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A Message of Love from the Hereafter

Her husband had always talked to cardinals. Was he talking to her now from the afterlife through a persistent red bird?

An artist's rendering of a cardinal perched on a snow-covered birdbath

Morning light filtered through the curtains on the French window. My first thought of the day was of my husband, J.G. It had been the same every morning for the past couple of weeks since his death in January.

We’d been married 26 years. I couldn’t get used to the world without him. It was as if all the brightness had disappeared from my life.

J.G. was bright in so many ways. Bright smile, bright laugh—he even liked bright colors. Turning over in my bed, I could almost see him behind the wheel of a red pick-up truck.

As the owner of his own construction business, J.G. was in charge of choosing what vehicles they would drive. He knew exactly what color he wanted. “Are all your trucks red?” a new employee once asked him.

“Is there any other color?” J.G. said. Not as far as my husband was concerned.

Even illness wasn’t enough to dull J.G.’s bright spirit. A stroke made it difficult for him to get around. At first he used a walker, but after a couple of falls he realized that was too risky. It was time to get something safer, like a motorized wheelchair.

J.G. and I went to a medical supply store to pick one out. “We have a wide selection,” the man at the store said. “What are you looking for?”

“Anything in red?” J.G. asked.

“A red wheelchair?”

“Bright red,” said J.G. “Like a cardinal’s feathers.”

I was sure he was going to be disappointed. Red trucks were easy enough to come by, but who paints wheelchairs to look like fire engines? The salesman disappeared into the back of the store and returned wheeling a chair in cherry red.

“I’ll take it,” said J.G. without even bothering to try it out.

The salesman grinned and directed us to the cashier. “That was easy!”

Bright red, like a cardinal’s feathers, I thought as I sat up in bed. J.G. made everything as bright as a cardinal’s wings.

Cardinals, of course, were J.G.’s favorite bird. We didn’t see too many in Houston, where we lived during the week. But when we drove out here into the deep country on weekends we knew those red birds would be everywhere.

J.G. had counted on it when he built this house. He’d made sure to include a big wooden deck surrounded by trees. Every evening the two of us sat outside listening to the wind in the leaves and the call of the birds.

“I think there’s even more cardinals around since I got my wheelchair,”J.G. said to me one breezy evening after dinner. Some people wouldn’t think of a wheelchair as cheerful, but people always smiled when they saw J.G. ride by in his.

Maybe the birds felt the same way. Maybe they considered him one of them.

“They probably like the color as much as you do,” I said.

J.G. turned toward the trees. “Miss-you! Miss-you!” he called, imitating one of their signature calls. He cocked his head and listened. I held my breath. A moment later, sure enough, came an answer from above us. Miss-you! Miss-you!

“Can you believe some of the men at work don’t believe I can talk to cardinals?” J.G. said.

I’d been skeptical of J.G.’s claim myself until I’d witnessed one of their “conversations.” The birds really did seem to respond to his imitations of their call.

What I wouldn’t give to hear one of J.G.’s cardinal calls right now, I thought, looking into the gloom of my bedroom. Opening the curtains would let in the sunlight, I knew, but it wouldn’t bring back the brightness I’d lost in my life.

I was just about to lie back down and pull the covers over my head when something tapped hard on the window.

What on earth?

The urgent tapping came again, even louder this time. I went to the window and pushed aside the curtain. Sunlight poured into the room. I blinked at the cross-piece on the window. Looking back at me from his perch there was a bright red cardinal. “Miss-you! Miss-you!” the cardinal called, cocking his plumed head to look into my face.

The room suddenly got brighter—and it wasn’t the sunlight.

Apparently J.G. was still talking with the cardinals—or the angels—and sent one to make sure I wasn’t letting grief get the better of me. There was still plenty of brightness in the world and this little red bird wasn’t going to let me forget it.

The cardinal stayed close to the house all day. He peeped in at one window, then another, as if he was making sure I was okay. For the next few weeks he visited me every day.

J.G. is no longer with me in this world, but I can still find brightness in red pick-ups, cardinal songs and the love of God who made them all.


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