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The shift in my emotional state shocked and angered me. As one who seeks joy, feeling depressed and lifeless is a curse. Thankfully this dark cloud happened within a day of my regular acupuncture treatment. Visiting with my acupuncturist, Alison, brings a promise of resolution, or at least a move in that direction. It’s work. This staying tuned into one’s self, it requires vigilance at every turn. Noticing the ebb and flow of our feelings and our thoughts. And now that teaching this idea of shepherding our thoughts is my life’s work, this darkness sends me in a downward spiral, nearly unrecognizable as the girl I aim to be.

Alison stood over me as I lay comfortably on the treatment bed. She became intensely focused as she read my pulses, her cool soft hand cradling mine. She put my left hand down on the bed and circled around my feet to reach the other side, taking my right hand in hers. I stayed quiet and mentally scanned my body to notice how I felt. I registered the feeling of pressure in my chest and stomach area. No pain, but a suffocating sensation.

Alison set my right hand down and went to her desk to record her findings. I waited quietly, anxious to learn what she found. She turned to me with her beautiful and nurturing expression of concern. “You have a block between your liver and lungs. In Chinese medicine this is grief.”

I wanted to react, instead I received the additional information she provided without many questions. I trust that I am in capable hands and very soon relief will come. Of course this grief makes sense. The memories of Dad, thoughts of Dad, wondering about Dad were at an all-time high the last few days. I’m not sure why. The intense Indian Summer? Knowing how much he loved beautiful, sunny days and the way he would utter things like, “Ugh would you look at that blue sky?”

Maybe it was the act of clearing out the shed, sorting the gardening tools and hanging them in a new system on the garage wall. Then sweeping out the dirt and debris that resulted from all the banging around. The sound of a push broom on a driveway takes me back to warm, sunny days at Tanglewood every time. It was often, Dad’s closing act before heading into the house for dinner on the weekend.

Also, as part of the shed project I washed the bikes which were covered in dirt and dust, all with flat tires and signs of neglect. As I reached for the green bike, a vision of Dad riding it through a quiet campground came to mind. When my parents moved, I agreed to take it home with me.

The real charm of the day was washing up the Schwinn tandem bike. As a little girl I could sit on the back seat and reach the handle bars, but my legs weren’t long enough for my tiny feet to reach the pedals so I would rest my feet on the angled frame instead. Dad would take me around the neighborhood or around our long, circular driveway. I was happy recalling those images and luxuriating in the piggy back emotions.

Any and all of these experiences could result in a state of grief, but then there’s Mama. My beautiful, intelligent Mama with her sweet smile and twinkling pale, blue eyes. During my visit with her I decided to stay away from talk of Dad. Not only was I aware of my vulnerability, I thought she could use a break as well. I wasn’t with her two minutes when she brought him up in conversation. Her smile dissolved and her gaze went empty. “I can’t find Dad. I look but I don’t know where he is now.” She didn’t ask me if I knew so I didn’t offer. I prayed we could talk, instead, about food or weather.

Dad passed three months ago and every day Mom lives in her cottage wondering why Dad left her alone. How could he? Why would he? It’s as true a heart breaker as I’ve ever known. The mood lifted as she directed our chat to my children and how they are doing in school. Her tracking of content, facts and Dad’s disappearance make it clear that dementia is taking a stronger hold. I do my level best (I hear Dad’s voice) to take it all in and deliver more back during my time with Mom. I look around her cottage and notice the cardinal sun catcher hanging in the window. Mom has loved cardinals for so long. I started to give her various forms of cardinals after my Mother’s Mother passed. Nana was a glorious soul. All this time, cardinals reminded us that Nana was near and watching over us. Then my Uncle died, then my Aunt. They all left Mom, one by one, over time. Butterflies and Dragonflies added to list of the many signs that our loved ones never really leave our sides.

So here she is alone with ghosts and symbols. Is she comforted? Does her faith sustain the idea that we all see each other again? I pray so.

A day later, as I sat quietly on my porch, my thoughts were interrupted by the repetitive chirping of a Mama cardinal. She seemed upset. She flitted about to the roof, to the fire pit, to the fence and back to the roof. What on Earth? Then I got it...Daddy cardinal was nowhere to be found. I haven’t seen him for days. The next morning, again in the waking hours I hear Mama Cardinal chirping. There is no answer to her repeated attempts.

And so, as my Mother, in her grief understands, I believe the deep red Daddy Cardinal is lost and Mama can’t find him. She looks but doesn’t know where he is now.

A special note: When my Father was in his last days of life on Earth, I had a private chat with him and asked that he send me feathers to let me know he was close. This morning when I awoke I set an intention to publish this previously written blog post titled "Cardinal". The feather in the picture above was waiting outside for me - it is from a Cardinal - the shades of red confirm that for sure. Thank you Daddy for affirming that it is time to release this story and share it with those by whom it is meant to be seen.

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