Hope is the Thing with Feathers



If you had asked my friend Carollynn what gave her hope throughout her cancer journey, she would have smiled and quickly answered: feathers.

She loved Emily Dickinson’s poem “The Thing with Feathers” which begins:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all

And when she was first diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1995 at the age of forty-six, Carollynn stumbled upon a verse in the Bible that became her favorite:

He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Psalm 91:4 NLT

Even though medical doctors and treatments at that time gave her no hope of surviving more than a few months, this verse gave Carollynn incredible hope. It also started a real fascination with “feathers” and the number 914.

“Whenever I see a feather it reminds me of God’s protection for me,” she told me shortly after moving to the area and joining my support group. “And I like to look for the number 914 on signs to remind me of God’s constant care for me.”

I had to chuckle when eight years after her initial diagnosis Carollynn’s first grandchild was born on her birthday weighing 9 pounds, 14 ounces! When Carollynn passed away just a few months later at 4:19 p.m., her husband, Ed, said he had to smile at what he felt was a last gift from Carollynn to remind him of her special verse.

“One final example of her fabulous humor,” he wrote in an email to friends and family. 

Some of Carollynn’s amazing life under God’s wings was told in a children’s book called Sea Feather, named after the first of many wild ponies she purchased on Chincoteague Island and donated to deserving children. More of her “feather-filled” life was shared in a video that aired on the television network Animal Planet in November 2003, just a month after her passing. (The nonprofit Feather Fund has been established to continue her work of donating wild ponies to children.)[i] When I see feathers today, they remind me of my beautiful friend Carollynn, but they also remind me of my God whose “wings” protect us even in the face of cancer.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 17:8, NIV

Let me live forever in your sanctuary,
safe beneath the shelter of your wings! Psalm 61:4 NLT

Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:7-8, NIV

Of course God the Father, who is Spirit, doesn’t have real flesh and blood wings, but He is able to protect us by His awesome power.

Can you feel those “wings” over you—protecting you, shielding you, drawing you close? Have you trusted God enough to truly let Him cover you? He longs to do that for you.

How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. Jesus speaking in Matthew 23:37

Please let God love you today. Let him draw you close.

 My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8

Heavenly Father, Thank You that You love us so much. Thank You that Your loving arms are far bigger than any diagnosis or prognosis. Wrap my friend in that love today. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

[i] Read more about why feathers and Psalm 91:4 meant so much to Carollynn at http://www.featherfund.org/the_story.htm.

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