The journey back from California took a long time. Lee died around 2pm eastern time on Friday, and I arrived home at 4am Saturday. Friends and family were at the house with Paul. We sent them home and had our first of many cries together. I couldn’t believe Paul had to be on the scene without me. While my grief and shock were deep, I knew he’d experienced a trauma by being on the scene that I’d never know. Part of me was grateful for that. I held him while he slept for a while, and got out of bed at 7. I knew there would be a lot of people around and spent a bit of time staring out the window as I went from thinking of what all needed to be done, what had happened to Lee and our family and the grief that would be with us for the rest of our days.
That Saturday morning brought the start of the food drop offs at 8AM with lasagna from a police officer who’d heard the news. The blessings of having many friends and family showed itself early with the beginning of a stream of them that lasted for weeks. So many lasagnas found their way to our house on day one that we briefly considered writing “in lieu of lasagna” rather than “in lieu of flowers” in the obituary. Lee’s love of lasagna was legendary although many of those who brought it didn’t know that. The second I heard the devastating news, I knew we’d be surrounded and supported by our communities. I felt deep in my heart we’d be OK. I had no idea how, or when.
I’ve had backyard bird feeders for most of my adult life. I loved sharing my bird watching activities with the kids. Often this brought about eye rolls but Lee was diligent about bringing my attention to the presence of birds. He knew the Blue Jay was my favorite. A lot of people don’t like this bird, it can be a bit of a bully towards others at the feeders, often mimicking the call of a hawk to scare them off. While they have a wide variety of vocalizations, the ones they use most frequently are similar to the caw-caw of the crow which isn’t considered particularly beautiful. But they were, and remain my favorite. Maybe one of the reasons is that they’re so prolific. If you love the Blue Jay and keep your feeders full, you can be happy many times a day because they’ll always be around.
I was looking out the back window once again later that day and witnessed something I’ve not seen before or since. 8 Jays, all in a row on the tree branch just outside the kitchen door, were feeding one another assembly line style. I stood, frozen, watching them. I wondered if this was normal, or was Lee (or some other angelic being) sending me a message? This was before cell phones had cameras and I don’t know if I would have moved to grab it anyway. I’d have considered it a miraculous sighting even if Lee was sitting right next to me.
Almost 40 years of feeding birds, and that was the one and only day I’ve seen this. I’ve looked it up and can’t find anything that refers to this behavior in Blue Jays although they’re known to be very family oriented. The research does show that multiple generations often remain in the same area and return to the same feeders. Now when I see my beloved Jays, I wonder if any of them are the same ones or the descendants of the ones that came that day (the longest living one was over 17 years of age). Most importantly, I remember that I was given a gift from spirit right off the bat to help heal my broken heart.