It’s evening here in Hawaii as I write this and I can see the lights of the main part of Waikiki from my balcony and hear the surf pounding the shore below me. This is my last night before I head back home to Chicago on a red eye. After several months of change, the trip came at the perfect time, giving me a chance to replenish my soul before I settle into my “new” life. But I didn’t realize that my trip would bring anything special beyond giving me some much-needed rest.
My first morning in Waikiki, I left the sliding glass door open in my hotel room so I could listen to the surf wash up on the shore. While I was in the bathroom, I heard a sort of “rat-tat” sound. I thought it was coming from outside the hotel room door but when I turned and walked out of the bathroom, there was a white bird (a pigeon) tapping on my laptop keyboard. My instant thought was to shoo it away. However, it only went as far as the balcony where it stopped.
I walked back into the bathroom then realized that the bird was probably my sister or my dad showing up again. I turned back to the bird, now perched on the balcony railing, and said, “Who are you? How will I know who you are?” It didn’t fly away, just stared off in another direction. A few minutes later it took off.
After I left the room, I headed to the outdoor restaurant for breakfast where a feather flew onto my table in front of me. Some Native Americans believe that feathers are signs of our loved ones or signs that we are on the path we’re supposed to be.
Later I emailed my friend Anne and told her what had happened; she replied and said she thought the bird was my dad. When I read Anne’s words, I was reminded that my dad had come to Hawaii in the early 1960s, before marrying my mom. His Hawaiian shirts hung in the same place in his closet until his death in 2006. What Hawaii meant to him, I never knew.
The next morning, the bird reappeared outside the balcony door, although it didn’t come in this time. I spoke to it but it didn’t stay long.
This morning, when I once again was busy brushing my teeth in the bathroom, I heard a noise in the room. This time, the bird had perched itself on top of my luggage.
“Dad!” I called out and the bird flew out through the open doorway. It seemed natural to call to him. I was sorry he didn’t stay and that I didn’t get to talk to him. But maybe he was just stopping by to let me know he’s here with me.
Hawaii is a special place, a spiritual place. I knew I could share the story of my bird encounter during my talk at the conference. Thanks, Dad. It’s nice to know you’re here with me as I travel a new road.
Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D., is an international author and speaker about finding hope after loss and change. She is the author of several books including Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families through Suicide Grief and Ginger's Gift: Hope and Healing Through Dog Companionship. Her first book, based on the suicide of her younger sister Denise, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Si..., inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She is the President of the American Association of Suicidology and lives in Albuquerque, N.M. Read more about Michelle at www.michellelinngust.com.
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