All Night, All Day: Life, Death, & Angels: Introducing the Editor

For previous posts on the contributors, see these:

Sophy Burnham

Cassandra King

Nancy Mardis, the Artist!

Next up?

Susan Cushman, editor

All Night, All Day: Life, Death, & Angels is my fourth anthology to edit. You can read about the other three on my website. It’s so much fun to come up with an idea/theme for a collection, to invite authors to contribute, to edit their work, to organize the submissions into sections and come up with epigraphs (quotes) to introduce each section. My first three anthologies were collections of essays (non-fiction) but for this one, I decided to go mixed-genre, inviting the contributors to send me essays, poetry, and fiction. The result was 17 essays, 17 poems, 1 chapter from a memoir, and one short story (fiction). It’s also fun to write the Introduction. I’ll share an excerpt here:

“Three Beautiful Men and a Peacock”

I love peacocks. About twenty years ago, as I was studying the ancient liturgical art of Byzantine iconography, I learned that peacocks often appear in icons and other religious art as symbols of rebirth, immortality, or resurrected life. This new information was on my mind in 2005 when I was sitting with my aunt in a hospice facility in Jackson, Mississippi. She was nearing death from lung cancer, which had metastasized to her brain. Barbara Jo was my father’s younger sister. She had already lost her husband (Dan), my father (Bill), and her other brother (Jimmy Ray) to cancer.

At this stage of the disease she was in and out of consciousness, but she suddenly sat up in bed and pointed at the door to her room, which was open, and said, “Oh, Susan! Look at that beautiful peacock and those three beautiful men!”

Of course I got up and walked over to the door and looked up and down the hall, but I didn’t see any men or a peacock. I sat back down beside Barbara Jo’s bed and asked her who the three beautiful men were.

“They were Dan and Bill and Jimmy Ray!” I am certain she was seeing them in Heaven, where she would join then later that same day. And the peacock? He was assuring her of her own impending resurrection. . . .

As a convert to Orthodox Christianity, I have found the Church’s beliefs about angels to be fascinating. The Orthodox teaching organizes these corporeal beings into nine ranks, which are supported by Scripture: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, powers, dominions, authorities, principalities, archangels, and angels. We are taught that each of us receives a guardian angel at our baptism. And that there are seven archangels, five of whom appear in the Bible. Their purposes include the roles of messengers and guides for humans, as well as perpetually hymning God’s glory.

Note: The first icon I wrote (painted) was of Archangel Michael. I did several icons of angels, including this one, of Archangel Gabriel, before I retired from iconography to write books.