Dear Editor:

You see a flash of red at your bird feeder or, as in my case, on one of our three feeders, or on a branch of the lofty pine trees in the backyard of our home. A beautiful, unmistakable male cardinal or red bird, as some folks call it. I went for many years in life unaware of a legend attached to this beautiful bird. When you see a cardinal, it's supposed to represent the soul of a departed loved one coming to give you comfort.

While working at Heritage Market Antiques & etc. in Mount Carroll, a customer overheard me telling someone else about my 41-year-old son who had died in September of 2016. On the counter in front of me sat a small ceramic cardinal perched on a base and the customer asked if I knew the legend of the bird.

I did not but was so pleased to hear about it. It was fresh in her mind as she had just lost her father recently in the same year. Her mother, in particular, was having a really hard time accepting that her husband of 60-plus years was truly gone. This customer, with tears in her eyes, told me the story about their experience with the cardinal (or should I say cardinals).

Her mom sat listlessly in a chair in her home while the daughter walked to the window just to gaze on the backyard. To her amazement she saw a flash of red and started counting the number of cardinals on the feeders, the snow-covered ground and/or perched in the trees planted years ago by her father. She counted 27 in all!

She went to get her mother out of the chair, excitedly telling her she simply had to see the amazing sight in their yard. Mom, of course, didn't want to move but realized the daughter wasn't going to give up until she did. Both stood at the picture window, counting and recounting the wonderful scene before them. The 27 cardinals flitted to and fro around the bird-feeders and trees.

The ladies knew they were part of a once-in-a-lifetime miracle occurrence and mom concluded that perhaps one of them was her deceased partner who brought several of his friends along to give her encouragement and cheer.

My cheer for me came on my birthday this year in February when at 5:30 in the evening, a flash of red landed on my feeder where a shaft of sunlight shone on a lone cardinal who feasted on the sunflower seeds for a few moments then flew away.

My heart stopped in my chest as I remembered the legend and then, to my amazement, a female cardinal came to the same feeder as if to say, "Your boy is okay and he just wanted to wish you a happy birthday this evening." Soon both birds were together and each feasted for another five minutes.

Since then I have seen, especially the male, return to the feeder, at even 8:30 p.m., which seems a bit late but it is so comforting to see him nearby. I hope this heartfelt message will help someone else who has lost a child, like myself, realize they are never truly gone from our sight.

Linda Eads

Mount Carroll