Lightning Crashes – By Chris Cade

With a thundering and ominous boom, lightning struck fiercely into the redwood tree nearly splitting it in half. As the rain continued to pour, Mother Eagle knew she had but one chance to save her offspring before the tree would no longer stand. She knew they all had at least another 30 years of life left in them, and she was going to do everything in her power to make that become reality. Even with the tree's promise to stand tall as long as possible, she was not confident that her family would survive this storm.

Mother Eagle knew she had to move her offspring to a safe place, so she flew them one by one to a small nearby cavern where she knew they'd be out of harm's reach. Unfortunately, Mother Eagle was growing old and her talons were not as strong as they used to be, and this ordeal was a significant strain upon her already wavering body.

She returned to the nest for her last little one, Antinanco, and as she was closing her talons upon him, another bolt of lightning struck the tree its final blow. The eagle's nest split in two from the vibration, Mother Eagle lost her grip, and little Anti plummeted towards the ground.

Without hesitation Mother Eagle dove down, cutting through the air like a razor, in an attempt to save her littlest, yet oldest child. Fortunately, Mother Eagle gripped him in the nick of time and swooped him away to safety with his other siblings.

For the next few years Mother Eagle taught her offspring how to hunt. It became a necessity now that her beak was crooked, her feathers old and tattered, and her talons weak and weary. She could no longer hunt. Just as she had taken care of her children, now it was their turn to take care of her. In fact, some of them took care of her for another few decades because she was incapable of doing it herself.

Some of Anti's siblings left their new home to explore the world on their own, and Mother Eagle understood. She saved them on that night knowing that not all would stay. Some had to pave their own path, even if it meant they would die at a young age without their siblings or family to care for them when their own beaks would curve and feathers would wear.

Upon reaching the 40th year of her life, Mother Eagle knew it was finally time to give her life to the Great Spirit. Anti and his few remaining siblings carried Mother Eagle to the highest rock within hundreds of miles, and they laid her there to rest. Upon this rock, she knew there would be no food and so she continued to stand proud until she was so weak that her talons could no longer hold her upright.

Not long after her body collapsed, with wings hanging heavily over the sides of the rock like wet clothes set out to dry, she took her final breaths. And upon her last exhalation, she saw the green light of compassion emanating from the Great Spirit as it lifted her into the clouds above.

Meanwhile, back at home only Anti and one other remained — his brother Quidel. As the oldest, Anti's responsibility was to protect all of his siblings just as Mother had done, and Anti had done so with joy and diligence. That is, until another storm came.

Again, the lightning violently struck the tree that he and Quidel were perched upon. Anti knew his brother would be fine because over the years Anti had taught his siblings to be prepared for the worst. Anti leaped into the sky knowing Quidel would follow.

But Quidel didn't.

Anti looked back to see Quidel's body split in half and burst into flames in just the same place and way the tree had been. It was a perfect hit, a bull's eye as they say. Anti didn't see this as perfect, but he had no choice except to turn his head and retreat towards safety. All the while, he mourned and wondered why these storms brought havoc upon his family.

Not long passed before Anti's talons became weak and his beak began to curl. His feathers were becoming old and had difficulty sustaining flight. He knew his time was coming just as his mother's had before him. And just like the lightning had split Quidel in two, this new awareness struck fear into Anti's heart more fiercely than anything he had ever experienced before. Simply put, he wasn't ready to die and he knew it.

What he wanted didn't really matter because his body was telling him it was time. Knowing he had very little time remaining, Anti spent his last energy flying to the same rock where his mother gave her soul to the Great Spirit. He found some solace in knowing that he and his mother will have departed in the same way, from the same place. Unfortunately, he could not make it there. He slowly floated back to the ground because his feathers were so worn that no matter how hard he flapped, he could not lift off again.

Then an unmistakable vision came into his awareness… he saw himself on the fateful night of Quidel's death. Anti felt trapped in a cone of flame, his body burning to ashes as he saw himself flying away. Anti couldn't understand what this vision was trying to tell him, but he knew it was important. The vision dissipated, and he was left again looking at the sky feeling as though he'd never make it back to the rock for his final meeting with the Great Spirit.

Moments later, a giant bird unlike anything he had ever seen before dove straight at him from miles above. Anti shook his head at the irony because he intended to give himself to the Great Spirit… not to a giant bird. He quickly learned that life does not always turn out as one expects.

The giant bird opened its mouth wide and consumed Anti so entirely that only pitch black remained. To his surprise, after some time Anti saw light. When his eyes adapted to the new brightness, he found himself staring face to face with giant bird hovering next to him. Looking down, Anti realized he was standing upon the very rock that he had been incapable of reaching on his own. Looking into the giant bird's eyes he knew that he was looking at his brother, Quidel, reborn. Quidel understood that just as he had faced his own death and rebirth, Anti must face his as well. Quidel gave a nod, and like a lightning bolt, he left even more quickly than he had arrived.

Over Anti's last days he became weak and weary, just as his mother did. His talons slowly became weaker and weaker, and his body drooped more and more. His feathers had become so ragged that even if he wanted to fly, even if he had the strength to fly, they would be unable to hold him in flight.

As Anti slipped in and out of consciousness, he had an incredible vision. An aura of green light surrounded him and the rock he was slouched over and the Great Spirit's presence gave Anti the awareness that his life did not have to be over. His mother did not know this when she left, but there was another way. Then the aura faded, the Great Spirit left, and all that was left was a battered and torn eagle upon a rock in the sky.

Suddenly, Anti knew what had to be done and he mustered up all his remaining strength repeatedly batter his beak against the rock. He did this so fiercely that half of his beak broke off and brought forth the most excruciating pain he had ever known… a pain that reminded him of what Quidel must have felt when he was struck by the lightning.

In this newfound understanding, Anti also realized that he could live for many more days without food. He didn't understand how this was possible or even how he could know this, but it didn't matter because he felt it to the core of his being. During the following days, his beak grew back to its original length, and without the curl it was now sharp and useful again.

He then plucked all of his feathers, one by one, until he had none left. Just like his beak, over many days the feathers grew back in fresh. Anti pulled upon his last ounces of strength and glided, rather ungracefully, down to the earth where he slowly fed his way back to full health.

Anti lived another several decades and enjoyed raising his own family. He taught his children of the many hunting tricks he knew, of some stunningly beautiful aerial maneuvers, but most of all, he taught them what he had learned about being reborn. He told them the stories of lightning and thunder, of fire and rock, and he passed to them the deep understanding that even when their beaks curled and their feathers could no longer hold them in flight, death was not guaranteed. Antinanco made sure they understood that when this time of life comes they will be faced with the most difficult decision of their entire lives. In this rite of passage, they will have to ask themselves a single question:

Am I willing to sacrifice all that I am and know myself to be for rebirth into a new life?

This story was written by Chris Cade, founder of Spiritual Growth Events.

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