like the blood that unites
-- Chief Seattle
This week my niece, Charlotte and her husband, Alex, and I called my 81-year-old mother to harmonize on singing “Happy Birthday” to celebrate her long life and continued good health. My parents are “Command Central” in their retirement because they are self-proclaimed “news junkies” who often are the first to tune into international crises. My father’s career in the U.S. Forest Service and international wildlife management and my mother’s C.I.A. job assure that they follow current events, far and wide – and embrace the “more-than-human” lives in our own story.
So it did not surprise me during her birthday call that my mother gave us the first alert and very sobering news about the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
“All those poor people were already so at risk,” she said. “ Now . . . this!”
Our birthday call took a sadder turn as we heard the CNN details relayed by my parents. They both always get on the phone so it’s like stereo – father in one ear, mother in the other. Entire buildings collapsed, hospitals overwhelmed, schools flattened and thousands dead. My parents had already contributed to the government aid program. My favorite worldwide charity and emergency response grassroots organizations are Doctors Without Borders and Mercy Corps. Both charities keep a low overhead and almost all the donations go directly to those in need.
There are also the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, MADRE, and Partners in Health.
At the end of the phone call with my parents what could we do but sing a vibrant and heartfelt “Happy Birthday – and many more!” to my mother – celebrating her eight decades on this bountiful earth. An earth that sometimes speaks in earthquakes and tsunamis, in birdsong and mysterious winds or ways.
That night I dreamed of an ocean full of children. Some were swimming and splashing playfully; some were lifeless and floating. As I tread water, I heard from the sea depths below the familiar ricochet and whistles of spinner dolphins. They rose up in one pod, one synchronized breath, and they swam over to carry the floating children – some living, some dead – on their backs through the waves. The dolphin pod returned all the children to shore where they were met with keening or joyous embraces.
When I awoke from the dream I remembered that in ancient Greece many believed that dolphins were “psycho-pomps” or fellow creatures who carry our dead to other worlds. In my dreams I was trying to call upon these bearers of souls to accompany all those who’ve lost their lives to the earth’s trembling. And in the dream was this prayer: May all the living and the dead be carried and held and know they float on divine waves.