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We Southerners are strange birds. We have quite fascinating old wives’ tales, legends, traditions, and superstitions. Even though we know deep down inside they’re just folklore, there’s always some part of us that believes maybe, just maybe, this crazy tale might be true.

A few interesting ones include:

  • Sports rituals. Behavior during a ballgame has a direct effect on the performance of our favorite team. I have a cousin who wears the same exact clothes (down to his underwear) and sits in the same place for every single Carolina Tarheels basketball game.
  • Specific food on certain holidays. We must have collard greens and black eyed peas on New Year’s Day. It brings good luck and plenty of money the rest of the year.
  • Parenting fears. Never let a cat near an infant. They will “steal the baby’s breath.” No word on how that can happen . . .

Truth be told, I’ve done all of these, and believe you me, no cat ever came near any of my babies!!

As a bird watcher, I’m especially fond of the legend of the red cardinal. Did you know that when one appears, it’s a loved one visiting you from Heaven? I have to admit when I see one come to the bird feeder, I think, “Grandma Bunton? Uncle Charles? Is that you?” It’s sorta fun actually.

My bird watching came from my parents. There was always a set of binoculars by the back picture window. Mama and Daddy would get so excited to spot a Black Throated Green Warbler or a bird of prey circling the sky. It was a fearsome thing to see a red-tailed hawk perched on a limb, then swoop down chasing his dinner.

Daddy was happiest when he was watching nature, doing some home improvement project, or working in his wood shop. I like to remember him this way, not the way he was after Agnogenic Myeloplastic Metaplasia took his health, his strength, and eventually his life.

Daddy

I recall very little about my Daddy’s visitation, funeral, and graveside service. I don’t remember one word the pastor said at the funeral or what songs were sung. I do remember that the size 0 dress I wore had to be taken in because I weighed less than 100 lbs. Daddy’s death was just one factor in the horror that encompassed my life at the time.

His graveside service was a hot and muggy August afternoon, headlong into the dog days of summer. It too is a foggy memory, except for one thing — a hawk descended, seemingly in slow motion, right past us. I actually felt the wind from his wings.

Other members of my family saw the hawk and felt his wings stir the stale air as well. Hawks aren’t that common to see in our area, yet many of us began to spot one during significant times in our lives. We now share the latest hawk sighting and why we think one appeared when we get together.

Hawks have appeared on days I’ve been sad, or on holidays, or times when I’ve been especially missing my Daddy. One fall morning, I was feeling stressed about work as I was heading to the office. I stopped to watch a bunny cross the driveway, only to see a giant hawk descend and scoop him up RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!! I didn’t want to see a live taping of Marlin Perkin’s Wild Kingdom! Then I thought about how strong that hawk was, and how strong my daddy had been, and suddenly I felt like I could handle any work problems awaiting me.

My granddaughter and light of my life, Kinley, and I had gone running some errands on her first birthday. Just the two of us were in the car, and I was thinking about how sad I was that Daddy never knew her. He would have loved her so much, and she would have loved him. As we were coming in the driveway, I glanced in the rear view mirror to see a hawk with a wingspan as wide as the car sail in behind us, lift up and come back down right over the hood.  We followed him all the way to the house and he flew away. I wept and said, “Kinley Raine, maybe God has let Grandpa know you.”

Mother’s Day came a couple of weeks later, and I told everyone about it at the lunch table. My son Daniel stared at me blankly. “Mom. You think Grandpa is a hawk?” Ha ha, NO, Daniel. I really don’t.

Before anyone gets their panties in a wad thinking I’m trying to convince you my Daddy is coming to see me in the form of a bird, I’m not. I think a hawk’s nest must be somewhere on our farm. I believe my Daddy is in Heaven, and I believe I will see him again. But I don’t think my father is flying around scarfing up bunnies and showing up on birthdays and Christmas.

I do, however, believe that God uses nature to comfort us when we’re sad, discouraged or fearful. Sometimes we need a sign, a reminder of His love, his faithfulness, of His promise to never leave us.

Genesis 9:13 says,

I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

Sure enough, every time I see a rainbow, I think of God’s promises, and I hope you do as well. If He can use a rainbow as a sign for all generations, He can certainly use a hawk to remind me that my Daddy’s love for me here on earth yet remains.

Championships have been won and lost by my beloved Tarheels while my cousin Ronnie sits in the same place, I doubt I have increased my net equity because of collard greens, and scientists are on the fence about whether cats can steal baby’s breath. But I do believe, with all my heart, that God can and will use whatever means necessary to remind us of His unfailing love and faithfulness.

Today is the anniversary of my father’s passing, and I’m always melancholy, no matter how many years have passed. Who knows? Maybe I’ll see a hawk. As my sweet daughter Lindsey reminded me while ago as she’s remembering the loss of her precious grandpa as well, His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

If your heart is heavy today, if you’re feeling sad or discouraged, may God send a sign to comfort you. May your own rainbow, hawk, or whatever speaks to you, remind you that you are so loved, so cared for, that the God of all creation would make sure you know it.

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