(Liz gave me permission to write about “Bitch Wings.” She read this post and approved of it going public. I am so grateful to her and her family for sharing this part of their life with me. )
I learned about “bitch wings” from Liz. We were standing in a hospital waiting room after Liz’s husband had died. The representatives of the organization that would harvest Frederic’s organs had given Liz a lovely quilted keepsake box as a memento. Her cousin said, “That was a bitch wings moment.”
“Bitch wings” are what women get when we put our hands on our hips, push back our shoulders, take a strong stance and are ready to take on the world. I learned from Liz that bitch wings come in handy when interrogating teenagers about what was happening in the basement. Her young adult children laughed about how their mom stared down their friends, hands on hips, eyes locked.
Bitch wings can say, don’t mess with me. And, I’ll carry you on my back for a mile. For 100 miles. Through mud. In the hail.
The previous days had been excruciating. The paramedics had rushed Frederic to the hospital after Liz found him. What followed was intubation, neurological tests, moments of hope that were dashed with the words “reflexive movement, not intentional movement.” There was the family conference with the neurologists who advised more time and more tests. Liz sat up in her chair and the wings came out. Would more time on the ventilator help Frederic’s brain recover? Would it help him speak again, or help him know them? She didn’t flinch when the answers came. So if more time will not help him heal we know what he would have wanted. He wouldn’t want to be like this. Not even for one more day.
Bitch wings make a woman fierce and brave and vulnerable and strong.
It was bitch wings that drove Liz to lift Frederic’s body when she saw it hanging from the rope in their basement and it was her wings that let her let him go.
Those wings gave Liz the courage to say out loud that Frederic had died by suicide, to confront him as he lay in his hospital bed with the pain he had caused her and their children. And those same wings stroked his cheek with a lover’s touch and whispered to him about the goodness of their life together.
On bitch wings Liz flew into the face of God, “You abandoned him. You abandoned me.” And she wrapped those wings around herself and her beloved as she gave him into the care of the Holy. With those wings she pulls her children and her friends close in a tight embrace.
Liz is moving soon to California to try on a new life. She isn’t done grieving, but she is willing to try flying in new directions.
Anyone can have bitch wings if she is willing to be strong instead of sweet. Though they make her terrifying, they are not armor. They send her into fire for those she loves.