Her Blue Angel

Grief

Her Blue Angel

An oversized bird's persistence made her feel she was being sent a message.

An artist's rendering of a bluebird on the wing

Bluebirds were always a source of joy for my husband, Pete, and me. We loved to watch them in our yard, building their nests in the many bluebird boxes Pete had built to accommodate them.

But after Pete’s death from heart failure, I had no interest in bluebirds or anything else. I was all alone, and my loneliness consumed me.

“Come look at this!” my daughter called from the kitchen a few days after the funeral. “Come see this silly bluebird!”

I stayed on the couch. The yard was full of birds in August. What could be so special about this one? Kristi came to me in the living room. “Mom, there’s just something about this bird you have to see.”

I followed her to the kitchen, expecting to see a bluebird perched on one of the boxes or maybe the bird bath. Instead I found him on the screen itself. He turned his bright blue head this way and that, peering into the house as if he was looking for somebody.

“Have you ever seen a bluebird do that?” Kristi said.

“I’ve never seen one this big,” I said. He wouldn’t even fit in a bluebird box. With his peach-colored chest puffed out proudly he reminded me of Pete himself.

The bird flew to the banister of the porch, then back to the screen door. One, two, three times. Then he flew up to the flagpole beside the birdbath and just sat.

Pete would have loved him, I thought. It was strange to be watching the bird without him. Pete and I had been inseparable since we got married in 1958. We spent even more time together after our retirement, sitting on the porch, cooking dinner, working on craft projects. Now, what did I have left?

Kristi fixed lunch but I couldn’t eat. I could hardly look at the kitchen table, the place where Pete and I had shared our morning prayer each day. I went back to the couch.

Before I knew it, Kristi was calling me again. “Now’s he’s out by the garage,” she said.

Her husband, Keith, had backed Pete’s pickup into the driveway while he swept out the garage. The bluebird perched on the truck’s open window, looking at the front seat as if seeing someone there. He flew inside to the backseat, then to the front, then flew to the window of Pete’s workshop.

“It’s like he’s visiting all the places that belonged to Dad,” Kristi said.

“Strange coincidence,” I said. Those places reminded me of my husband, but whatever the bird’s reasons for sitting in those places they had nothing to do with my husband.

By the time I went to sleep that night I’d forgotten all about the bird. So I had no idea what was banging on the screen the next morning until I was face-to-face with him. Once again he flew to the porch banister and back three times. Then he took his spot on the flagpole.

For the rest of the summer and well into the fall, the bird was a daily visitor. Every morning he greeted me at the screen door; every afternoon he sat on the flagpole. Somehow his presence made me feel less alone.

Maybe I still took my meals standing at the counter because I couldn’t face Pete’s empty chair at the table, but at least my bluebird was watching over me. He gave me something to look forward to every morning, and something happy to talk about with friends and family.

“What do you call him?” my niece asked me.

“I just call him my Blue Angel,” I said. God used a raven and a dove to speak to Noah. Why couldn’t he have sent a bluebird to comfort me?

One day in December I caught sight of myself in the mirror. Months of avoiding the kitchen table had left me thin and tired-looking. Even my hair looked scraggly. It was time for me to start taking care of myself. I made an appointment with my hairdresser, Retha.

It was a trek to the salon, but I’d been with her a long time. “I need a cut and a perm,” I told Retha when I sat down in her chair. Retha tied a smock around me and stopped. “What’s that?” She pointed out the door of the salon to the street.

Something round and blue was perched on Retha’s SUV outside. It was my bluebird! There was no mistaking him at that size. He stayed on the SUV throughout my entire appointment and was back home to greet me the next morning as usual.

As I got stronger, my bluebird took some time off. Sometimes he didn’t visit for a couple of days at a time. But he was there when I needed him. Like on Valentine’s Day when he surprised me at my bedroom window.

One challenge still remained: the breakfast table. I still hadn’t so much as pulled out a chair. Today’s the day, I thought as I got up one morning.

I made a cup of coffee and took a seat opposite Pete’s empty place. Instinctively I stretched my hand across the table, reaching for Pete’s hand to say the morning blessing.

All my months of progress vanished. I was alone again, and the pain overwhelmed me. “How could you take him from me?” I yelled to the empty kitchen. “Why isn’t Pete here with me?” I pounded the table and cried, barely aware of where I was and what I was doing. All I knew was how much I hurt.

Then something caught my attention. Something banging on the storm door. I opened my eyes to see my bluebird knocking just as he’d done that first day, his bright peach chest rising and falling as if he’d flown to me in a rush, his little heart beating under his feathers.

“I’m here!” he seemed to say. “You’re not alone. I’m here.”

I’m not alone, I thought. I had my Blue Angel. What was more, I had the God who’d sent him to me. I would not forget it again.

On May 17, 2011, my bluebird visited me for the last time. But his message remains safe in my heart: I am never alone.

 

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