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Take My Breath Away

Eric Garner told us he couldn’t breathe. His last words. That was 2014.

George Floyd told us he couldn’t breathe. His last words. That was last week.

Thousands dying alone in hospitals, from COVID-19, can’t breathe and no one is there to hear their last words. This is happening now.

Who is going to have the last word on the cause of the virus and who is most to blame in this time of fake news?

I stay home and get daily reports from the news outlets, from our parrot projects all over the Americas, and a family member who is a police officer, and the words and images are without end of people suffering and parrots lost. So, I tell myself, breathe deep, for I have no words for what is happening in the world today.

I breathe in deeply to relieve that kicked in the gut feeling, and realize it’s a point of personal privilege.

As is my irritation at not having the freedom to breathe well under the required masks.

As is my occasional Buddhist Tonglen practice where I visualize taking in the pain of others with every in-breath and sending out whatever will benefit them on the out-breath.

I can breathe. Can I, like earth, breathe for you?

Time lapse of earth over twenty years - breathing with us and for us.

But how? If I could find a way to give my breath to those whose names make up the painfully long list chalked on my neighborhood sidewalk, I would. Just so they could breathe deep all that is good and right in the world, at least one last time, in peace.

Then I recall a Zuni people’s prayer:

I add my breath, to your breath, that our days may be long on this earth.

That the days of all people may be-long.

It hardly seems enough. I have given mouth-to-beak resuscitation to stave off the death of a moribund bird. I haven’t had much luck with that either.

Now I am thinking of a hymn, “Just as long as I have breath.” It goes like this:

Just as long as I have breath, I must answer, "Yes," to life;

though with pain I made my way,

still hope I meet each day.

If they ask what I did well, tell them I said,

"Yes," to life.

There ‘s way too much "I" going on there. What if...

Just as long as we have breath, we must answer yes to your life, though with pain you made your way, may hope meet you each day. If they ask what we did well, may our descendants tell their children that oh god, finally, we said yes to life.

Dear people and parrots of the world, you take my breath away. And I gladly give it.

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