When Susan’s mother was dying of cancer, she spent time talking individually with each of her adult children. When my friend Susan’s turn came, her mother said, “Whenever you see a hummingbird, think of me and the love we shared.” Her mother died a week later.
Susan lives in a housing addition in a quiet suburb of Indianapolis. Hummingbirds started coming to her house a few weeks after her mother’s passing. Susan did not put out any special food or water for these birds, they just appeared. Susan was initially surprised but then remembered her mother’s words. Now, five years later, Susan remains surrounded by her mother’s love through the serendipitous appearance of hummingbirds.
When Susan told me about her experience I became more aware of birds and animals I saw consistently.
For me, it was cardinals. Cardinals seemed to show up wherever I went and in unlikely places. One day, I was riding with a friend on busy Meridian Street in Indianapolis. This four-lane highway is filled throughout the day with north and south traffic. However, as we were driving to the restaurant where we were having lunch, a cardinal flew in front of the car—a reminder even in the midst of a busy, congested highway God is near.
Whenever I see a cardinal I experience delight. I thank God for such a bright red reminder of God’s presence. One morning I awakened, and went directly to my desk where I begin each day with prayer. My days had been troubling and difficult. I settled into my chair, looked out the window, and there was a cardinal perched on the backyard fence. My heart filled with a prayer of gratitude:
My first glance out the window this morning.
I see you, God!
Thank you for reminding me I am never alone.
You are with me.
I occasionally see a cardinal when I bake biscuits. As I knead, my hands sticky and dripping with dough, I look out the kitchen window and see a bright red cardinal perched on the black fence, blessing my work. When I meet with my spiritual director in her house on the eastside of Indianapolis, a cardinal always flies by either the large picture window where we meet, or the ceiling window captures the movement of birds flying high. Every time my friend Selena visits, a cardinal appears in the back yard during our time together.
The cardinal is a tangible reminder of God’s presence and companionship when I am alone or with others.
I called Susan recently to ask permission to use her story in my blog. She laughed, giving her consent.
“Let me tell you what happened a few weeks ago,” she said. ”Natalie [her oldest daughter] celebrated first communion. We had a family gathering in the backyard after church. Mid-way through the afternoon, I saw three hummingbirds hovering near a tree. My sister saw the birds, too, and we smiled at each other. ‘She is here, too,’ we commented.”
Prayer: God, keep us alert to ways you remind us of your presence as we go through our days. Amen.