Memories never sleep. They dwell in perpetual insomnia. One little nudge and memories jump to life, complete with the resurrection of feelings and emotions. Like a hologram of the past, you can see and feel the times but can’t touch them because they reside in the twilight zone of time.
Some memories have a denser texture. Sad times can shatter our rational facade with emotion and panic — smothering our sense of peace and serenity and shading our lives with melancholy. That’s how it is with my daughter, Betsy, who died during childbirth eight years ago.
Like everyone who “loses” a loved one, I wished I would get a “sign” that she was in the proverbial “better place” and at peace. I guess we all desire a last indication of their love and that there is something – some power or energy – on the “other” side.
A week or so after she died that stark, dreary March, I was standing in the driveway talking with my neighbor Peter. The cool twilight was getting grayer when there was a panicky rustle of birds tearing into flight from the flowering crabapple tree next to the stonewall.
Peter looked up and shouted “An eagle. An eagle. I haven’t seen an eagle on the farm in 30 years! Wow, did you see that?”
I saw the flash of its wings as it sailed upward over the corner of Peter’s house. We stood there reveling in the unexpected sight.
Peter, who was raised on the farm, loved watching birds and could name all of them by the sound of their whistles and calls. We spent a few more minutes talking about the rarity of the eagle, and as the chill of the evening swelled I headed to the house. I took off my jacket and went to my office to check my e-mail.
Dribbling through the spam and business stuff, to my surprise, there was an e-mail from my son-in-law, Bill, Betsy’s husband. I generally did not get much e-mail from him so I anxiously opened it. He wrote a short note about taking my four-year old granddaughter, Claire, to the golf course and letting her have some fun “driving” the cart around.
He said he took some pictures of her behind the wheel. By each picture, he wrote a brief sentence. I opened the five pictures and there on the fourth slide was a stunning picture of an eagle sitting on a branch majestically looking to its left. He said they stopped and took this picture because Claire was so excited to see it so close.
I sat back stunned. What are the odds they would see an eagle on their trek around a golf course the same day I saw the rarity of an eagle on the farm? A sign? I don’t know, but I like to think so. I needed something and then there was this synchronous sighting – a rarity. Was the eagle a reflection of her spirit? Or was it nothing more than a grand coincidence?
To me, it was Betsy’s spirit free from her body letting me and Claire and Bill know there is something beyond the cold, vacant body she left behind. I called Bill immediately and he, I am sure, thought I was a delusional bereaved father grasping at a coincidence and giving meaning to it beyond reality. He is a man with a big heart and a very rational, scientific mind.
Well eight years later, on my granddaughter’s 12th birthday, I got a picture from Bill’s wife, Heather, of an eagle sitting on the roof of the house. An eagle … on the house roof … on Claire’s birthday. A sign? Or coincidence? I know what I think.