I first heard the story of the cardinals years ago at the memorial gathering for a mentor and his wife, who had died just a few months apart. The family distributed seed packets with cards telling how a cardinal is a visitor from heaven, a departed loved one letting you know everything is all right.
On the morning Red was scheduled to take her long ride from a Milwaukee hospital to a hospice near Green Bay, a cardinal hopped up to the patio door and peered inside — almost like someone I once knew wanting to make sure I was OK. A few days later there was a cardinal next to the door again. (Obviously the above photo was taken after he hopped a little farther away.)
Perhaps they’re old friends, or my mom or dad or brother, or my Willow The Best Dog There Was, but they are comforting. They help open the spigot and let out the grief, which gives me a few hours of precious productivity.
Three deer emerge from the woods and step carefully into the open field to our north. Dejah notices them and woofs rather frantically. “It’s OK, Dejah, they’re friends,” I say, but she pants indignantly — or is she panting with the desire to run out and play with them? I’m afraid the deer would not understand.
Like the cardinals at the patio door, these unexpected flashes of heart stopping beauty are a reminder that the world is still full of reasons to go on — and hope.