A cardinal follows my aunt during her morning walks on the sand-covered trail near her home in Illinois. The brilliant, red bird flies from branch-to-branch, eavesdropping on my aunt and her friend’s morning gossip sessions. It is my belief that, when we die, we come back as a different being to be a guardian for the loved ones we leave behind. Cardinals that fly by me are my Papa. Pictures of cardinals and references to cardinals –– even the baseball team –– are signs from my Papa. He’s watching over me.
It just makes sense. Grandma’s favorite bird is a cardinal, thus her husband came back as one. When I need guidance, something cardinal-esque usually pops up and reminds me of him. A lot of the time, it’s when I least expect it. As I sat at the kitchen table doing a word find during our last break, a cardinal landed on a post outside on the deck. He flew away, but not until after he had gotten a good look at me. The next day, out the bay window at my Grandma’s house, I saw red streak past. I’m so happy he watches over her, too.
And though my mom whines and says, “I wish I had my own cardinal like you guys do!”, we remind her of JuneBug, the warm ball of fur we adopted for her as a family to comfort her after her dad died.
I believe I’m not alone in seeing signs like these. Every family probably has a version of my Papa’s cardinal. I believe in reincarnation. My Papa still hangs around, looking over the family he made and the country he fought to preserve. He just looks a little different now with those bright red wings at his sides.