This is a long story, but I need to purge…

When we were little kids, my grandma would tell me, my sister, and my two cousins that my grandfather (who passed away right before my first birthday) loved cardinals – they were his favorite bird. So, whenever we would see one, she told us that it was him coming to check on us – to let us know that he was still with us. When my aunt passed away in June 2006, we all started to see more and more cardinals wherever we went, but especially outside our homes. Naturally, we made the connection that it was my aunt who had come for a visit. Maybe this makes us a bit crazy, but it actually made me feel better. She suffered so incredibly much throughout her short (in my mind) battle with cancer, that it was nice to think that she was free from pain and that perhaps she had been reunited somewhere with her father and her husband.

I spoke with my mom this evening when I got home from work. After many months of sadness and frustration, my mom finally took the big plunge and went to see a psychologist. I was (and am) quite proud of her. There is a family history with the doctor she chose. In 2001, I went to see him for some anxiety I was experiencing at the time. I went once a month for about a year until I moved out of state. He was a wonderful man and I eventually referred my sister to him in 2004 when she experienced severe post-partum depression. Fast forward to 2006 and quite coincidentally (or was it fate?), this same doctor was seeing patients with terminal cancer in the same hospital where my aunt was being treated. He ended up as her doctor – talking with her about her illness. One afternoon, my aunt experienced some confusion related to her cancer (we had yet to find out that the cancer had spread to her brain) and from the enormous amounts of pain meds that she was on. She grew panicked and this doctor came to help her settle down. He called my mother, not knowing we were all related, and requested she come to the hospital. I tagged along with my dad and he and I waited in the “family area” while my mom went in to see my aunt. Somehow, the doctor figures out who my mom is and he comes into the waiting room to see me. We talk for a bit about what was happening and neither of us could get over the fact that our lives crossed paths 5 years later. So, this is the doctor my mom chose to see, and so far she is very happy with this decision.

Now back to the cardinal. As my mom and I spoke about her session, she began to cry as she relayed her conversation with the doctor. He told her that he visited with my aunt often, and she told him how much she loved my mom; how much she appreciated how my mom took care of her throughout her illness; and that she was very well aware that she was dying. At this point, I look out the window and see the most gorgeous cardinal sitting on a tree branch outside my kitchen window – just staring at me. He stayed throughout the entire conversation and as soon as my mom and I hung up, he flew away.

I have to stop now – the tears are starting to cloud my vision as I type this. I miss her so much. I wish that she never had to endure what she did. Maybe I am crazy for thinking that this cardinal meant anything, but it makes me feel just a little better thinking that it did.

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