Just recently I traveled to Nova Scotia to attend the Celtic music Festival, Celtic Colours, on Cape Breton island. This long-standing festival brings in the best from the Celtic music scene and gathers them in one place and time. It was outstanding. Until the hurricane moved up the coast and inundated us, that is. But that is another story.
We stayed at a B&B on the northern coast of Nova Scotia on the way. The innkeeper, June, had just lost her husband little more than a month before. She was a descendant of those hardy Scots who immigrated in the 18th and 19th centuries to Canada. June did it all. She tended the property and grounds, cared for the guests and fed them.
In the morning I arose early before any of the other guests and made my way downstairs, book in hand, searching for a little space for quiet time and a cup of coffee. What I found was June already up and preparing the breakfast. The big cast iron skillet held the frying bacon on the stove top at the same time that bread was baking in the oven. I pulled up a stool to the kitchen counter and warmed my hands around the coffee cup as I breathed in the smells of breakfast on the way.
Since I noticed June wearing a cross and had seen some other spiritual themes in her home I felt comfortable in sharing a bit of what I was reading with her, a book that explored finding the mysterious presence of God even in the midst of adversity. After I read a short quote June thought for a moment, looked out the big double doors that led to her back yard and the marshy bay beyond it. “You never know what’s out there,” she said. And then she shared a story.
“I lost my husband about a month ago and my three grandchildren took it really hard. But of the three the one granddaughter was just inconsolable. There is nothing I could say or do to comfort this sad little girl. Then one day, maybe two weeks ago, she was with me at the house when we heard this loud screech from the back.
Being situated on the seacoast June was used to the calls of birds, but this was different.
“I asked my granddaughter to come with me and we went out into the back yard. We heard another screech, looked up, and in the tree twenty feet above us perched a bald eagle. We just stood there, looking, frozen, and he looked back at us.”
What the family knew was that her deceased husband was a free spirit, and his totem, his animal mascot on this planet, was the eagle.
“We just stood there for maybe a minute and then he lifted off with those powerful wings and screeched as he flew out and away toward the sea. We just watched him and my granddaughter lifted up her arms as though giving some hug to the sky. As he departed he left behind a down feather, that silky wisp of down under the feathers, and it began to slowly, slowly waft down toward us, floating earthward, twirling, and gentle as a breath it came to rest in the palm of one of my granddaughter’s outstretched hands.”
They took it inside and June placed it in a shadow box that would reside in her granddaughter’s bedroom. And that was the end of her grieving.
“You never know what’s out there,” June said. “You have to keep watching and waiting and trusting.”