craving. I have four broken ribs, two possible punctures to my lungs, a concussion, along with a painfully stitched  head laceration and shoulder acromium  tear wounds. Blood has matted my hair together. My body is a cluster of bruises.

The Great Spirit is good and kind. I am kept for observation at the hospital. My daughter, Kirsten, mortified and worried beyond words, has lost her voice from screaming.

In finding me after falling she says my eyes have rolled back into my head. She believes I am dead. My heart breaks for her. She has cancelled all our summer plans for employment teaching at a horse camp, a week-long writers’ workshop, a spa vacation in Santa Fé. I am not allowed to fly for one month due to very small air pockets formed outside my lungs, indicative of possible punctures.

Thank you, Great Spirit, for one more chance to get this life right. I pray you will reveal to me what paths to walk, honor, and learn from this bone-crushing lesson. Deeply ashamed and steeped in guilt, I lunge for fragments of hope. I find extended and tender yet marshaled grace.

Pure grace.

Nasgigwo Winigalsd
(First Nation Cherokee meaning the prayer is ending, or literally “Let it be that way.”)


Note: Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure. Used to signal a life-threatening emergency, the call is always given three times in a row (“Mayday Mayday Mayday”). The Mayday procedure word originated in 1923. Senior radio officer Frederick Stanley Mockford is asked to think of a word that indicates distress and can easily be understood by all staff in an emergency. He proposes the word “Mayday” from the French “m’aider“, a shortened version of “venez m’aider” (meaning “come and help me”). In 1927, the International Radiotelegraph Convention of Washington adopted the voice call Mayday.