A Tuesday Kind of Miracle

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Bluebirds have had a special place in my life since March 5, 2005.  That’s the day Richard and I got married under a white tent in our backyard, down by the river.  During our vows, a little bluebird perched on the fence behind us and listened in.  Our small band of family and friends saw him, but neither of us did because we were looking at each other.  When we talked about it afterwards, most of us there marveled that we had never seen one before.  And I still hadn’t.

The bluebird made another appearance at the reception, resting on the bare wisteria bush, while we were making toasts.  Again, I missed him.   We were laughing so hard in that moment because my 102 yr old grandfather downed three glasses of champagne before the first toast could get started!  He couldn’t hear what was going on and just assumed my brother was standing at his elbow refilling his glass to be hospitable.  Strange to think that Pop outlived Richard.  He made it another year and Richard made it 11 more days.

The next day, we were back to the routine of transfusions and infusions and confusions.  I still hadn’t seen a bluebird, but I believed in the magic of  it.  I knew that we had been visited by something truly special and rare.

I did see the bluebird a few months later.  Richard’s parents had come down to do some paperwork on the estate.  We were seated at the dining room table sorting through the piles of bills and payments.  It’s like swimming through molasses, that kind of work during that kind of grief.  I was feeling overwhelmed and far too young to be in that moment when I looked out the window at the very instant that the bluest flash I’d ever seen flitted past and landed on the dogwood tree.  He was real!  He was there!  It was just the sign I had ached for.

The path of grief is not a straight line.  You don’t start off in the deepest slough then climb up each step to get back to peaceful.  Grief moves forward, but in a looping line.  You’re going along, making progress then you hit a loop and your stomach lurches and everything is flipped upside down and you land right back where you were a few weeks or months ago.  Eventually, the loops get smaller and spread farther apart, but they’re still there to…well, to throw you for a loop.

That’s how I found myself in despair one late summer day.  I was hollow, made of smoke so thin that I might fly apart at any loud sound or sudden move.  It had been months.  I was back at work.  I was going to the grocery store and to the movies.  I was rattling around in our big house with my dogs and our cats.  I was living and it hurt.  I stepped outside one day, looked up at the sky and whispered, “I could really use a bluebird.”

The next evening, I let the dogs out on the deck and what do you know, there sat a blue bird.  A bedraggled looking blue parakeet clutched the back of the patio chair.  I blinked pretty hard, a couple of times.  I walked back inside and watched it through the window.  Still there.  I locked the cats in the bedroom.  When I approached the parakeet, it jumped right into my palm.  I cupped

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him gently between my hands and took him to the bathroom where he would be safe.

My dad is a veterinarian, so I called him for advice.  “Do I need to put up signs around the neighborhood to see if someone is missing a parakeet?”  He chuckled and said, “Nooooo.  Somebody’s mama got tired of cleaning the cage and left the window open.  Just go get you a cage and enjoy your new parakeet.”  I asked him what he could tell me about parakeets and he said, “Does it have a colored strip over its beak?  If it’s colored, that means it’s a male.  Or a female.  Hell, I don’t remember.”

I bought a little cage and he made himself at home in the bathroom.  Every evening, I’d lock myself in there with him (with 3 cats scratching at the door) and let him fly around for a while.  He liked being held and would perch on my shoulder so we could look in the mirror.  He sang whenever the water ran or the toilet flushed.  I could tell if people washed their hands because the little bird would sing longer!

The moral of this story:  accept the gifts that come your way, even if they aren’t EXACTLY what you requested.  I asked for a bluebird but I got a blue bird.  I named my little friend Tuesday to remind myself that miracles happen even on the most ordinary day of the week.

23 thoughts on “A Tuesday Kind of Miracle

      1. baddestmotherever

        I’m glad it spoke to you, Mary. Do whatever you need to do on that anniversary. The first year, I went away to avoid it. I needed to be away from clocks so that I wasn’t marking every minute. Other years, I’ve remembered what happened every hour and it was OK. You’ll find your way.

  1. Lee Nicholls

    I lost my mother to cancer in 2008. During the couple of days she was in hospice care, her best friend for years was able to come visit. At her bedside her friend asked her to send her a bluebird. I then realized I had never seen a bluebird either. Moms’ friend returned home and soon reported my mother had visited her by way of bluebird. It took 4 years for me to finally see a bluebird. I saw 2 in one week in 2 different locations.

    Reply
    1. baddestmotherever

      Oh, Lee, that’s a beautiful story! I associate cardinals with Richard’s spirit because he was red-haired. During the weeks after his death, there was a cardinal that sat on the deck every morning and looked in the kitchen window. I felt like he was checking on me!

      Reply
  2. Cheryl

    Your description of grief matches that of Joan Didon’s in “The Year of Magical Thinking”, which helped me a lot in the year after my brother died.

    Reply
    1. baddestmotherever

      Oh, Cheryl, I loved that book. The part that stayed with me the most was when she talked about how you mark every day of that first year by thinking back–“a year ago we were (fill in the blank).” But then on the day after the anniversary of the death, you have to say, “A year ago, he was dead.” Your family had to deal with all that and the trauma of a sudden, violent loss. I know it’s still hard every day.

      Reply
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  4. Tara J

    Ashley this is beautiful. For me it’s the cardinals. They are not as rare but I gave Daddy reports on them and their goings ons as he lay in the hospital bed in the living room. They still lift my spirits. Thank you for sharing. Love.

    Reply
  5. Carole Johnson

    I thought your paragraph about grief not being a straight line was so perfect. You would think you start off at the deepest point right away, but unfortunately it gets worse before it gets better. I’m glad you wrote this, I think it’s important for people going through grief to know this tip. It helps you to be a bit more prepared for what’s to come…

    “The path of grief is not a straight line. You don’t start off in the deepest slough then climb up each step to get back to peaceful. Grief moves forward, but in a looping line. You’re going along, making progress then you hit a loop and your stomach lurches and everything is flipped upside down and you land right back where you were a few weeks or months ago. Eventually, the loops get smaller and spread farther apart, but they’re still there to…well, to throw you for a loop.”

    Reply
    1. baddestmotherever

      I’m glad that paragraph spoke to you. I had the help of my therapist during this time and I still remember her finger drawing circles in the air while we talked about it! The other piece of advice that she gave me about grieving is that we just need to do our best each day and REMEMBER THAT OUR BEST CHANGES from day to day. Some days, you will be able to get out and about. Others, not so much. It’s all progress.

      Reply
  6. daviskincaid

    I stumbled on this from Rachel Held Evans superlatives. I struggle with looking so hard for a bluebird that I may not be seeing blue birds so it really resonated. Feel free to check out the “Grief Tastes Like…” section of my blog, daviskincaid.com I’d love your thoughts…

    Reply
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