|Here is the photo she took - the redbird is in the bottom right corner of the window, looking in at her.|
Friday, April 12, 2013
On the next to the last day that my dad was on this Earth, I promised him that I would take care of my mom and my grandmother and my siblings, and I told him that we were so thankful to have had him to pull all of us together as a family. And then, as I knew I needed to say for him, after all he had done for me all of my life, I said to him, "You can go. But you have to come back to me!" Dad, who had lain still for more than a day except for the slow rise and fall of his chest from rhythmic breathing, started stirring in the bed, moving around and kicking the covers in an agitated fashion. Instantly I realized that he had heard me, and I was ashamed of the selfishness behind what I knew he thought I was asking him to do. "Oh, Dad," I cried. "I know your body can't do it anymore. I know you are doing everything you can to stay here with us, but it's ok if you can't. You've finished the race: you've done everything you needed to do, and we will be ok." He immediately settled down again, and I just sat there beside him, quietly crying, biting my lip to keep from wailing because I knew if I did that he would hear and be upset by that too. I wanted to tell him that what I'd meant was that I hoped he could try to send me a sign, after he'd gone on ahead, and that he could come and be with me and the rest of the family later, in spirit. I didn't tell him that, though, because I didn't want to risk causing him any more distress, and so I told myself that he would do it anyway, without having been asked, if he could find a way.
There are so many times these days that I feel him right here with me, and my sisters and my mom feel the same thing at times, too. Sometimes I feel his spirit when I look up into the sky and see big white clouds contrasted against a blue sky - or when I see a beautiful sunset or sunrise. Sometimes it's when I see or hear or even smell something that reminds me of him in such a strong way that it's impossible to ignore or overlook. And sometimes the thing that makes me feel a connection with my dad is seeing a redbird, something that often happens at times when I need comfort or encouragement or when I just need something to make me smile and think more positively.
My sister Nancy was the one who first commented that she had been noticing a redbird around her house and in other locations on a frequent basis. After she said that, I started thinking about it and realized that I'd seen one around more often that I usually did, too. Other people in the family began to comment that they had seen redbirds in certain locations at different times, and over time it has evolved as a symbol of comfort and positivity whenever any of us sees a redbird.
I sometimes think that Dad's spirit takes turns spending time now with each person he loved and watched over while he was here in this world. If one or more of us are on the road, I think he's probably traveling along with us; if one of us is having a particularly difficult day, he's likely there to comfort us, often in redbird form.
Yesterday morning, not long after I'd gotten to work, I checked my email and saw one in my Inbox from my sister Nancy's friend Suzanne, who, along with her family, has been having to make some very difficult decisions and plans as her dad enters into hospice care. In the email, which Suzanne had sent to me and both of my sisters, she told us about something that had happened that morning as she was getting ready for the day. Suzanne knew my dad and has heard us talk about the significance that redbirds have to us, and she has given me permission to share her words and a that photo she took:
I was getting ready in my dad's bathroom for a meeting at the hospice home. I was thinking about you girls and what you went through and how tough this all is. When I hear one knock at the window. I think it's something to do with the storm.
Knock again. So I look, and this determined cardinal is there. Going back and forth on the window. Making sure I see him. He only delivers one knock at a time .... but they are forceful.
Notice me! I run to get my iPad to get the photo and capture the moment. He knocks while I run away. I take the photo and return to getting ready. KNOCK.
I turn around and say out loud, "Yes, I see you. And I know everything will be ok."
He knocks one last time and then is gone.
And I have chills and an unbelievable sense of peace at the road we are about to travel.//