Years ago, while reading a Jodi Picoult novel (one of my all-time favorite storytellers), I stumbled across a piece of information I've carried with me ever since. She told of a Native American belief that loved ones sent rain as a signal they'd crossed into the afterlife. I told my grandmother about this, because she and I had an affinity for Native American culture and beliefs. We had an affinity for each other, really. I'd speak of her in my classroom and call her my best friend and kindred spirit and meant it. We had one of those relationships that comes along rarely and only with luck and loyalty.
When she passed away on June 14, 2017, I lost part of myself. I think of everyone who suffers the loss of a great love and am unsure how anyone loses a husband, sibling, child, because I cannot look anywhere without pangs in my ribs because everywhere is her but her laugh, her tea, her soft arms hugging me and holding me tight are no longer. I won't sit and watch Maya Angelou specials with her and commiserate with her over politics. I can't vent to her about life or cry to her about students I've grown to love as my own children. I can't philosophize with her on the nature of existence or the meaning of life.
But the day of her funeral, as friends and family huddled under the graveside canopy and umbrellas, it rained. Torrentially, unapologetically, loudly. She soaked us. And when the prayer was done and we laid our roses upon her casket and walked back to our cars, the rain cleared, the sky opened, the sun beckoned us home.
I'd also heard once that angels send feathers as a means of communication. This was another item of spiritual mystique I discussed with Grandma. I'd walk in our local cemetery and ask the spirits to send me certain color feathers, and within a week or two I would normally receive them. My grandmother loved these tales, and I loved experiencing them, even if the whole time a small part of me remained skeptical and logically clung to the fact that where there are birds there will be feathers so perhaps it was all wishful thinking.
The day after Grandma died, I walked her house alone. I laid on her bed, on the living room floor, sat at her kitchen table, and I sobbed. I spoke aloud to her. I thanked her for being such a huge part of my life, for loving and supporting me, for making me who I am. I told her life seemed surreal without her a part of it. And I asked her to send me feathers, a large amount of them all at once, so I would know it was her. So there could be no doubt it was true, what they say of feathers, what I hope about the energy that is our spirits.
This morning, I awoke to feathers scattered across my porch, dozens of them. As if a bird had plucked every feather from its body and still somehow flown away, since no bird laid in sight. No feathers trailed through the yard or driveway to reveal a path of flight. Just feathers strewn in front of my door.
We do not lose people. Just the bodies they resided in for awhile. If you look, if you listen, if you believe, they are speaking. Love is a language needing no words. Just wings.
Lynne Reeder is a mother, teacher, and lifelong reader. She's been penning poems and stories since she first learned to spell words. Her works appear in many online journals and other publications, and she received the title of Poet Laureate for hometown in 2016. She spends her time squeezing in writing drafts of her works around wrangling her two daughters and impulsive pitbull. She's been lucky enough to find love early, marrying her high school sweetheart Brandon, with whom she has been for over half of her life. She loves all kinds of tea, witnessing the moment a student discovers a new talent, and recognizing the infinite in the everyday. She hopes you enjoy her words as much as she thrives on creating them.