Several months ago I received something quite unique in the mail: an envelope with a single eagle feather in it! I later discovered that Mato-Uste had sent it to me after performing a smoke ceremony “to contact the Grandfathers around the campfire.” It took a moment for me to understand, but he kindly explained that the feather was waved over smoke to help it soar to the heavens so the Grandfathers can bless and embrace me.
“You can keep the feather or release into the wind with a prayer. It will find the Grandfathers.” Mato-Uste gained his wisdom about this from Mae Taylor—a very respected Nez Perce holy woman. I love this man dearly and felt so happy to see his excitement about the feather. “The Grandfathers, Wolf Brothers, and Eagles will guard your passage. Be safe and happy.”
My family members each expressed their curiosity about the feather. In fact, a couple of them told me to keep it. “I don’t know why,” I replied, “but I want to let it go someplace special. It’ll be a sign that God is listening to my prayer.”
So, my brother thought of the perfect place because Windy Point features three cliffs that people can easily walk to. We drove there, and I struggled a bit as the car jolted along the bumpy road. But that was the least of my worries; I didn’t know if I could even walk the short distance to the cliffs.
After we arrived the sun shone brightly, showcasing the beginnings of spring, and the area lived up to its name. “Hold my hand,” Mike said, his hair blowing several directions as the winds shifted sporadically. “Are you sure you can do this?”
“I have to,” I said. “It just seems so important.”
So my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and Mike helped me slowly traverse the rocky landscape. We finally chose the cliff on the far right where everyone could stand around me in a circle. Then my sister-in-law gave the most wonderful prayer. Everyone backed away except for Mike—who held onto my waist. After enduring all of these cancer treatments, the last thing I needed was to stumble off a cliff.
The wind blew hard, and I let go of that blessed feather. But after traveling away momentarily, it flew back—right to my brother! We tried again—and it boomeranged to my dad! We moved to another cliff that faced another direction and seemed more majestic than the last. This must be where the feather wanted to be let go. But defeating all odds, it came back again.
Completely dumbfounded—and maybe even frustrated—my brother and Mike climbed to a cliff that I couldn’t reach. My brother let it go with so much ceremony in his face—and it came back. My mom even tried, but it didn’t seem to matter who let it go, the feather always returned.
“It doesn’t want to leave you,” my dad said. “You should keep it.”
Worn out, I had to sit on a rock before edging back to the car. And as I sat there, something circled above me. “Oh my!” my mom said. “Elisa! There’s an eagle above us!” And it was, glorious and perfect, glinting as it dipped and arced several times before floating away like I’d hoped my feather could have.
When the car disembarked from the canyon, I contacted Mato-Uste. “What does it mean?” The eagle had seemed quite amazing, but maybe it meant something else. Maybe God had rejected my prayer.
Defying my worst fears, the man’s response surprised me. “It’s meant to be! The Grandfathers want to watch over you. I thought this might happen. You are blessed!”
A few days later I saw my oncologist, and she explained that several specialists had spoken about my case at the tumor board. “We’re going to try a new immunotherapy. If it works, it could significantly extend your life.”
A bit of hope glimmered for me. I’m trying so hard not to be overly optimistic because I don’t want to have my heart broken like when my son died. But still, maybe the feather staying really was a good sign. And maybe these collaborative specialists could change the course of my life! Yes, this is an incurable kind of cancer, but maybe the future is brighter—and longer for me—than doctors originally projected. We’ll just have to wait and see, but until then, my feather is with me, reminding me of how powerful it is to keep hope alive.