Waking Up Earley

Thoughts, Ideas and Inspiration by Melissa Earley

Bitch Wings

(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.


By Mara,  Liz's daughter  "I find so much emotion in the pose, yet I know she will stand up proud and strong again.  You can see that glorious strength in her."  -Liz

By Mara, Liz’s daughter
“I find so much emotion in the pose, yet I know she will stand up proud and strong again. You can see that glorious strength in her.”



  1. Amazing, Melissa. I’m just sitting here after having read this just taking it all in. Wow to you and your extraordinary parishioner, Liz.

  2. Debbie Jo McCorkle

    August 10, 2015 at 10:12 am

    I had no idea, Melissa. I knew she was a remarkable woman, I just didn’t realize how remarkable. I love the concept of the bitch wings. I really appreciate your writing.

    • admin

      August 10, 2015 at 10:17 am

      Debbie Jo, she is remarkable. I love the idea of bitch wings too! I think we may need to start a bitch wings campaign and take our photos with bitch wings out!

  3. Liz,
    You truly are an extraordinary woman. I am glad to have met you along your journey.

  4. I have met these women at the county hospital in WV, at hospice. Beautifully written. I’m sending this to my daughter.

    • admin

      August 11, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      Thanks, Deborah. These woman are everywhere and such an inspiration. I hope your daughter finds it strengthening.


  5. Wendy H. Outland

    August 13, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Bitch Wings is a powerful piece, beautifully written.
    It made me smile. It made me cry. It made me think.
    Thank you.

  6. This is my favorite post so far. Well done, Melissa. I will forever have the image of bitch wings in my mind, from confronting teens to dealing with loss. Thank you.

    • admin

      August 24, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      Erin, I have found the image of bitch wings empowering. I especially taking an insult to women and turning it into a word of strength.

  7. I was just reconnected to your blog and sat down to read all of them. After reading this one I decided to subscribe – this will be the only blog to which I subscribe. You brought tears to my eyes, conviction to my mind and empowerment to my heart. Each blog I’ve read has touched me (as do your sermons). Thank you for sharing so deeply. You are one special woman who is clearly touched by the experiences of others and is willing to reach out and touch as well. Thank you for blogging.

    • admin

      August 29, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      I’m glad this post was meaningful to you. It meant a lot to me to be able to write for Liz. Thanks so much for reading (and for subscribing).

  8. I have become friends with Liz , at body ,and brain yoga. We hit it of immediately. We unstood each others pain. And we must proceed to keep healing. We are going to keep in touch, as she goes on to what I call , her new adventure. I will miss her dearly. But we said we will get together, and see each other again. Keep in contact. Bitch wings touched me so much. I feel her pain and her children’s. But they will go on. I can see in her pictures of her ,and her her kids, great ❤ for each other.Off my friend, to a wonderful life ahead of you, full of adventures.

  9. Melissa,
    I truly enjoy your blog. It reminds me of our Bible Study class. You were so truly you! Never polarizing regardless of how people expressed themselves.
    “Bitch Wings” was “right on”! However, I missed the part concerning “men having and using Bitch Wings”! “Bitch Wings” should be a non-gender specific term. We all need to have and use our “Bitch Wings”!
    Thank you, Jeff Lytle

    • admin

      September 6, 2015 at 7:09 am

      Jeff, I totally agree that men can have “bitch wings” which are totally different than balls. It’s okay for men to use a gender specific term that’s not their gender as women have been having to do it for generations. (We have another Bible study starting September 15 — I think you’ll like it).

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