Aunt Vi’s funeral was Tuesday. She looked beautiful, and though I know she was no longer there, I have to think she’d have been pleased by how pretty she was.
She was so ready to move on to her next chapter that I could only feel relief for her. Still, it was hard walking past her for the last time at the end of the service. “I’ll see you soon,” I thought, words I’d often used as I left after visiting.
It was hard, too, to leave her at the cemetery, amid the piles of snow scraped from the ground to make room for her pink casket.
She hated to be cold, and at the last nursing home she took advantage of having her own thermostat to keep her room toasty warm. Tropical, I used to tell her. “Are you too warm dear?” she’d ask me. “No, I’m just fine,” I’d tell her as sweat ran down my back.
It felt wrong to leave her in the cold now.
I knew she wasn’t really there, that she was already celebrating with family and friends, someplace filled with light and music and love and completeness. I knew this, but still.
And then, during the luncheon, all of us sitting in the rec room of the apartment building she had lived in for over twenty-five years, someone across the table from me exclaimed “Look! A cardinal!”
Sitting in a tree just outside the large windows sat a lone cardinal, staring intently at the goings on inside.
“You know Vi really loved cardinals,” I remarked. “She called them red birds.” The red bird outside moved to a different tree, still watching the people inside.
The next day Katie-girl and I headed to Alabama in an effort to get away from the snow and cold. Midway on the trip we stopped in a tiny little town in Kentucky at a riverside park to stretch our legs. I took a short video of us walking along the river and posted it on Facebook. A nephew noted that he heard a cardinal in all the bird chatter I captured. Hmmmm…
And today on our final day of driving, at the last rest stop of the trip, Katie and I were walking along the top of a ravine. The sun was shining and we were enjoying it’s warmth when a cardinal swooped down low to a branch very near us and began to sing.
“OK!” I said, under my breath. “OK! I believe you!” And then the bird flew off into the trees. Mission accomplished.
She said she’d try to send me a sign that she was alright. I’d say she got her message across.
Loud and clear.