The Unseen Story

Lori & Jeanne

Send me a cardinal

It was a gift to all of us who were there. And this gift has just kept on going and going and going and I think that’s part of the beauty of the story.

Lori: My grandma had congestive heart failure, and she had an episode–I guess we’ll call it–and they were waiting for the ambulance to come because she was having trouble breathing. My mom was sitting at the end of my grandma’s bed with her, probably had her arms around her, and she was saying, thinking it’s the end, it could be the end. She was saying, “Mom send me a cardinal.”

Jeanne: My mother had several close encounters with death, I would say four or five at least, where we thought this is it, but her will to live was very strong. For years I’ve visited my mother in Virginia, and for the last few years that she’d been getting older, I’d asked her, “Mother would you send me a cardinal when you get to heaven?” And she knew that I meant in California. I didn’t say, “Send me a cardinal in California.,” but obviously that’s where I lived. Since we don’t have any cardinals, I thought it would be definitely a sign if I ever saw one here at home. And several times I mentioned it to her and she always would say, you know, “If I can I will, I will send you one.”

She was a stay at home mom with my sister and I as long as we were growing up. But then as we, you know, got away, grew up and left, she kind of switched gears and she, my dad and her ran a motel in North Carolina and also Florida. She sold Avon. She sold tickets to a play in North Carolina. And then she worked in a chemist shop which is like a little gift shop, pharmacy for seven years and so, you know, she was versatile that way. She adapted, as I would say. But she was, she took us to church growing up and she was, you know, just a faithful believer in the Lord.

Lori: She would….You never knew what she was going to say either. She would, she would come up with some crazy things and…

Jeanne: Tell them some.

Lori: When I was about 16. She was here visiting and I was walking through the living room and she was sitting at the recliner. She probably had her coffee, and probably her crossword puzzle. And I’m just walking across the room and she said, “Lori, I finally figured out what your problem is.” And I just thought, Oh, what is she going to say? What is she going to say? And she said, “You are my only grandchild whose birth I was not there for.” So that was my problem. My grandma wasn’t there for my birth. [giggling]
Her faith has been described as just childlike. Because she just accepted, you know, this is the truth and this is how it is and didn’t doubt.

Jeanne: No she had a simple childlike faith.

Lori: Yeah.

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Jeanne: So the story is–after she passed away, her celebration service was on a Saturday and Sunday, the next day, we were all sitting around playing Canasta, which was her favorite game.

Lori: But even before that happened, my mom and I were standing in the kitchen and she was saying, “You know, I really, I know, I asked for a sign and I just, I just don’t know if it could ever happen and God’s probably up there saying, ‘Oh, ye of little faith.’ You know, I want to sign but I don’t know if it could ever happen.” And then a few hours later, we’re sitting there playing Canasta. It was me, my daughter, she’s 11, my mom and dad, and my aunt and uncle and we were all around–They have a pretty big dining room table because they have a big family.–So we were just all surrounding the dining room table. The six of us there.

Jeanne: Yeah. And we heard something hit the window and my brother-in-law went outside and he came back in with a cardinal saying, “Wow.” He was holding a cardinal and…

Lori: He said that the bird was just sitting there on the ground and their dog was kind of sniffing around it, but the dog wasn’t touching it, which I think was kind of unusual. There was nothing physically wrong with it. It’s legs were okay. Later, he said that when he picked up the bird, it didn’t fight, it didn’t try to get away. It just kind of fluttered a little in his hands and he brought it inside.
Jeanne: And then it just, we just started petting it. At first you could tell it was a little stunned, but then it calmed down and it was fine. We just petted it and talked to it. My sister held it and then I think I held it there.

Lori: Yeah, I think you did. We were, we were all petting it, you know, we were all just in awe, and we were crying. And they were saying, “Is this it? Is this the sign? Is it? Could this really be it? And I’m saying, “How could it not be it? It has to be it!” And you know, I was taking pictures and getting video of them and it was just…everybody was just in awe and we could not believe this was happening.

Jeanne: And it was like my mother saying, “You wanted a cardinal, well here it is. You can hold it, you can pet it, you can talk to it.” So after maybe 10 minutes or so we decided we should take it outside and release it. So we walked out and it was really cold that day. But we walked out and Debbie and I were standing. She was holding it and we kept petting it and just finally she lifted her arm up to try to release it.

Lori: Yeah, I think your arms, I think your hands were together like you were trying to release it together. Like you’re letting go of your mother together, doing it together. And yeah, the bird flapped its wings and flew back onto my aunt, like, “No, I’m not ready to go yet.”

Jeanne: That was what it seemed like and we were just amazed that the bird flew back on her. Because it was like my mother saying, “I don’t want to go you know, I don’t want to leave you.” Because even a few weeks before she died, she was in the hospital. She had said–she was 97 when she died–she said, “I want to go to heaven, but I don’t want to leave. You know, I want to stay with you all.” So when the cardinal came back, it was like saying, you know, “I’m fine. I’m okay, but I really, really hate to leave you all.” So we held it a little while longer. I held it on my shoulder and then from my shoulder, it just jumped right down into my heart and just stayed there.

Lori: Yeah, it was sitting on her heart for a while.

Jeanne: And that was amazing.
Lori: That was pretty, yeah, and then it was like she said, it was cold. We were all freezing cold.
And it took it’s little head and it was trying to get it like, under her collar. But it was trying to, it was just staying right there on her heart. And then I think my aunt took it back to put it under her jacket, at that point, to try to keep it warm and it was not trying to get away.

Jeanne: No, it was very content.

Lori: It was just happy to be there. And then after several minutes, we took it over to put it on a branch, on the tree, so that it could fly away. When it’s ready when it’s ready, and it still stayed there for maybe a minute or two and, and then all of a sudden…

Jeanne: It flew away.

Lori: It just flew away.

Jeanne: So it was very thrilling and exciting because it was just, you know, we couldn’t really doubt this. That it was a sign. We were all thanking God and just praying; we were all so amazed that He would actually answer our prayer. And it’s reached a lot of people so we’re just, we’re just happy and thankful that it happened.

Lori: And then afterwards, in the kitchen, I was talking to my aunt. She was, she, my grandma had lived with death for over 30 years. So she was, you know, present, a constant presence in her life and she had been having a hard time letting go. And, and I just gave her a big hug and I said, “I hope this helps you; helps you let go some.” And she was saying, you know, she thinks it will. And then a few minutes later I was talking to my mom and she said that she had prayed that God would send this cardinal in a way that she would never imagine. And this is absolutely a way that nobody would ever imagine that it could happen.

Jeanne: No. It didn’t happen in California. But it happened in a way that…

Lori: I’m in awe of what it’s done. Because it was, it was a gift. I, I say, you know, my mom and my aunt, I think it’s their story. You know, we were involved in the story, but they’re the ones, you know, it was their mom and they asked for a sign. But it was a gift to all of us who were there. And this gift has just kept on going and going and going and I think that’s part of the beauty of the story.

Dorothy, Lori & her daughter Lilly and Jeanne

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