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Gail Kimball column: Mama and the red bird

by Gail Kimball
for the Salisbury Post
About 5:30 on the morning Mama died, an awe-inspiring, amazing, and remarkable thing happened. Just as my sister Pattie and I noted a worsening of Mama’s condition, we heard a noise – tapping?…on her hospital window.
The tap, tap, tap, tap, tap was insistent and came repeatedly. Since Mama’s admission late the previous evening, the blinds had been closed, so we had no idea what lay outside her third-story window.
Pattie and I talked, held Mama’s hands and shared our love as we felt death was near. However, the window tapping was so persistent that we decided to investigate.
Pattie raised the blind, and there on the window ledge sat a little red bird.
It was small, energetic, and dancingópacing. It was using its beak to frequently tap on the window, glancing at us. Then, as if assured of our attention, it moved back and forth, up and down the ledge. It flew a few feet away from the window, then back to resume tapping.
Over and over our little red bird brought us comfort, joy, peace, pleasure, and inspiration.
As he flew away, Pattie and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes, and felt a deep understanding of the message of hope delivered by our little red bird. But afterward, we were unable to get Mama to respond to her name.
We took great comfort in the presence of the red bird that morning. And since Mama’s death, we feel blessed in the memory of its visit.
Since her death four years ago, we have been graced with the sudden appearance of a red bird when we have needed it most. It appears regularly when we’re together.
When Mama’s remaining five octogenarian sisters came from Dobson, North Carolina, to visit the summer after her death, we went to Hurley Park after lunch. As we sat in the gazebo remembering Mama, a beautiful red bird hovered about the shrubs nearby.
Pattie and I went to Arizona this spring for R&R. As we sat on the hotel terrace, we enjoyed the beautiful view of open spaces, cactus, tumbleweeds, boulders, jack-rabbits, wrens, a family of wild pigsóand a single red bird. It sat in a nearby bush, eventually coming near to dance at our feet. Pattie and I exchanged glances, then looked down to enjoy her presence and performance and said simultaneously, “Hey, Mama.”
Soon after Mama died, I was sharing the details of her death and the timely visit of the red bird with my best friend, Barbara. She became excited and eagerly offered, “You have got to read this book, ‘The Gift of the Red Bird’ by Paula D’Arcy!”
Pattie and I reread this book frequentlyóand each time…we remember Mama.
Gail Kimball lives in Salisbury.

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