Cherokee Kid

Jim Alberty is a member of the Bird Clan of the Cherokee Tribe of Oklahoma. Born in Claremore, OK he now lives in Maine, working as a composer, writer and Creative for Apple. He is active in the Casco Bay area arts and education communities as a composer, musician, social dancer and actor.

Seven Days in the Life .... Death ..... Life


Christmas night.

Powdery snow. Very cold winds. Deserted streets.  Eye-level spots of colored light are everywhere: red, green, blue, white, orange.

Two mylar balloons, blue and silver, are tied to a light pole - they thump softly in the wind.

The night seems tired. Expectant. Tensed for travail that may or may not come.

If you've been following my Facebook posts you'll know that one week ago this morning - or a lifetime ago in our hearts - my dear friend Catherine Collins Bernard suffered what seems a one-in-a-million medical injury during a routine laproscopic procedure at Mercy Hospital.

That deeply internal injury led to a complete bleedout and began a massive, heroic fight to save her life.

Catherine led it.


90 minutes of chest compression. Heart failure due to blood loss. Possible brain damage from lack of circulation. Surgery to stop the bleeding. Possible intestinal ischemia. Possible lateral herniation.

And that was day one.

On night one she shocked everyone by squeezing our hands in response to questions. She should have been dead.


Her sheer determination to stay alive, coupled with her physical strength, defeated every possible setback over the next 5 days.

Catherine is perhaps my best friend in the world, one of those people who knows everything about you. Not someone you tell everything to, but someone who knows everything, beyond mere telling - someone with a rock bottom sense of who you really are - not that they love it all, or even like it, but a person who knows what the really important parts are.

Though some of the specifics of your identity may not sit well with them the totality of it is clear and beloved.

And so it is with Catherine.

She is also the "mother" of Chief the Wonderdog (shown above), a huge, rescued brindle Greyhound who celebrated his 11th birthday Monday last, the day before it all broke loose.

I was terrified. Once on site there was the paralyzing sense that I could do nothing, that I would do anything, but could do nothing - to keep her safe, that the idea of losing her was intolerable. It took over my stomach, climbed up my back with talons of ice.

One week later - one lifetime, it seems - I've spent every spare moment, ended every evening with sitting at her side, channeling all the grace and energy - and violet light, at one friend's suggestion - into her hand. It's what you do for a friend you truly love.

So now we're transitioning into the recovery phase, with the occasional setback. This is just how it is.

Tonight, Christmas night, I can only breathe, listen to my feelings and thoughts, acknowledge the friends and loved ones - pretty much the same, actually - who have held me up so I could hold up Catherine's family and all of us hold her up.

Or she held us up, in some strange way.

Something like this puts your life in context - puts everything in the universe into a context. You see how it all relates, connects - all for one terrifying, astounding, eternally unfolding instant. Then it ends and you have to live it to recover it.

At least now you are aware of what is possible and you must change. You must.

I must change so that I can be there to hold a hand and give.

Portland, Maine