Cardinal Consolation

This week I came across a writing of mine from 2006, one of a series of weekly articles for our church newsletter. A sweet memory and good counsel, from my long-ago self:

Cardinal Consolation

Well, Sandy made it sixteen years.  She would be the last to want a sappy send-off.  Not cat-like. So we held her Holy Saturday funeral in silence.  Her younger brother the dog lay down by her grave and moaned, but other than that, no words were spoken. 

She had fallen silent herself the day before—she chose Good Friday to stop her awful railing against blindness, to stop walking in pitiful frustrated circles. 

As the day unfolded, she stopped all extraneous movement and sound altogether.  The bottom line for her was to settle against my heart, purring, and wait.  Enough for her to be in my arms, to know that Austin, Robert, and Rusty the dog were close by, keeping watch. 

And so Easter weekend was especially poignant this year.  I confess I am taking the death of this faithful little feline very hard. But I make no excuses.  She was dear, and sixteen years of friendship is a long time. 

This morning as I dressed to go to Bible study, I heard something outside, a voice close to Sandy’s resting place.  It was a male northern cardinal, singing his heart out, no doubt to attract a lovely lady of his species.  But I took it as a note of encouragement, a suggestion to give thanks, remember, and let Sandy go. 

The message?  “What? Cheer!  What? Cheer!  What? Cheer!”  There are friends gathering, a Bible lesson to be taught.  So one had best take heart, and get on with it. 

So it goes, in the life of a family, the life of a community, the life of a church.  There will continue to be long stretches of “ordinary time,” punctuated by surging joy, and body-blows of pain.  Through it all, we keep loving, trusting, and praying, often with sighs too deep for words.  We keep claiming the anguish of Good Friday, the hush of Holy Saturday, the glory and power and promise of Easter. 

And underneath it all, the everlasting arms. 

Interactive Centerpiece

My niece and I share our first name with a dear little bird called phoebe. So when planning a birthday supper for Phoebe it seemed fitting to make a centerpiece featuring birds. What a delight, playing with my treasures! See-through bird tower. Upended candleholder birdbaths. Clay pots—one squirrel-perch, one cave for a jeweled frog. Trees to frame the scene. Each time I passed the table I tweaked the tableau. I suppose there was some grocery shopping and cooking; there had to have been, right? But the heart of my planning was that centerpiece.

Came the night of the supper and two interesting things happened.  First, niece Phoebe did a resurrection. She was examining the Walgreens cardinal, whose battery’s been dead for years. Suddenly the cardinal came to life, happily singing, twitching its head for emphasis. “CheerCheerCheer. PrettyPrettyPretty!” Thus encouraged, Phoebe and others laid hands on the blue jay. No luck there. Silent he remains, screws to his battery door frozen shut. But still he charms my heart, as he did that rainy day in Walgreens when first he spotted me with his electric eye and I heard him shriek, “JayJayJay! Beedleeyoop!Beedleeyoop!” With emphatic jerks of that noble plastic head.

Next interesting thing: after all were seated for dinner, my eye went to the centerpiece. It had been transfigured. Trees crowded the tower. Creatures all in different places. More creatures from around the house, including an AstroTurf rabbit and a stuffed mountain goat. Quoth the responsible party, five-year-old Amelia, “Look, Honey. It’s a forest!” Soon other hands, adult hands, crept toward the centerpiece, making other changes. “And a little child shall lead them.”

I hardly remember what we ate. But it was good.