A bird’s silent song

What does it mean to be a “spiritual” person? Is spiritual a close relationship with a god?  Does it require an understanding or personal theory of immortality?  Perhaps it is a belief in the incredible power of love, knowledge and the spirit of man.  The human soul is vast, complex, and overwhelming. I believe in some way we all are spiritual.

Therefore, I wish to relate a remarkable story told to me by Karen.  I do not understand this story, but I sense the deep belief of Karen in the moments she experienced.  No matter what “spiritual” may mean to you, this story should have a place.

Karen was very close to Jill for many years. They shared wonderful days and events of life.  When Jill became stricken with incurable cancer, Karen was devastated.  However, as a loving friend, she walked cancer’s path with Jill.  Karen helped in Jill’s day-to-day life, in her care and most importantly in giving moments of joy to her life.  Tragically, Jill did die, leaving behind not only Karen, but a very close family.

The day after Jill’s death, Karen was working in the yard, pulling up weeds and remembering Jill.  Suddenly a bird flew low over Karen’s head, settling half yard away on a mailbox.  After watching the bird for a moment, Karen realized that it was not leaving.  The bird stood still on that mailbox in apparent expectation.  It suddenly struck Karen that the bird was Jill.

Karen stood up, slowly, moving across the grass to the mailbox, walking to within a couple feet of the bird.  As she drew close, she was astonished to observe that the bird’s tuff was the color of Jill’s hair. Karen was silent, sharing that perfect moment, and then she began to talk to the bird. The bird turned its head from one side to another, watching Karen with alternating eyes, opening and closing its beak, almost seeming to talk back, gossiping with an old friend.   A warmth and calmness settled over Karen and she felt a deep sense of peace, love and the sure feeling she was, again, with Jill.

They “talked” for five minutes, the bird mouthing silence and Karen speaking to her friend.  Karen told Jill how much she was missed.  Karen talked about the times they had shared. Most important, Karen thanked Jill for the wonderful life they had together.  Karen found closure.  Then the bird, apparently satisfied at having reached its friend, flew off into the distant blue sky, leaving Karen alone again, in that front yard, beside the mailbox.  Karen stood crying, tears of remembrance more than sorrow.

Is this a story of the spirit of man, or the spirit of god? I do not know.  It is absolutely a story of the loving soul and its tremendous power.  It would be wonderful if we all had such friends and shared such moments. I can only wish for Jill the freedom to fly and peace for friends like Karen.


  • How beautiful and most touching..as the Bard wrote... Horatio: O day and night, but this is wondrous strange! Hamlet: And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy' When my brother died recently his wife asked him for a sign but she was worried after he had passed away that she would not recognise it when it came. As he was a most organised and intelligent man I immediately had no trouble assuring her that if he sent her a sign she would know it for sure. Peter, my brother had been a pilot of both enormous and quite tiny airplanes..he had competed in the Transatlantic Air Race in a single engine Beagle Pup. Two minutes later as we walked from the clinic to our hotel, a tiny light aircraft appeared just 10 or 12 meters above our heads, waggled its wings and zoomed off into the sky..We knew what had made the pilots hand waver! Perhaps more extraordinarily he had given my husband his wonderful watch that he always wore when flying..it stopped at exactly the time of his passing. Life is rich with mystery and surprise!
    • James Salwitz, MD
      That is a remarkable story. We are indeed linked together in ways which we can barely appreciate and understand not at all. Thanks for your great comment. jcs
  • Roberta Pasquale
    Truly a beautiful story I can relate to on various levels. We are never alone. Be it God, his angels or saints, or friends of relatives gone from this earthly life, someone is watching over us. We just need to reach out and believe.
  • Karen was right: the bird was Jill. And Roberta, who commented above, also is right: "we just need to believe." There is simply no other explanation for what Karen experienced than the conclusion she drew. When I relayed my own incredible, and incredibly spiritual, experience with birds in connection with my mother's death to my minister, he told me he wished he had kept a journal recording all the amazing bird stories -- stories like Karen's and mine -- that parishioners had told him over the years, because surely he'd have enough to write a compelling book. When he and I met for this conversation, I had already written my book (WHEN ALL THAT'S LEFT OF ME IS LOVE: A Daughter's Story of Letting Go), a memoir about my terminally ill mother's last year and my first few months as a motherless daughter. The subsequently published and award-winning book includes a chapter entitled "The Birds" that, among other things, describes an event involving a zebra finch that I am utterly convinced (as is my agnostic father) represented my mother's spirit ascending to heaven. Six months after Mom's death, I had an encounter with a hummingbird -- another profoundly spiritual experience that I wrote about in a piece published in the Hartford Courant last Mother's Day ("Mother's Spirit: A Bird in Flight, A Familiar Scent"). I wrote, "Why did that hummingbird appear in that spot at that moment? As I sat there, tears flowing and heart racing, the answer was obvious. Before I could snap a photo or say anything to it, the hummingbird flew off. Initially distressed, I quickly became comforted by the realization that my mother was near, that she would always be with me, that she heard what I was thinking, and that she knew I absolutely had not forgotten her." Whether we are deeply religious or not (and I am not), how lucky we are if we are among those who believe in what is possible, even when what we believe defies explanation! These wonderful possibilities provide comfort for aching hearts and connections to those we've lost but still need in our lives.
  • JoAnne Quintanilla
    Amazing , beautiful , touching : )
  • Bobby
    I have the honor of being married to Karen one of G-ds special angels
    • James Salwitz, MD
      Amen. jcs
  • IBS
    I have had experiences as you all described my entire life. I see spirits I know. One talked to me, saved me from drowning, stopped my car just when I was about to go down a hill in the snow....My brother is a DVM....all scientific...He went to NYC for dinner. Our Dad was very special to us, although I felt my Dad all the time, my brother received a phone call. This was a month or two after my father's death. My brother answered....It was my Dad. I knew it was from my Dad because it was the same conversation I had with my Dad Before he passed. He played it again to his wife. For me, I knew my brother needed him. My brother told me it probably got stuck in cyper space? For two months? One doctor told me I am extremely emotional He told me he knows other people experiencing the same thing, and he could give me something for it. I told him I am fine. I have no fear. I was at a hospital to say hello to an MD. The residents were standing around the desk laughing. All of a sudden I heard a patient crying...please help her! I turned around and there was a cleaning man cleaning the floors. He told me he heard it too. I started yelling at the doctors to get help. They called the main MD out; their teacher, my friend. He made them all go up and down the halls, and they told me there is no room down there. I knew there was. There was an MM patient in there the last time I was there. A soul came home with me. I met her at the hospital. She had Leukemia, and I was introduced to her. We kept staring at each other. She was standing in front of a large pretty window. She looked as if she was a beautiful Angel. She was always in my mind. Her name was Julia and worked in the Bronx Zoo. She had a mask on, tubes in her arms and hospital clothes. I went home and had to draw her. Once as she was and once as I saw her. She left my mind a few weeks later. I wrote my friend numerous times to see how she was. He never anwswered my question. I knew she passed on. Always Believe~~~My family no longer calls me "from outer space"...I am now a person with a sixth sense. A palliative patient Stage4 Non cell LC Adenocarcinoma 2/12
    • James Salwitz, MD
      Thank you very much for sharing your remarkable experiences. There is so much we do not understand, but perhaps the first step is to quiet our mind and to listen. Stay strong ... and believe. jcs

Leave a Reply