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  • by Michael Cooper

Tomorrow Makes 7 Years Zoe Cooper

This is a story about a girl who lived until she died. She lived in the normal sense of the word, like the way puppies and flowers and humans do. But, she died in a very special way, like the way saints and angels and empresses do. Here is her journey.

She was born in a chaotic bloody splash much like all of us, but for her this splashing was in a living room, under water while her mother labored in an inflatable kiddy pool. While she was being squeezed through the narrow bones of her mother’s pelvis, her father hovered close by. Her brothers played on the floor with trucks and ninja turtles next to the tub, wondering if they should be afraid of all the commotion or just excited for their new baby sister. Her midwife oversaw each step of delivery wisely and without assistance. The girl came out blue with her cord wrapped twice around her neck, oxygen rushed into her tiny lungs and life affirming screams came pouring out as soon as the midwife calmly untangled her. Mom cussed loudly and then rocked the little girl. Dad was overjoyed and overwhelmed. The brothers held her tight against their little naked chests. The midwife was exhausted and slipped away once all seemed right.

Then the family moved to a new town, weeks after the little girl came into the world. The father had seen it fit to buy them a home and all settled in with much joy, but also some struggle and strife, as accompanies all big moves. The girl grew for a bit. Her bald head slowly began showing red curls and soon enough the mother was pregnant with another baby, the final and littlest brother of the family. The two youngest grew together, inseparable, almost twins. They shared their mother’s milk and kept their parents awake for days at a time. The father worked hard to support his family, and the mother worked day and night to learn the mysteries of this world and the spirit world while still remembering to cook dinner most of the time. As Dad made money, Mom crossed the borders of Life and Death. By day she kept a house and by night she tended to the spirits of herself and her family. Father dispatched big trucks for a paycheck, and Mother listened to the Earth and the Heavens and taught her young ones all she could while learning all there was to know of the worlds beyond this one.

The children played in the yard that turned with the seasons. A great big sycamore tree oversaw their make-believe battles and imaginary adventures and all the while observed and loved the whole family. The tree dropped her leaves on the house in autumn, stood bare and watchful all snowy winter, burst bright green in spring, and shaded them with big wide leaves that would dapple the hot summer sun. The kids grew and swung from the simple swing their father had hung from the tall, tall branches of the great big tree. They raked and played in the fallen leaves, they made snowmen under her watchful winter gaze, they plucked flowers in the spring. In the summer they picked tomatoes and broccoli from the mother’s garden, mowed the lawn sometimes, and caught fireflies in the warm evenings.

All this life and learning progressed until one interesting day when the little girl was sick and told her mama that she had been hurt. She told Mom that the grown-up neighbor had touched her, that he’d kissed her like adults do and told her not to tell anyone. The mother and father got sad, they got angry, and then they got sad again. The two of them vowed to do what they could to make things right and the mother remembered her own pain caused by grown-up men when she was a little girl. As fast as they could they sold the house with the big tree where the children had played imaginary games and had also been hurt beyond sense. The mother and father dug deep into their courage and imagined a new life, in a new place far from the painful memories of that house they bought.

And so the family moved. They flew across the country and found a magical land right by the ocean. This place had big trees taller than you can imagine and wide-open pastures, sandy beaches, warm rivers and lots of healing. The children continued to grow in this new special land; they played in the forests and the high pastoral grasses. The father continued to work, and the mother found a whole new way to support her family with all the mystical knowledge she had studied. They all moved to a beautiful farm that supported the life and love the family shared, this time under the watchful eye of a great cedar tree, who guarded them unconditionally. I digress; this story is about the girl. Her life went on. She was touched by coastal fogs and heavy rains, by stolen sunlit moments and swollen full moons that turned the pastures silver. She played with ducks, she rode horses, she collected warm eggs from her chickens, she pet her cats, she was even once attacked by an overzealous lamb. Her life was beautiful, and it unfolded gracefully despite the pain of the past. The young girl grew into a young woman, whose fiery red hair and sharp tongue was a lesson to all who knew her. She always loved her mother (despite their arguments); she always looked after her father; she always teased her brothers and defended them ferociously. There was another girl, and made her family, a wild child of the wind and saddle, and together they formed a bond as close as sisters from separate mothers could. All these people she held in her heart, and all these people she prepared in a special way for the day that she would die.

Finally, we come to the end that would only be a beginning. On a certain Saturday, when the sun was in the right place and the other stars aligned in perfection, this girl chose to leave us. She did so with her littlest brother, her beloved twin, her didi. The girl stepped up into the car that would be her chariot into death, and she did so bravely and without fear (though in her heart she held a special remorse for the grief she was about to cause). As she buckled her seatbelt her grin shined across to her brother in the driver’s seat, “Are you ready?” she asked him, “This is going to be a wild ride!”

With those words a journey was set in stone. The two siblings drove through the forests, they wound through the sunlight breaking through trees, they snaked along the twisty roads deep in the woods along a path that paralleled the river they had always swam in each summer. When the time came, she told her didi to take his hands off the wheel, she demanded he release his grip on her knowing that truly, he was the only one who loved her enough to do so. As his hands lifted and the car swerved, she reached out and took the wheel, she told him how grateful she was and that he would be ok someday. When the car twisted and flipped over the railing, she was serene. The ceiling connected with her beautiful skull and all the Universe spilled out from her fractured body. Stars and rainbows and blessings and her own sweet sacred blood poured forth, drenching her brother in love. Soaking and sanctifying the land where she fell. The girl guarded her little twin and as the car stopped rolling (caught in the embrace of a majestic young redwood tree) her spirit finally slipped off into heaven. On her way out, she paused to bless the land that held her passing, stopped a moment to kiss her little brother once more, soared up and above the clouds to hug her parents, stood in one brother’s kitchen to tell him she was done, and then flew across the ocean to tease her oldest brother one last time. Her death happened suddenly and gracefully, it was perfect and holy.

The girl shed her body like a snake. She fulfilled her final wish—to usher in a new type of love for her family and the whole wide world. The trees and bushes and grasses, the river and the soil drank in her holy blood as sacrament. Her sacrifice washed everything clean. The family was left to endure the breaking, they cried and moaned and missed the girl everyday, but she fulfilled her purpose. She sees her family always from the land of spirits (that same land that her wise mother learned to travel to so long ago and then passed such knowledge on to her husband and children). So, her story ended, but then only truly began. This girl, who lived like a human, but died like an angel, finally started her real life—a life with wings that fly her around the universe. A life with a heart big enough to encircle the world.

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