I remember when I was a little girl, sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast with my mom one morning. We were both looking peacefully out the window by the table. We had a beautiful red maple tree in our front yard, with a birdbath and flowers underneath. On this specific morning, I remember a red cardinal landing in the birdbath and my mom, almost giddy with excitement, saying, “Ooohh, look! A red cardinal! Something good is going to happen today!”
I remember that excitement in my mom’s voice and her statement everytime I see a cardinal now. I received a thank you note written from one of my students one year. It was written in a beautiful card with a bright red cardinal on the front. The note was thanking me for sticking by her in some tough times that year. She was grateful for my constant encouragement and the tough love I sometimes had to show. That cardinal certainly brought something good to me. I hung it on the side of my refrigerator, to be a constant reminder of my mom’s thought and to remind myself often that I am making a positive difference for the young people in my life.
I was out walking yesterday and a red cardinal flew into my path, landed a few feet ahead of me, stared at me for a moment, and flew off. I was, once again, reminded of my mom that morning, long ago, and of the times a cardinal has come into my life and something good has happened, one story in particular . . .
It was 2001 and I was waiting for my first kidney and pancreas transplant. I had to be ready to get “the call” at any moment. The call that told me a potential match had become available and I had to rush to get to the hospital within the hour. My first call came while I was a patient in the hospital with an infection. I was not able to receive that transplant because you have to be as healthy as possible when a potential match becomes available. It is already a high risk situation transplanting a foreign object into another’s body when they are healthy, let alone not healthy. A second call came at 2:00 in the morning, about a month later. I rushed off to the hospital and after several hours of testing and waiting, I was told that the organs were not a good match for me and I was sent home to wait again.
Similar situations happened 2 more times within a span of about six weeks or so. Early morning phone calls, a mad dash to the hospital, phone calls to family members, my boss, and a few friends, hours of testing and waiting, only to be told, “Sorry, this one isn’t the one for you. We’re going to get you a good one, don’t worry!” The emotional toll this routine took on me was overwhelming. I was led to believe my life was going to be changing drastically, only to be told, hours later, “Psych! Not this time!” Not to mention the turmoil my friends and family members were thrown into and the chaos my boss faced of finding a substitute teacher for me for six weeks or more, only to find out later that I would actually be in work the next day. It was challenging, to say the least.
By the fifth time one of these calls came through in the early morning hours, I took my time getting to the hospital. I didn’t rush to brush my teeth and wash my face. I packed my bag more slowly. I didn’t bother to phone my friends. And I only phoned my family and my boss out of sheer necessity, asking them not to say anything to anyone until I knew for sure the outcome of this trip. Afterall, we were all a bit skeptical at this point.
By the time I got downstairs that morning, almost an hour had passed and I decided to grab something to eat while I drove to the hospital. As I turned to open the fridge, I noticed something on the floor in front of me. When I bent down to pick it up, I saw it was the card with the cardinal on the front from my student all those years ago. I had taped that card to my fridge at least 10 years ago and it had never once moved or fallen to the ground. “Ooohh, look! A red cardinal! Something good is going to happen today!” was ringing in my head and my heart began to race. Maybe this was THE call this time!
Needless to say, I picked up my pace quite a bit as I ran out the door and sped off to the hospital. Testing, waiting, phone calls, you know the routine as well as I did. “We have a perfect match for you today! Your nurse will be in to prep you and surgery will be in about 2 hours.” What? WHAT? WHAT!!!??!!
That transplant stayed with me for 15 years! We are told that angels use creatures with wings to send love from heaven. I certainly had an angel looking out for me that day. I wonder what the cardinal that crossed my path yesterday will bring my way. 🙂