spirit comes in feathers

A few nights ago, I got a text message from Brad, my friend Brenda Baker’s son. If you don’t know her or if you’ve not read of her here before, Brenda is my dear friend who died of bile duct cancer on May 9 of this year. She’s been very much present ever since, so when Brad said, “I have an interesting bird story if you have time,” how could I refuse? I called him up.

The interesting story he wanted to share was really pretty crazy, yet his voice sounded light and happy. Brad was sitting in the office in the front of his house ~ which used to be Brenda’s house ~ the night of Thanksgiving. It was nearing midnight and he was doing something online with lights off and the blinds closed. Suddenly, *POW!* something hit the window, hard, just a foot or two away from where Brad was sitting. It was startling, to put it mildly. The house sits at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac. Having spent months and months in the front bedroom of that house in the last year of Brenda’s illness, I can attest to the fact that after 7 or 8 pm, 50th Drive is a ghost town

Being a young man and smart, Brad thought it best to investigate, but first he picked up a pistol just in case. What, after all, would be banging on the window on a quiet street at midnight? Brad opened the front door a few inches, peeked out, and was instantly overwhelmed by the onslaught of heavy feathered body and wildly flapping wings. A “really big” bird hurtled through the few inches of opening and shot into the house.

A bird in the house is a long-time nightmare of mine and Brad was just as unenthused as I’d have been. He was stunned to see the big thing flying erratically around the great room, finally coming to rest on the far wall, where it clung to the smooth stucco before slipping down behind the television. Brad couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing, so he rushed to look and, yes indeed, there were dark little bird eyes shining up at him in the dim light.

Though I don’t want one in the house, I am an avid bird person and I had to know what kind of avian critter would exhibit such odd behavior. There are mourning doves by the hundreds in Brenda’s neighborhood but they rarely fly at night. The two most common nightflying birds, owls and bats, are easy to identify and Brad knew it wasn’t one of those. As I quizzed him about the bird’s appearance, he just repeated, “it was big, really big.”

And so commenced the extraction, with Brad thinking all the while, “Mom, really? Did you do this??” As a show of “I’m here!” it’s funny, extraordinary, and it fits with two other instances in which Brenda has sent somewhat irritating or alarming messages to her son. In each of those cases she later confirmed to our friends who are mediums that she did indeed make the lights dim in the kitchen (no, son, you don’t need an electrical overhaul. I just dropped in to say hi!) and sure enough popped the bathroom lightbulb off its base as cleanly as if it had been cut (ta-dah!).

Why would someone in spirit send a sign like this? It’s not every day a big bird knocks on the window, then rushes the front door the instant it’s opened. In Brad’s case, I wondered if it took that to get his attention. He wants to believe his mom’s with him. He feels her at times. But the random penny or butterfly or rainbow isn’t enough for him. Enter the big personality of Brenda on her cherished son’s first Thanksgiving without her, and the dramatic, wildly flapping evidence of “I am really here, son!” If she was trying to get his attention, it worked.

As soon as I heard this story, I recalled the experiences of two gifted mediums, Suzanne Giesemann and Susanne Wilson, both of whom work with Dr. Gary Schwartz, a prominent afterlife researcher at the University of Arizona. On two separate days, before they knew one another, both of these tested, highly evidential mediums received messages describing how spirit is able to use creatures in the natural world to get our attention.

No, that’s not your mother sprouting feathers and beak, hurling herself at the window and flapping through the front door. But it is your mother (your child, husband, sibling, beloved friend, all of our loved ones in spirit) using the creature to connect with you. The spirits told each of the Sus/zannes, on two separate days, we control the birds with their permission. It’s kind of like remote control. And the birds think it’s fun! (You can read more of that here, in Susanne Wilson’s book, Soul Smart, page 83.)

This blending of consciousness sounds like madness if we’re thinking that, as humans, we’re a cut above the average feathered creature. But the truth is, we are the creature and the creature is us. I am you, you are me, we are all The Divine, in its many incarnations, and knowing that ~ really knowing it, gut-and-heart level ~ is to know with certainty that there is no death, no separation, and thus no permanent loss of love.

How does it work for Brenda to take over a bird and send a message to Brad? The quantum physicists would suggest it’s a matter of intention. Brad’s grieving, Brenda knows it, and the wish to comfort him manifests in feathers and raps sharply at the window. Message delivered and, in this case, received.

There’s one mind, one energy of love in the entirety of what we think of as the universe and beyond. It is infinite, everywhere present in all things, always. Separation is not possible except in our humanness. It’s why our minds can be trained to get out of the way so the consciousness of a living being can connect with the consciousness of one we think of as dead. Mediumship is simply expanding consciousness beyond what we think is real ~ these human suits we wear, our busy little brains ~ and joining with all that is.

So oneness, consciousness, whatever. It sounds nice in theory, but can we trust it? Since Brenda departed in May, her friends and loved ones have been getting signs from her and having those messages regularly confirmed by Brenda with evidence that she was behind them. Though I was sure that this crazy bird was sent by my friend, I wanted certainty, so I texted Suzanne. She’s the most skilled medium I know and she connects with Brenda regularly. “When you get a chance, Brad had a really bizarre encounter with a bird. I think it was Brenda but maybe you could ask? I’ll tell you the details after.”

That wasn’t the time for a confirmation. Nothing came through from Brenda. I told Brad to trust his gut and I was, for once, trusting mine too. That was my message in this, when you know, you know. I knew without doubt it was her. And then today, an email from Suzanne. Brenda turned up to affirm that she did indeed send that bird.

Suzanne said, “She had me laughing out loud as she took credit for the bird and showed me the remote control.  She acted silly and apologized for just getting the hang of it … She showed me it was as if her guidance of the remote control had gone a little crazy and the poor bird ended up behind the television.  All the while Brenda is loving that it’s working, but a bit freaked out that the bird has crash-landed behind the TV.”

This made me laugh out loud, because Brenda and I used to talk about the birds and the concept of directing them by remote. We’d mimic holding remote controls in our hands, driving birds into walls, windows, cars. Oops! It was a source of much hilarity in the year before she became ill. That she was having trouble getting the hang of it also echoes a statement she made a day or two after she quit breathing. Though a student of mediumship in life, she found communicating from the other side a bit of a strain. “It’s as hard to learn communication here as mediumship was over there.” Clearly she’s mastered it now, but this new thing of driving birds? She hasn’t exactly nailed it. Not so far.

And yet the love that flew through that door was felt. I heard a tone in Brad’s voice that I’ve not heard since before Brenda got sick. It makes me weepy to think about it now. There is such a gift in knowing our loved ones continue. It doesn’t entirely remove the pain of loss, but it helps. It’s a promise. “I’m still right here, still with you.” That sound ~ of hope, of coming to believe that she’s not truly gone ~ I’ll hear that tone in his voice forever. It resonates deep in my soul. It’s the sound of love and trust, of a broken heart beginning to mend.

We are so very deeply loved. That will sound like a cliche until we actually get it, way down deep. And usually, when that happens, the very thought makes the heart swell and the eyes get teary. The love that is Everything revels in the wonder and beauty of all of us. We are constructed of that Love and we ~  you, me, all of us, even that fat flapping bird ~ are the direct result of Love expressing itself with so much joy it can’t be contained. It’s a wonderful, mysterious, magical world. Trust that. Let it settle in. I hope your heart expands. I hope your eyes leak.

brenda, mike, and an angel

In May, at a gathering in Sedona, my friend Brenda held court as she’d always done when we came together, though it would only be a matter of days before she would take her last breath. After a year of chemotherapy and radiation, the bile duct cancer with which she’d been diagnosed had spread to the lungs, liver, and a space behind the heart.

Though she was dying, she’d been filled with sufficient energy to take that long-planned five day trip to Sedona. None of us knew to a certainty that it was her last journey ~ there was always the possibility of healing ~ but it didn’t matter. We were together and we immersed ourselves in the presence of love, all of us in a beautiful place, celebrating our friend and one another.

I had not been back to Sedona since Brenda died, but as I traveled there yesterday morning, my GPS directed me to take what I will forever think of as “the angel trail.” It’s a winding road south of Sedona which neither of us had driven before May. It’s where, in a terrifying ride back to Phoenix the Monday after our get together, Brenda and I both felt the presence of an angel in the car with us.

For non-woo-woo folks, I know that sounds like madness. To make it just a tad woo-woo-ier, though, I’d set a playlist for the trip which was, at the very instant I felt the angel, playing a gorgeous tune called Angel Dreams. Make of that what you will. It happened.

The ride was terrifying because I was certain I’d be hauling her out of the car on the way down, performing CPR. We had one tank of oxygen which, at the rate she was using it, would last 25-30 minutes at most. Sedona is almost two hours from Phoenix. A pulse oximeter showed a blood oxygen level in the low 80s, even with oxygen. I’d suggested to Brenda that trying to get her home was lunacy and a sane, responsible adult would take her to the ER. She refused to go. In retrospect, she was so oxygen-deprived I could have wrestled her into anything but instead, we took off. One dying woman, one small tank of oxygen, and me.

I held her hand and sang to her as we sped down the road, and then an angel was with us. I don’t feel the presence of spirit in the casual way of many of my friends who are mediums. “Oh, your husband/mother/father/son is standing right beside you” will never come out of my mouth. Unless it’s strong and intense, I mostly miss it.

And there it was. Strong. Intense. Unmissable. An angel. I do know that sounds insane, but yes, really, an angel was in the car with us. I said “Brenda, there’s an angel here.” And my friend, who was becoming quite an accomplished medium when she died, said “Yes, I know. I feel it too.”

In my imagination, there was an angelic hand on the tank of oxygen, ensuring we’d make it. We did. An angel was there. We both felt it, but who knows for certain? Whether or not you believe, though, this is a fact: the impossible happened. Thirty minutes of oxygen lasted for two hours. That’s indisputable.

At the same time, a group of friends in two other cars were texting each other about what to do for lunch. Getting Brenda on the road had been a frightening experience for all of us. One of our dear ones texted another about lunch plans, “ask her if she wants hummus with no seasoning,” but what was received was a promise for Brenda and for all of us: “a spring day, she wants Home, sweet nothings.” A message: Brenda was leaving, but she was ready. Angels again.

Returning to the scene of that near disaster this morning, I passed the point where the angel joined us (yes it did), and just around a curve on the angel trail was the Arizona state trout hatchery. When we’d passed it last May going to Sedona, I’d gotten all excited about stopping. I find hatcheries irresistible, but for all of her brilliance, Brenda had little interest in the natural world. She snorted at the prospect of a fish-oriented outing, laughingly played the cancer card, and suggested we stop on the way back instead. On the way back, of course, little fishes were the last thing on my mind. Keeping my friend alive was paramount.

But I do love a good hatchery. All those little slippery babies swarming around? They’re adorable, and if you can get your hands in the water, they feel like silk. I have fond memories of a childhood spent splashing around ponds and lakes, chasing tadpoles, scooping up handsful of baby catfish only to feel their wee silky bodies slipping between my fingers. No access to the water at the hatchery, though, so I contented myself with throwing feed, watching them swarm, and admiring their silvery sides shining in the sunlight.

dragonfly

And then, magic. Suddenly, a red dragonfly (red!) buzzed by me. Once, then again. Then over and over, back and forth. It was dancing above the surface of the water. I got the intense full body shiver that’s my indicator of spirit’s strong presence and I knew Brenda was standing there with me.

As I watched, I remembered my sweet little husband having mentioned a red dragonfly in a development session I attended with some practicing mediums just a week before, and I thought “Mike? Where are you, honey?”

And in a flash, there were two. Two brilliant red dragonflies putting on a show in this enchanted part of Arizona where I’ve spent such happy times with Mike, with Brenda, and with so many of our spiritual friends. (And with an angel.)

Leaving, I got an image in my mind of the old school switchboard operators, an endless row of busy folk plugging in one line after another. In this vision, all of our loved ones in spirit stand behind, watching the board and the efforts to make contact. When a connection is made, when a sign is received and affirmed by someone in this world, the switchboard lights up and everyone applauds. All of our misty folk ~ those who love us and the ones we love ~ celebrate. Joy fills the room, and then the task continues.

Every day we are shown in small ways and large how much we are cherished by those we’ve lost. Watch for those signs. They’re everywhere if we’re willing to look with our hearts open to love. We are so intensely, deeply loved by those in spirit. I am overwhelmed with gratitude even writing that. I hope you know it ~ and feel it ~ too.