My Father the Cardinal

cardinal-watercolorDo you have a story about a synchronicity? Send us your experience and we might publish it on our blog.  Although they are typically hard to put into words, we recently received the amazing story from Sharon Catley from Vancouver.

Synchronicity – is it only, as skeptics suggest, selective perception and the law of averages playing itself out? Or is it, as Carl Jung believed, a glimpse into the underlying order of the universe? He coined the term synchronicity to describe what he called the “acausal connecting principle” that links mind and matter. He said this underlying connectedness manifests itself through meaningful coincidences that cannot be explained by cause and effect. Such synchronicities occur, he theorized, when a strong need arises in the psyche of an individual.

[Excerpt from “The Power Of Flow”]

Peppermint Patty, a dear friend of mine, thinks that if you listen to the Universe with an open heart it will talk to you.

My friend Karen was diagnosed with lung cancer about two years ago. She was feeling scared and lonely so asked her parents who were both deceased for a sign that everything would be okay. Several weeks later she was walking across the rug in her living room and stepped on something sharp. She looked in the rug and found the little silver faith, hope and charity charm that her parents had given her years ago.

She could not figure out how the charm got into the rug as the last time she saw it was in a box, within another box in her underwear drawer. She asked her partner Tim if he had brought it out but he did not know what she was talking about. She had not told him about her request for a sign from her parents. As it was a mystery how the charm they had given her was in the rug she took it as a sign to have hope and faith. She felt reassured.

Because I believe that things like this can happen she told me about it. My Father had just passed on. She knew I was missing him and encouraged me to ask for a sign that he was okay. That night as I was going to bed I made my request. “Dad, if you are okay let me know. Please send me a sign.”

Nothing happened for a few weeks and I had almost forgotten about my request. I was visiting my mother in Calgary and helping her clean up the basement when the series of coincidences that I now believe were communications from my Father began.

At this position in my story I have to digress back to a time when my Father was still alive. He had multiple sclerosis and spent a great deal of time in his bedroom resting, sleeping and watching television. He did not have enough energy to do anything else.

He was always very hard to buy gifts for but my daughter Lisa is very good at such things. Before his illness my father spent little time indoors and she knew how much he pined for the contact with nature that he had previously enjoyed. He especially missed watching the birds and squirrels that came to feed in the backyard. On one of Lisa’s visits she installed a little shelf right by the head of his bed. On the shelf she put three realistic china birds. She put down some bird seed in the middle of them. It looked as though they had just landed and were preparing to feast on the golden seeds.

The brightest and most noticeable of the birds was a vibrant red cardinal. For many years these little creatures kept Dad company in his room and they would be the first thing he saw on arising and the last thing he saw before he went to sleep at night.

When Dad’s health deteriorated to the situation that Mom could no longer look after him at home he had to go into a facility where medical care was always available. Mom took his birds in with him so that he would feel more at ease in the strange new surroundings. Then my daughter came from Toronto for Christmas and she bought something else to brighten up Dad’s room. It was a large stained glass piece depicting a group of stunning red cardinals which she hung in the window. Everyone visiting commented on how beautiful they were. The sun shining through them made a rosy glow.

We lost Dad in March and on his passing we collected up his belongings and put them in Mom’s basement. After the funeral, before she left for home my daughter asked for the little birds and the stained glass cardinals to save as a remembrance of her Grandfather, so they were packed up and taken to Toronto.

While I was growing up I would never have described my parent’s relationship as romantic. Although undemonstrative in public they cared deeply for and were devoted to each other. When Mom was asked what was the happiest day of her life she said it was the day she married my Father. When he was gone there was a big lonely hole in her life. The day my Father died was also the day my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer.

I have now arrived back to the place in my story from which I had regressed – the point from which I believe I started to receive my sign. As I said I was helping Mom clean up the basement in Calgary a few weeks after my Father’s death. I was walking across the rug and stepped on something sharp. Looking in the rug I found a tiny piece of bright ruby red glass that could only have come from the stained glass cardinals.

After this cardinals started showing up everywhere in my life. I would open a magazine and there would be red cardinals. Looking around in a store or browsing a catalogue I would see red cardinals adorning scarves, towels, cups, napkins, t-shirts, wall hangings and dishes. Every one of them I saw reminded me of Dad. I just thought that maybe there had always been cardinals everywhere but that I had never noticed them before or that they had somehow just become a popular decorating item.

It was not until the first Christmas following my Dad’s death that I knew for sure that the cardinals were deliberately being sent to me. That year I received about eleven Christmas cards. Seven of these had red cardinals on them. I thought this must be a trend – that red cardinals were in fashion that year. To test my theory I went out to the reception area of the company I work for. At Christmas my company receives about two hundred cards from other businesses and my friend, our receptionist Marilyn tapes them up on the wall there. I perused the cards. There was not one red cardinal on any of them – only my cards had red cardinals.

Then a week or so after Christmas I was walking by the front desk where my friend Bonnie was opening the early morning mail. There was a pile of cards that had not arrived in time for Christmas. She called me over and said “Come see how cute this card is”. The card showed a grove of birch trees in the snow. Nestled in the branch of one of the trees was a tiny red cardinal. Up to this point I had said nothing to anyone about Dad’s cardinals but on my next trip to Calgary I decided to tell Mom about them.

My Mom was a very practical lady – things like this make her uncomfortable. Then the cardinals started showing up in her life too. At first I had to point them out – the little cross stitch bird on the wall of her Doctor’s office, on a free notepad that arrived in her mail, cardinal wind chimes hanging in a waiting room, on the side of a wish box from my cousin. Over the next months during our daily phone calls she would often mention a bird that Dad had sent.
Mom’s cancer took a turn for the worse and over the next year she was in hospital after hospital. Always there was a cardinal somewhere close, in pictures hanging in the hallway or on keepsakes sold in the little gift shops. It cheered her up when I told her when and where I found them.

Then Dad stopped sending the birds. A few would show up here and there but not in the quantity or with the regularity that I had previously experienced. I thought he had perhaps moved on to some other phase of the afterlife as he did not seem to be around anymore.

Just after Christmas my Mother entered the final phase of her life and was placed in hospice. I was able to take three more trips out to see her before her death. On the last trip, while I was on my way home to Vancouver, I stopped in at the little Virgin Records Store near my departure gate at the airport. I don’t like to fly and it is my ritual to always treat myself to a new book to occupy myself with during the flight. I had about ten minutes of worth of “spare” time to look around and make my purchase before I had to be through security.

While I was browsing the books I noticed that the last three songs playing on the store’s intercom had all been older ones performed by the band “Heart”. I was thinking there must be a new Heart “Greatest Hits” CD out as they usually play whatever they are currently marketing at the time. I quite like Heart so thought I would pick it up while I was there.

Looking at the clock I noticed I had already used up all my browsing time but I did want that CD. So I quickly ran over to the CD section and looked through the H’s finding no Heart CDs at all. So I looked on shelves above where the new releases were and at the other various free standing CD displays – no Heart CD. There was still the bargain bin but I thought there would be little chance of it being in there as they usually play new releases but I gave it a shot. My eyes are not that good anymore – the last two times I had my glasses replaced I was supposed to move on to bi-focals but then people would know my age for sure. There was one CD I could not read the writing on so I put my hand in the bin pulled it out. There it was – “Heart Greatest Hits”.

While he was ringing up my purchases, I told the cashier about the synchronicity of finding the CD (hearing the music, wanting the CD, picking a single CD from the bargain bin and it being the one I wanted.) He said there were no bosses around today so he decided to hook his personal IPOD to the intercom and listen to his own music. The CD was from 1998 and he was surprised that they had it in their stock.

With the funeral and all I did not get around to playing the CD until Mother’s day which came three weeks after my Mother’s passing. It was going to be a sad one for me this year so I decided just to stay home and clean the house. Chores are always more pleasant with some music and I remembered the Heart CD. I had not taken a really good look at it before as I was in such a hurry in the airport and as I said my eyesight is not that good anymore. I knew there was a folk art painting on the cover but now taking a better look at it I could not believe what I was seeing and that I had not seen it before. If you look below you will see what I saw. To me it means my (red haired) Mom and my Dad are back together again and happy once more. Is this just the end of a series of co-incidences or is this a message from my Mom and Dad? (p.s. lately the sightings of the cardinal are rare and when sighted he is usually accompanied by a bluebird or a golden cardinal whom we think is the spirit of my Mother)

What will the Universe send you if you ask and just listen?

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