Mother’s Day is often a hard day for those who have lost a mother, a child, or even a spouse. I did not plan to share this story today because Mother's Day is coming up next weekend, but it just so happened it was planned for this newsletter—so perhaps that is a sign in and of itself.
Many of you are reminded of a loved one’s presence through signs—a rainbow, an animal, or certain songs. I have often heard it's through the arrival of a particular bird at a significant time. Cardinals seem to be a popular one, but I have heard from patients and friends who have repeatedly seen bluejays, hummingbirds, and even eagles when they needed to see them most.
This past year my cousin Shalini lost her mother, Mary, whom I called Auntie Bubby. Shalini was incredibly close to Mary, who raised her as a single parent. She was not with her mom at the time of her death, which was heartbreaking to her. When I asked her more about what happened at that time, she described to me a situation that occurred that was “very strange.”
Shalini drives a lot for work and had been on the highway driving 70 mph at the time of her mother’s passing when a red cardinal followed by an orange and brown bird flew across her windshield almost in slow motion. It was like the orange bird was tagging along following the red one. She could not understand how both birds nearly hung suspended in the air yet moved synchronously at the same speed at which she was driving. She then told me that in the car with her was her husband John, whose mother, Bev, had passed several years ago and whom they believed was near to them whenever they saw a red cardinal. My response to her was “then that was definitely a sign.”
Shalini later learned that the orange and dark brown bird was a Baltimore Oriole. I do remember that her mother loved orange, and it seemed like a fitting bird to represent her mom who was bold in every way and quite the fashionista. Shalini said to me, “It was like Bev was telling us that she got her (mom) and she was showing her around heaven. My mom was following her.” Although my cousin loved that thought, I could tell she wasn’t completely convinced.
Several days passed, and as she began the arduous task of going through her mother’s home and sorting out her things, Shalini came across a set of wind chimes full of birds. Upon taking a closer look, she realized the birds were all none other than Baltimore Orioles. She had never noticed these wind chimes before. A few moments later, she discovered painting upon painting from an art class her mom had taken in the last year. Most of the paintings depicted one particular bird: the Baltimore Oriole.
I, too, was very close to my Auntie Bubby growing up. I did not get to attend her funeral in Arizona, which coincided with my first appearance on the TODAY show. Although it was a very difficult decision to make, I knew my aunt would have been so happy to tell everyone she had a niece on TV, so I went. Yet, I wanted my own sign, so once I hung up the phone, I asked God to bring me a Baltimore Oriole. I don’t think I actually had ever seen one. I immediately turned and looked out my window, expecting a miraculous appearance, but there was nothing.
A day later, I was shopping at a local store decorated for Christmas. As I walked around the magically lit winter wonderland, I spotted something small that stopped me in my tracks. At my eye level, in the middle of one of the ornately decorated trees, was a small ornament of a bird orange and brown: a Baltimore Oriole. I looked up and down at the rest of the tree and at the baskets of ornaments for sale around the various trees to look for more of the same bird ornaments, but there were none. Just one in the middle of that tree in front of me staring back at me. I smiled, said a silent thank you, and went on with my morning filled with a sense of wonder and hope.
When I called my cousin yesterday to ask her permission to share this story, she told me that there were more signs. She now sees this bird fairly often, and there have been other signs, too.
A few days ago she was driving through West Virginia at 2 am and really missing her mom. It was late at night and pitch black and her tears were falling so hard and fast that she had trouble seeing the road. All of a sudden she saw a green highway sign that she had never seen even though she had driven through WV many times before. The sign said “Amma, WV.” She wrote to me, “I saw that sign 3 times that night. My mom used to call me ‘Amma’ sometimes in a playful, loving way. I stopped crying. I knew mom was near me.” As I read this text, I couldn’t help seeing that WV pronounced phonetically was “wuv,” much like a child would say “love.”
The very next day, Shalini and her husband were driving through Baltimore when John pointed out the stadium where the Orioles played. At that moment, another bird appeared. It was also then that it dawned on her that Baltimore was in Maryland: Mary-land.
Coincidence? Not in my book. For those of you who have lost loved ones, I hope you know it’s not a coincidence that you are reading this right now. If you want to see signs and haven’t, ask to see them believing you will receive them.
Please share this letter with someone who needs to hear it this week. In my next letter, I will talk about another experience I had receiving a confirmation from God directly.
I also want to add that if this next week leading up to Mother’s Day is hard for you, please do whatever it is you need to feel at peace. For some that may mean staying busy, for others remembering your loved one in a special way. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, yet spending time with a caring friend or family member with whom you can be yourself is always a good option.