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​The Red Cardinal

June 30, 2014

By Mary Beth Wighton
By: Mary Beth Wighton, Person with Dementia
Date: 2013-03-11

These last few days, I have had a touch of melancholy. I think its because of a combination of the long winter, the wet dreary days, and I've been fighting a cold. Some Canadians might also call this The Winter Blues.

As I was lying on the couch, debating whether to do research for my new MAREP project, I glanced out of the patio doors. It is a grey, rainy day. At the back of our large yard, something caught my eye near the bird feeder. A red cardinal flew to the feeder.

A smile crept onto my face. I thought about my brother Greg. He is brother number 5 in the lineup of 8 children. That of course makes him my big brother. My big brothers have a great deal of responsibility: They need to keep their eye on me!

My memories of Greg are all of a caring, hard working, loving man. One of my earliest memories of Greg is of him taking me skiing on a small hill with one skinny tree in the middle of it. Of course, the law of attraction had me ski right into the one tree!Greg came running down the hill to pick me up and wipe away my tears. That was it for skiing for me.

Greg always worked very hard to accomplish things. He encouraged me to do likewise. I could always count on him to give me some money for cleaning out his car. And there always seemed to be an apple pie from McDonalds for me to have when I was completed.

As we both grew older, he never stopped encouraging me to do my best at whatever I was doing. He helped me in making a big decision to go back to school to obtain a 3.5 years computer diploma. This shaped my life and led me to Toronto.

As I began to hit some of life's milestones, so did Greg. He met and married the love of his life, Margaret, and became a father to 3 children – Jason, Michael and Kelley. For years, I enjoyed being a big part of their weekends as Greg would have me come for a weekend visit. He showed me how to barbecue chicken, paint, garden and be a good example of a parent. He and Margaret shared with me the moment when I bought my first house. One that kept him busy helping to fix it up!

One month from today, Greg will have been gone for 3 years. After a brief and courageous battle with cancer, he died at the age of 54 years. I miss him.

About three years ago, just after Greg's passing, I began to have some bizarre experiences with a red cardinal in our back yard. For a good week, this black faced, red chested bird would land on the patio deck. It would hop along and would look directly at me. It was uncanny.

The red cardinal is a popular bird surrounded by superstition and considered to be a sign. The cardinals' red colour is symbolic of faith, so it can remind us to keep the faith when things look bleak. The cardinal call can cheer us up or cheer us on. It can be a symbolic sign of a deeply significant message for us.

Today, at my feeder, the little cardinals' red colour stood out against the backdrop of grey. For me, this beautiful bird represents Greg calling out to me. He's cheering me on, encouraging me to do my best. I hear you big brother. I am getting off the couch and I am off to seize the day for I can place no trust in tomorrow.