A Bird’s Tale

Growing up with an English mother, we learned many traditions and wives tales which were a bit odd and not well known in the American culture we grew up in. It was a fun culture clash, and made our family unique. One memorable superstition she had was avian related. Mum had always come close to panic if a bird was outside the window trying to get into the house… because this was an omen of an impending death in the house.  This aside, she loved small birds and always pointed out the little sparrows and hummingbirds flitting about outside.

Shortly after my mother went to meet her maker in July of 2005, my twin sister and father were sitting outside on the front patio just talking. My father was surprised by a small bird which had flown out from under the bench he was sitting on. He was reminded of my mother’s fascination with avian friends and was immediately convinced it was a message from her to tell him she was comfortable in the hands of her savior. Surprisingly, after they went into the house they found the bird had actually entered the house and was flying around in the kitchen where mom had spent so much time serving her family.

Incidentally, as comforting as it may have been, they did not want this wayward flitter to remain in the house. My sister told my dad to go into the TV room and relax while she coax the bird out of the room. Of course, the bird was terribly frightened, and the more she tried to shoo it out, the more it panicked. Rather than fly out the door open to the freedom of all outdoors, the bird flew straight up the stairs and into my parents bedroom. Grabbing a lightweight sweater, she raced up the stairs intending to use it as a net to capture the bird. Several minutes of stalking the bird on mother’s side of the room produced only failed attempts of trapping the bird. The bird finally headed back toward the bedroom door but made a last second right turn into my mother‘s walk-in closet.

My sister followed and after glancing around the closed space notice the bird poking out from behind the poster size picture of my mother which was used for the memorial service. After moving the picture out of the way and several more failed attempt, she began to tire of the hunt. A silent prayer was offered up the gist of which was, “Mom, you are there with Jesus, ask him to help me get rid of this thing!” The next attempt at trapping the bird succeeded in covering the bird on the floor with the sweater. Since the intruder was secured, she went down stairs for a moment to gloat to dad about her success. When she returned a few moments later, she carefully grouped the sweater together to create a carrier. Much to her dismay, the bird was no longer within the folds of knitted softness. The closet floor was cleared of all boxes, shoes, etc., and the clothes were all moved from side to side in a vain attempt to relocate the prisoner. An hour of searching produced no sign. Well, an answer to prayer is an answer to prayer, and if the bird escaped on its own, so much the better.

It may seem silly, but little events like this are very helpful with the grieving process. This lost little bird had not only been a distraction, but a comfort. Mr. Sparrow had not only entered the home, but he spent time in the areas where mum had spent most of her time, ending in our parents bedroom, where mums presence could still be felt. Again, since this was a time of reflection and sorrow for all of us, this little incident had special meaning because of the family’s traditional meaning of birds flying in the house. Comfort was found in the belief that this little bird was a special message from Mum to tell us that she had “made it” and all was well.

Fast forward to a little more than two years later.  While my dad was recovering from lung surgery, he and my twin sister were reminiscing about that day the winged messenger brought comfort to the family. Dad was again moved by the incident and, inspired, he told her if something happened to him, he would send the bird back to let her know he was with Mum. Of course, the chances of another bird coming in the room… well, it just isn’t likely. She kept this story to herself, seeing it as special to her because they shared the incident. After her visit, she returned to her home in Oklahoma.

Sadly, the surgery did not accomplish the intended results, and within a few weeks dad’s condition had deteriorated and he crossed over in November of 2007. Those of us with dad that fateful night remembered the story of the wayward bird because of a strange occurrence… within hours after dad died in his sleep, a hospice nurse came in to help with the details and legalities required in spite of the emotional turmoil of such an event.

During the course of working out the details, it was discovered that any unused medication could be donated, and sent to those in need of it in Mexico. My oldest sister, dads caregiver during the last two years, had remembered there were two boxes of medicine in the walk-in closet. She went and retrieved them right then to make sure they weren’t forgotten in the business of the next few days. After she moved the boxes, she noticed a dark spot on the carpet where the boxes were.

Bird Stained Carpet

She looked closer and realized it was bird shaped. Not only was it in the form of the wayward sparrow from two years earlier, it had feathers – perfectly preserved… it was THE SAME BIRD. How it ended up back in the closet under a box that wasn’t around until well after the first bird incident is mind boggling… and it wasn’t until after my twin sister heard of this second incident were we told of the message dad had promised to send.

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