Monday, September 26, 2011

Symbols of Life

Although I did not know that my Dad was dying when I walked into the theatre on Thursday night, there was a Raven sitting alone on top of the theatre crowing at John and me as we entered. I am a student of theatrical traditions and love the legends associated with all aspects of the theatre. I said, "Isn't that a bad omen? A raven sitting on the theatre opening night?" In John's manner he said, "Right?" which is both a question and an affirmative in context. We both snickered and as we opened the door I said, "Quote the Raven Nevermore." It might have been the last time I thought of that bird but it was not to be.
Ten minutes before the show I got the call from my sister and Dad died while we were on the phone together.
I called John into the dressing room and said, "Let's go out back for a minute." We went outside the theatre which is empty except for loading docks. There is a tree line just on the other side of this alley way that I am told obscures a beautiful view of the Erie Canal. It is the perfect urban setting where nature tries its best to encroach on asphalt. As John and I are discussing the death of my father, and how we will handle it during and after the show, a raven landed on the telephone pole above us. I am not a raven expert, but it appeared to be the same lonely raven that had greeted us when we walked into the theatre. There were no other ravens or birds of any kind that could be seen or heard at that moment. A rational person would have assumed it was the same bird hanging around. He crowed and crowed very loudly as if not to go unseen. And it seemed to me that the raven was crowing directly at us again
I thought of my Dad. He had been robbed of his speech for a decade from a stroke but never stopped trying to communicate with all of us. He had a few phrases that came out clear, but always with a struggle. He would sometimes get frustrated by not being able to say what he wanted to say and "I... don't... know" would end his attempt. Dad was gone now, his struggle over, and here was this bird free and very vocal announcing its presence in a way that could not be ignored.
I stopped and looked at the raven and said to John, "That's Dad, he can finally talk again." It came out of my mouth before I even knew what I was saying. The raven stayed perched on the top of the pole alternately being loud and silent as John and I came to some decisions.
It was time to go back and do the show. There was no thought of canceling it, Dad would not have wanted that. He loved to see me perform. As we walked back into the theatre the raven gave one last call, took flight and soared over the Erie canal thicket.
I have a friend who says to a carpenter everything looks like a nail. To a person in mourning everything looks like a symbol of hope. The truth is really not as important as the feelings it generates. For me it was a contact from a consciousness that I do not understand. I did not need a bird to tell me that my Dad was finally free, nor do I think that Dad needed a bird to tell me he was okay. But whatever it meant it was a direct call to my heart and it touched me deeply. I may not see the bird again and it may not speak to me with the same symbolism if I do. It was for me, however, one more moment to remember sharing the company of my Dad.
As you are, Dad,


Tiffany Cox said...

I get messages from animals sometimes -- for all sorts of things. Ravens are very intelligent beings and can, indeed, be taught human speech. Also, they are corvids (like crows), which hold "funerals" for their dead. So I wouldn't be surprised at all if this one brought you a message from your father. Of course, you may not need messages from ravens, but they are nice to get anyway. :)

mitzi mcevoy said...

jay and sandi,
your loss is shared by those who have known noel. and the gifts of friendship, joy, humanity that noel shared with those who knew him will cause noel to live on through us always!
jack and i love you both forever and a day.
mitzi and jack