I’m not superstitious though my family is, at least my mother’s side. It could be cultural and it is certainly an individual thing. But I am second guessing my own beliefs now.
We lost our dog in April (Link to post) and I couldn’t bring myself to go back to the vet’s to get his ashes until this week. It wasn’t hard driving there, but taking a stapled white bag into the car was. On the way into town, I noticed the white churches located on a hilly knoll called God’s Acre. A gray van pulled in front of me with ads: finalgift.com, “Where veterinarians and pet owners find compassionate aftercare services.”
I have never seen a van like this before. Of course I know they exist, as much as slaughterhouses, morgues, and crematoriums exist. But why now, at this moment? It’s the same question I asked the day before.
Father’s Day was a blue sky, barbecue, run-through-the-water-sprinklers kind of day and we left our doors open on the front and back porches. My husband played badminton, volleyball, and games with our children. He came inside to sit down.
“What!!??” he said and pushed back, jumping out of his seat.
Lying on the desk was a bird.
“Why did the kids put that there?” he asked. They hadn’t, of course. I said it might be just knocked out from hitting the window too hard.
It was dead: a juvenile robin, its neck broken. My husband took it outside and I cleaned up the counter. The kids saw it. I scanned the room, imagining its flight in through the door after a stop by the feeder outside, its frustration with all the windows, and its instantaneous demise at the glass pane by the desk .
Though it is every bit as natural as birth and life, death disturbs us. And it’s jarring to find a dead animal in the home.
But there’s more, a third sign. My dream is hazy and unfinished. In it I see a green oversized letter with a dark border. I don’t remember much, just that after opening it, the news was devastating. I closed the envelope to look at it, the edging is black. Someone died.
Once as common as birth announcements are today, these dire dispatches of the 19th and early 20th centuries usually included a black border around the envelope’s edge or around the stamp. Some had black wax seals or an embossment of a flower or crown on them. (Letters of mourning)
The call came last night just after ten. My husband’s mother stopped breathing.
Beth was a vibrant, red haired Scot who raised three sons and taught New York’s children for 40 years. It’s hard to imagine a world without her in it.
Perhaps I am a bit superstitious after all. Life is funny like that. It’s also precious and fragile.
God rest her soul.
** Earlier letter here: Going Home, Aging Parents