Many years ago, I was sitting in my sunroom drinking tea with a neighbor when she shyly admitted that it was her birthday. The floodgates opened when she told me that she and her husband had recently separated and now, her first birthday without him, loomed empty. She was bereft of his presence and of his beautiful, generous presents as well.
After this stunning revelation, we sat quietly for a while – the two of us simply sitting together, gently holding her bubble of sorrow.
It was springtime and the door into the garden was open. Gazing meditatively at the blossoming cherry tree, I noticed my cat streaking across the lawn with something in her mouth. Fearing it was a mouse I got up to close the door too late to prevent the cat from rushing in and laying her prey at the feet of my friend.
At first we were in horror – a baby bunny? My friend LOVED animals and to bear the sorrow of her loss and an animal in distress was too much. However, the little body stirred revealing itself as a blue jay that flew up and around the room until I opened the front door to set it free.
My friend’s eyes were wide with wonder. She loved birds. It seemed the cat had given her a bird as a birthday present.
But wait, the gift-giving was not over. As we were recovering our composure, we saw my other cat streaking toward us carrying something in his mouth. Again, I was too slow to prevent him running in and laying his gift at the feet of my friend. Another bird! It too was unharmed and flew around the room, exiting by the door it had come through.
Now my neighbor was smiling. A spiritual woman, she regarded the birds as gifts from the universe. To her the cats’ gestures meant: “You are not forgotten. You are loved. You will be taken care of.”
Softly, a song rose in my throat:
“There’s a bluebird on your window sill, there’s a rainbow in the sky.”
“That’s one of my favorite songs,” she said, joining in.
“All the happiness your heart desires, it’s enough to make you cry.”
What a fortunate woman she was to be able to see and accept these unexpected gifts as substitutes for what her heart desired.
We hugged, and she left – the burden of grief lifted for a few moments.
I saw her a month later in our local grocery store. She hugged me and thanked me for that moment. The unexpected gifts of the birds had been a turning point that enabled her to move forward with hope.
May you, too, be open to the unexpected gifts life has to offer.