To review: It was August one year ago, almost to the day that I sat across from my Mother having “the” talk…the “what if you die” talk. I asked her to choose a sign, a way for her to let me know she was still around me if she did not survive the reconstructive heart surgery she was facing on the 25th. She was quiet for a few moments before choosing the mourning dove and its melancholy song.
Fast forward to January. Eight of us have come to Florida, one month before Mom would leave us all. It is early, and my husband and I are alone on the pool deck, drinking our morning coffee. My escape from the agony of watching her decline is coming to an end, and I say to him, “I have to go home now and watch my mother die.” He points up. There is a mourning dove sitting on the wire above the yard. “She knows” he says.
My father, husband and I are standing at my Mother’s grave. I am feeling rather annoyed by this ritual as I feel only emptiness and silence here. We place flowers near the wreath and cherub that mark her place, still without a headstone. Suddenly, the mourning dove’s song fills the air. A butterfly begins flitting around us and settles on her grave. It flits away but returns with a partner. Now two butterflies are darting around the three of us, then lighting again on Mom’s grave. This happens for several minutes, and I ask out loud, “Why are they only landing here?"
It is Thursday evening. I am sitting outside under our gazebo, having drinks with my sweetie. My brother calls and we chatter about our weekend plans. As I walk inside to fix another cocktail, the conversation goes where it often does now; to talk of Mom and the painful anniversaries of August. He tells me about chatting with my youngest sister over the internet in the wee hours the night before, and I remember that our middle sister’s blog had a time stamp after midnight that same night. I was awake as well, still haunted by the hope of last summer and the defeat we couldn’t see coming.
I complain to him that I haven’t heard a mourning dove for weeks and that I want more. The birdsong isn’t enough and lately there has been nothing, only quiet. I walk back outside. In that instant, a mourning dove begins singing. It is insistent, singing so loud my brother can hear it over the phone. It is a different song than we have ever heard before. We marvel at the message our mother is sending, interrupting our conversation to say, “I’m here, I’m here…I’m HERE!” We hang up and the singing stops…just like that. I walk outside a few times after to listen…she is gone.
I know that the butterfly is symbolic of rebirth after death. But I didn’t know that in ancient Christian lore, the dove is a symbol for mother. Or that Gypsy folklore holds that mourning doves are messengers – singing of love to the living from the spirit world. In daughter lore, it is my magic 3.
I hear you Mom, Finally, I do.