Hummingbirds, Crows & Alienation
I’ve been seeing crows a lot lately, especially when I walk on the Rail Trail. I associate crows with bad omens and death, so I’ve been afraid to look up the spiritual meaning of these birds. What if Ana’s trying to tell me something? What if it means that wherever she is, she’s not happy? I finally looked them up and, like everything else in life, their meaning isn’t straightforward.
Crows are reminders that magic is everywhere. They represent mystery, duality, transformation and fearlessness. They are also mischievous, manipulative and can be considered a bad omen, but can also signify that it’s time to step back and reassess your life. Above all, a crow is a sign of change.
Yeah, that sounds about right…
Right now, change feels like it’s happening TO me, forcing itself into my life with every seasonal shift and shudder. I don’t want it. I can’t stop it. Holding onto sameness keeps me from moving farther away from Ana. I guess I’m still not quite ready to believe I’ll never see her again.
Yesterday was Emily’s last day of 7th grade. The moving up ceremony for grades 5 through 8 (including the 8th grade graduation) was from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., but we showed up at noon to bring Emily lunch (she’d slept over a friend’s Thursday). When we got there, Emily didn’t feel well. Her head hurt and she had a stomachache. We asked her if she wanted to skip the ceremony and, to my surprise, she said yes. She said good-bye to her friends and her teachers and we drove home. Jim and I never even got out of the car.
We haven’t missed a single moving up ceremony at High Meadow for ten years. Ten years of watching the girls meet milestone after milestone, of crying tears of pride and feeling wistfully nostalgic as they aged out of the lower school, into the middle school, and finally to high school for Ana. But this year, there were no ceremonies for either girl. No tearful hugs. No relieved anticipation for long, unscheduled summer days.
This year Emily came home, went upstairs into my office, and fell asleep for four hours–sleeping right through her migraine and her moving up ceremony.
This year the summer looms in front of me, devoid of anticipation. There were so many summers when I felt stretched to my limit–trying to work and entertain the girls, breaking at 2 p.m. to take them swimming and picking up work again for a few hours in the afternoon. Last year we went on vacation in June and to Germany in July. Last year Ana had rehearsals and sleepovers and weekend shows to perform at or attend. I took the girls to swimming holes. It was a full summer, not perfect, but full of the four of us. My family looked just like it should look. But this summer my family is crippled. We’re hobbled, missing a limb.
I feel separate from everyone, including myself. Alienated, but also…a stranger to myself. I can clearly visualize a path that I’m walking now, which is separate from your path (except, of course, if you’ve lost a child). At first I thought there wasn’t much between my path and your path except for some weeds and cracked earth. We could still see each other. You could reach out and touch my hand. But last night, I realized that there’s a chasm in between my path and almost everyone else’s. It’s bottomless and I’m constantly in danger of falling into it. To my right, is life and normalcy and your path. To my left, is Ana…and an entirely different place than this miserable, empty world.
My path? It’s the halfway point, the halfway path, between where Ana is and where everyone else (but me) is. I need to walk along it for now, slowly, and try to build some bridges back to the path where life resumes even though I know that path will never fully be mine again. It’s too far away from Ana.
For now, I’ll continue wandering the halfway path either ahead of, or behind, other parents who share this grief. In one special case, I’ll walk side-by-side with someone who understands that crows and hummingbirds and owls are what link us to that place to the left of the path, where our dead children have gone. At least we’re not completely alone in this pain. At least there’s that.
And speaking of hummingbirds (because it’s not all about crows…), I had this charm made by a silversmith on Etsy–the artist carved a hummingbird on the front and Ana’s name on the back. It is now one of the totems that link me to Ana along with her folded cranes, her tumbled stones and her music.
I want to see actual hummingbirds this summer, but I don’t have faith that I will. A hummingbird means joy, healing, hope and happiness from within.
Yeah, that sounds about right…