Monthly Archives: April 2013

why cody lived

I read this story 300px-Crotalus_cerastes_mesquite_springs_CAabout a 2-year-old boy who was bitten by a rattlesnake in Idyllwild this past weekend. He was airlifted to the hospital and injected with antivenom. He made a full recovery. We had rattlesnakes on the property on which I grew up. They were all over the place. I’d find one and freeze in place. I’d yell for my dad, and in one swoop, he’d slice through it with a shovel, sometimes splitting it open to reveal a bird’s egg, or a whole mouse, slimy and undigested. I was scared of bees (still am), but I wasn’t really worried about rattlesnakes for some reason. I stayed away from piles of rocks and wood and dense weeds. I listened for rattling. I’ll tell you this much, though. If I had been bitten as a 2-year-old, I would have likely died. We didn’t have health insurance. My parents would surely have tried to drive me to the hospital, which was far away. There wouldn’t have been a helicopter ride. We didn’t have the resources.

But instead of crediting Cody’s recovery to the helicopter pilot who got him there on time, the scientists who created antivenom, the doctors,  or even the snake that didn’t fully release its venom, “Cody’s parents called his recovery a miracle and credit the prayers of their church group.”


Cody lived because his parents had resources. His mother is a nurse who knew what he needed and how to get it to him. Cody had access to a helicopter and a hospital and doctors and medicine. And if he didn’t have access to those things, Cody would have died. The prayers had nothing to do with it.

Last year, a “snake pastor” died at the age of 44. Guess how? And guess how his father died (at the age of 39)?

While this thinking is well-intentioned, there are plenty of people who die every day because they don’t have resources. Rather than thanking god, feeling special, and moving on, why not thank the people who worked really hard to save this boy’s life, and then look around and see what we can do to make it so that others have the same resources they need to survive? It is arrogant to believe that a man in space saved this boy. Because that also means this Space Man chooses to overlook all of the rest. Why would anyone want to be a part of anything like that?

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David and I slide down the steepest side of a dirt and gravel hill. Our bodies rattle, plumes of dust rocket from our sneakers, we scream out in terror and joy. There is dust in our teeth, dust in our lungs. We have scraped our legs. Everything is blue sky and orange groves. Our stucco tract home is no more than a couple of miles away, but it might as well be gone. Our sister Sally is still there, neatly tucked into the sofa, reading, or playing Solitaire. She prefers to stay inside.


David tells me he sees visions of our dead mother all of the time. God inserts these images into his brain. God talks to him, too. He tells him to stop listening to Supergrass and Radiohead. I ask David, “If God told you to injure yourself, would you?” He hesitates before he says he doesn’t know. David was too young when she died. He doesn’t remember her.


David asks me if I have thought about my long distance phone service provider. I have not. He wears dark, shiny shirts now. Ties. Slacks. There is gel in his hair. He says “sweet” all of the time, like punctuation. He is a member of a pyramid scheme that has been banned in several states. I tell him I am not interested. I use very few words. I know I am hurting him.


David brings a Franciscan monk with him to Thanksgiving. The monk is a stereotype. He looks like Friar Tuck from that 1970s Robinhood cartoon. He wears a brown robe, tied at the waist with a rope. He is cheerful and round. He eats two slices of pie. I want to make fun of him, to shout to everyone, “There’s a monk at our table!” But he is kind and we take a photo together. I rest my arm on his shoulder and smile.


My friend Betony posts an Instagram of her brother on Facebook. His hair is brown, wind-whipped and frozen in place, and he wears a button-up denim shirt. He’s smiling. He looks like Betony, especially around the eyes. His fingers are curled around a tiny plastic figure. The caption says, “Love means making your brother pose with a Twilight doll.” I laugh when I realize her brother looks exactly like the miniature Robert Pattinson. They are wearing the same clothes. The hair, the complexion, it is all the same. Then, suddenly, I feel like crying.


David will propose to a girl this year. There will be a ceremony at the Catholic church where she lives and teaches. I am not invited. The news I receive about David never comes from David. I heard she has an extraordinary amount of siblings. 16? 17? Aren’t they all girls? That can’t be true. David holds signs outside of abortion clinics. He tells me he is praying for my children. David believes I should stay at home, but I can’t stay there. I can’t believe in God. We seldom speak, there’s too much to avoid. David will marry this girl and move back east, and there is nothing left to recover.

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