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Mockingbirds from Heaven

 

Coincidence? Perhaps. But I walked away from there with goose bumps on my arms.

A mockingbird from heaven
Credit: spates
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I first met Vera in 1983, when I moved to my little farm with the somewhat dilapidated farmhouse. Her40 acres adjoined my 25 acres, so she was my neighbor. Already in her upper seventies and a widow of ten years, Vera was one of those memorable women who live out their lives on their beloved homesteads.

“My Dwight passed on ten years ago,” she told me on her first visit, when she came to greet me with a freshly baked peach pie and a welcoming smile. “And my two girls moved on to live their lives in cities, so I guess our farm will be sold to strangers after I’m gone.”

“Oh, that’s sad,” I said.

“Yes, it is that. Our farm has been in the family since the 1800s. It was Dwight’s home place. We lived here since we were married, and raised our family on it, and I’m a-staying here until they carry me away and lay me down to rest next to Dwight in the little cemetery just a half-a-mile from here. Besides, if I moved, I’d miss my mockingbirds, and they’d miss me.”

I smiled at her remark, and as she got up to leave, I thanked her for the pie and the visit.

“Now you be sure to come by and visit with me too,” she said. “I love company. When I’m not at church, I’m usually at home, piecing quilts or making dolls, and I’d love for you to see some of my work.” So the tall, thin, elderly lady with the soft brown eyes, white hair and warm smile became my friend. Soon I was over at her place regularly, watching her piece one of her beautiful quilts or work on her adorable soft, country dolls or just listening to her stories about life on the farm.

A REDHEADED SIGN FROM HEAVEN

One late spring day, as we sat on her little porch chatting, a mockingbird flew out of a holly bush by the house. It landed on a nearby fence post and began singing its little heart out. “I guess that’s one of your mockingbirds,” I said, as the bird finally stopped singing and flew close to the ground in pursuit of an insect.

“Yes, that’s one of them,” Vera nodded. “They have nest in the holly bush. They’ve been using it for several years now.”

“How nice. And you think it’s the same mockingbirds that nest there every year?”

“Yes, I do believe it’s the same pair,” she said. “See that platform feeder there, on one of the fence posts? Dwight put that up, years ago. That’s where I place my treats for my mockingbirds. They especially love bits of fruit.”

“You know, I always thought mockingbirds mainly imitate other birds. But they actually have their own song, don’t they?”

“Oh yes! And a beautiful song it is,” Vera said emphatically. “But they are very good mimics. One year, my Dwight actually taught a mockingbird to sing his favorite hymn, ‘How Great Thou Art.’”

“You’re making that up.” I smiled as I said that.

“No, it’s true. Dwight was a wonderful whistler. When he whistled, people stopped to listen. One day, after listening to a mockingbird’s repertoire, he began to whistle that beautiful hymn as he worked around the yard. And he whistled it, and whistled it some more. A little later, I was sitting on this very porch, sewing one of my dolls, when I heard an unmistakable and beautiful rendition of “How Great Thou Art” ringing from the boughs of my oak tree. A mockingbird had learned it from listening to Dwight whistling it.”

Tears welled in Vera’s eyes as she recalled that special moment. “Of course, one is not supposed to whistle hymns. But Dwight’s whistling was so beautiful that I don’t think the Lord could have taken offense at it,” she added.

A few years later, I sold that little farm and moved 20 miles away to my present location. However, I kept in touch with Vera and still went to visit her regularly. One day, about five years later, she told me that she had been feeling pretty “tough”lately, and a checkup showed a spot on her liver. “The doctor says they could operate on it, but more than likely it wouldn’t give me much more time if they did. So I decided against it,” she said. “As much as I hate the thought of leaving my mockingbirds, if the Lord is ready to take me, I’m ready to join Him and Dwight.”

A couple of months later, one of Vera’s daughters came and took her to Wichita with her, where she passed away shortly after, at age 87. Of course, they brought her back, and she was laid to rest next to Dwight in the little country cemetery, shaded by large oak trees.

Recently I drove back to my old neighborhood to visit a friend who had moved into the area. As I drove on Highway Z and passed Vera’s old place, a sense of sadness and nostalgia enveloped me. Her little cottage was boarded up, her field was overgrown, the place looked unkempt. Someone from out of town owned the farm now; someone who didn’t care how it looked.

Suddenly I felt the urge to visit Vera one more time. I turned unto the narrow dirt road leading to the little cemetery, just half-a-mile from Vera’s home. I parked and walked to the largest of the large oaks, where Vera’s and Dwight’s graves were. As I stood there in silent contemplation, suddenly a beautiful song filled the silence around me. And, sure enough, it was a mockingbird, singing his heart out from that oak tree above the grave. I was awestruck!

Coincidence? Perhaps. But I walked away from there with goose bumps on my arms.

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