CardinalThe cardinal was the first this morning, followed by a woodpecker and then a blue bird. Each pecks at the feeder a few times and flies away. But the cardinal stayed the longest. He didn’t exactly look at me, but he turned toward the window.

Some believe that cardinals carry spiritual messages from precious love ones who have passed on. Maybe that’s why I wanted the bird to come closer, to stay longer.

Today is the Sunday before Christmas, the day of our tradition Christmas brunch. A day when both of my sons would happily dress in their nicest clothes without any prompting. We’d go to an early service at church and then head directly to the nicest champagne brunch I could find. The tradition started a month after my daughter was born. That Sunday also happened to be Christmas Eve. One of the nicer restaurants near our house had a bunch with Santa.  We generally avoided nice restaurants back then, but I thought the boys would enjoy seeing Santa. Before we ate, I took a picture of the boys holding their new sister by the Christmas tree. The whole experience was such a success that my husband and I decided we would do it again the next year.

Over the years we went to a variety of restaurants, but The Club House in Oak Brook, Illinois was our favorite. Everyone was always in a great mood as we climbed the grand staircase to our table. Each of us had a method for attacking the all-you-can-eat buffet. The boys would go deep, fast with piles of bacon, French toast and pastries. I’d start with the salad, peel and eat shrimp and salmon. The feeding frenzy would go on for a while amid lively conversation. My husband and I drank champagne, the kids hot chocolate with whipped cream. At the end of the brunch we would joke about our family being the reason restaurants stopped having all-you-can-eat buffets.

Two years ago, we went to Ray’s on the River in Atlanta. I hadn’t made a reservation, so we had to wait for a table. We weren’t in the greatest mood, though I don’t remember way. But once we sat down and started to eat, things were as they had always been. The champagne flowed liberally. The boys, who were also able to drink, gladly turned the keys over to their sister, who was not. As we were winding down, I noted that it was the nineteenth anniversary of our brunch tradition. I took out my phone and snapped a few pictures of my three kids together, as I did that first brunch.

I look at that picture every day. It’s the screen saver on my phone. 

Last year it was too painful to even think about going to brunch. In fact, we collectively decided that we wouldn’t do brunch anymore. That was definitely the right decision for the place we were in our grief. But much like the music a few weeks again, I’ve felt Matt urging us back to the things we loved as a family. We have all felt it. We decided to go back to our tradition next Sunday on what would have been his twenty-seventh birthday.

The cardinal came back. He didn’t look at me or even come on my side of the feeder. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence or if it’s a sign. Lots of other birds have been in and around the feeder this morning. But seeing that cardinal gives me a sense of peace this morning and that’s all that matters.

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