“My cardinal song is a call to you”

Speak their names

cardinal maleAfter my father-in-law, Richard Powell died on April 22, I received over 125 comments on Facebook. That was very nice. My wife isn’t on Facebook, and I don’t blame her, frankly.

She received about 30 sympathy cards. You know, the ones you buy in a store, sent via the United States Postal Service. Many were from members of our church, and the rest from friends and present or former colleagues. Quite a few included lengthy hand-written notes of condolences. It was very clear that the messages were based on their own experiences of grief.

One, in particular, included an extended note recommending the book Healing After Grief by Martha Whitmore Hickman, which I was able to download for free from here.

Hickman writes about the time after the services are over – and for my FIL, the services haven’t even taken place. “Now there are spaces in the mind, spaces in the days and nights. Often, when we least expect it, the pain and the preoccupation come back, and back—sometimes like the rolling crash of an ocean wave, sometimes like the slow ooze after a piece of driftwood is lifted and water and sand rise to claim their own once more.”

I didn’t leave; love never dies

Another enclosure in a sympathy card was two poems, Speak their names and Red Feathered Soul. The latter was written by Elle Bee.

You might think cynically about Red Feathered Soul, considering it mawkishly sentimental, and I understand that.
“My cardinal song is a call to you
To tell you that I miss you too.”

But the day after my FIL died, my wife and one of her brothers saw a cardinal. At least a half dozen times in the two weeks after he died, my wife and I saw a cardinal in our backyard when usually we see one or two per year. And neither my wife or I had actually heard a cardinal sing in our yard until this month. Make of it what you will.

Today would have been Richard Powell’s 84th birthday.