A few years before her father died, Dot bought her avid bird-watching father a book called a Redbird Christmas because she thought it was about bird watching. She was surprised to see that it was about a lonely girl with a deformed leg and the old man who befriends her. The old man provides her the love, respect, and attention she sorely needed. After he dies, he returns to earth as a cardinal to comfort the bereaved girl.
Dot knew that her father would enjoy the sweet sentimentality of the story. Although he was a hardworking banker, he called two days after receiving the book, delighted to have read it. Then he predicted he would come back to earth as a cardinal to console her, too. Although she did not want to hear mention of his own death, he once again insisted that he would return as a cardinal to comfort her.
When her father suffered a stroke and could no longer live in his house, Dot made sure the book stayed her possession. It represented her very deep connection to her father. Their conversation remained etched in her heart. The morning after he died, she stayed in bed, unable to go to work. She then managed to get to the kitchen for some coffee and absentmindedly looked out the window. There, perched on a branch right next to the window, was a cardinal peering in at her. What a surprise! Cardinals do not approach people closely. They like to keep their distance. Then she remembered his promise to comfort her. And then a female cardinal appeared next to him. “Oh, Mom. Oh, Pop.” She burst out in tears. Cardinals usually pair for life and the males and females are easily distinguished.
They stayed there looking at her. Cardinals usually flit around. Dot had no trouble believing that the spirits of her parents were with her. They would stay near her apartment for the four years she lived there, singing or visiting when Dot came out in the garden.
This story appeared in Small Miracles from Beyond by Halberstam and Leventhal.
Oddly behaved birds, like strangely appearing flowers, are often reported around a loved one’s death.