Oh the cardinal!
The morning I arrived in Kentucky, I was whisked to a cool, dark soccer field. Still groggy from my three in the morning pick-up at the train station, my sweet friend opened the locker room to allow me to freshen up. I spent the next two hours huddled under a blanket (who knew it would be that cool in Kentucky?) watching one of the most motivational coaches I know work with her soccer team. (And that is a pretty big compliment coming from this coach’s daughter.)
While shivering, oops I mean, sitting, my ears heard the song of an old familiar friend. Somewhere hidden in the trees surrounding the field was one of our favorite songbirds – the messenger of hope to our family – the cardinal. I had to smile because I was listening to the red bird’s melodious song while watching the preseason practice of the “Lady Cardinals”.
Joy – pure, unadulterated joy – filled my soul and spirit as I took the field to share with those darling girls what it means to create a legacy. The reason for my happiness was simple. Among the foliage was a little piece of home.
Later at breakfast, I shared with Coach B of how God (and in our hearts, Reed) sent the songbird in one of our darkest hours. She, like many others who have heard the story, was moved by the cardinal coming at exactly the moment when we needed him the most. I am sure that our server (another one of my sweet Kentucky sisters) was wondering what in the mayonnaise was going on at that table. We did create quite a ruckus praising God for his sense of humor of putting a cardinal lover together with a coach of the cardinals.
After breakfast, it was time to head over to the B&B to rest and relax. Upon stepping out of the car, I was taken by the beauty of the inn, the sounds of the South, and the smells reminiscent of my childhood. My eyes were drawn to the front porch lined with inviting rockers. I knew I would be spending every chance I got right there.
A flash of red appeared in the corner of my eye. Immediately, I knew what was happening. For me, that is a God sighting – when he allows the red bird to remind me I am loved. I couldn’t help myself, but I began to hit Coach B on the arm. I am certain that she thought I had lost my marbles. I had only “known” her for 7 hours, and here I was smacking her to grab her attention.
All I had to do was point to the corner of the porch, and she understood. Honestly, hitting her was my only option because I couldn’t speak. The lump in my throat was that big. God called me to this place, and like that moment five years ago, he sent “Reedy” to tell me that all of this was a part of his bigger plan.
With tears in my eyes, I couldn’t help but smile that the young man I shared in my legacy story earlier that morning was “present” in the red wings of God’s love.
For those unfamiliar with our family’s story, below is the wording from the card we had made for Christmas in 2008.
The cardinal is a beautiful bird with gorgeous red plumage and an equally inviting song. There is an old legend that says that the cardinal was once a white bird, in fact as white as snow. The cardinal came to the cross on Calvary’s hill and sang to Jesus at the base of his cross. The cardinal sang with all its might to his Maker and Master. During his song, Jesus’ blood dripped onto his feathers, and henceforth the male cardinal has been his brilliant red color.
As many of you know, our children have received a bird Christmas ornament every year. Each of the children receives a different bird that has some significance to their lives. Reed received the blue jay because he loved to watch the blue jays eat sunflowers outside his bedroom window. Sawyer has the cardinal after he received a gift from his godparents that had a cardinal on it, and he loved it. Erin has the chickadee, because Kandy was so excited to have a little “chick” in the house. Cloie gets the American goldfinch for while pregnant with her a goldfinch came to the family’s feeders for the first time. Each of the children’s birds had visited our feeders except for the cardinal. No matter how many different ways we tried, we just couldn’t lure a cardinal to our backyard.
Then the most unspeakable horror happened to our family. We were deep in the midst of our grief when the most improbable and impossible thing occurred. Exactly one month following Reed’s death, a male cardinal landed in our backyard tree (with no feeders filled), and he started singing the most beautiful song our ears could hear. But it took the faith of a young man to realize that a miracle was happening. Sawyer realized the red bird was a message from Reed to tell us that he is doing just fine in Jesus’ arms. See Reed knew exactly which bird to have Jesus send to get our attention. He also knew how deeply hurt Sawyer was at that point in our journey, and he knew which bird would be the one, above all other birds, Sawyer needed to see. (It probably didn’t hurt that he sent a bird that was his favorite color.) Well, some may call it coincidence, but we choose to