On friendship, flickers, and remembering

Earlier this spring I was chatting with my friend, Sue. She filled me in on the progression of her illness, recent doctors visits, etc, but then got down to what she really wanted to talk about– a bird she’d seen lately hopping about on her grass.

“Oh I’ve been having such fun watching it!, she enthused. “It isn’t a robin though it’s about the same size. It’s got specks on its chest, and it’s always poking around in the grass out my back window. Do you know what it is?”

“Could it be a northern flicker?” I asked. “Does it have a sort of heart-shaped patch of red on its head and a black bib?”

“Yes!” she exclaimed. “It does!”

She looked it up in her bird book and was delighted to confirm that her mystery bird was indeed a northern flicker. She was also tickled that I’d been able to identify it based on her clues.

I was pretty chuffed too, but did fess up that I’d had several flickers visiting my yard last spring and learned about them then. I also told her that flickers were one of my dad’s favorite birds. In fact, during one of our visits over the past year, he had told me that one reason he’d bought the house I grew up in was because there’d been flickers in the yard when they first visited. For a few weeks after his Celebration of Life service in April, I spotted flickers all over the place and took some comfort in that. Now I always think of my father when I see flickers.

About a week ago, I walked out to my car after visiting Sue, carrying the weight of the knowledge that I would not see her again. In the cool, grey drizzle, something moved and caught my eye. I looked. A bird was hopping about in the back yard. Could it be? I blinked, peering through my tears and the rain. Saw the telltale speckles. The red heart. Sure enough, it was a northern flicker. I couldn’t help but smile, even in the midst of my deepest sorrow. It felt like a sign, a message from Sue or maybe the universe. Either way, I again took some comfort in it.

Yesterday, we celebrated Sue’s life. If I try really hard, I can still feel the warmth of her hand in mine , see the sparkle in her blue eyes, and hear her voice and the echo of her wonderful laugh. I know some of that will fade with time, but I also know that her presence in my life is permanent. She’s left an indelible mark.

In the days to come, I’ll be keeping my eyes out for flickers, and will now remember both my father and Sue when I see them. But truly, I won’t need the flickers to remember.

RIP my friend.

29 thoughts on “On friendship, flickers, and remembering

  1. margaretsmn says:

    Tears! Such a heartfelt slice. I’m glad you included Sue’s photo. I can see the sparkle. I love birds and the thought of the flickers being your sign of both your father and Sue, together in heaven watching over you. Blessings, my friend. We don’t all get these blessings. Hold tight.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely, lovely slice. The way you wrote it, focusing on the dialogue about the bird ,had me lost in that moment. So then when it shifted, I felt your loss and was celebrating with you at seeing the bird, too. Then you end with the best line – But truly, I won’t need the flickers to remember. So sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your lovely friend here today with me. I’ll be thinking of her, too as I watch the birds fly in my backyard.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dawn says:

    A poignant ode to both your friend and your father. These must be flickers of love and no small coincidence that they wear a heart. Thank you for sharing and I wish you comfort in your loss

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jenn says:

    This was beautiful. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Adrienne says:

    A lovely tribute to a friend. My sister saw rabbits after my father father passed and was convinced it was a message from him. Nature has a way of reminding us about those important people in our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Anonymous says:

    A beautiful tribute. This week marked five years since a friend of mine passed. It is a comfort to remember times shared, especially when it is brought to mind by a sign in nature that lets us feel their presence again.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am so sorry for your loss, but what a beautiful way to remember both your friend Sue and your Dad. I learned of Flickers some years ago when they made nests on our gravel driveway. They stayed away after we paved it. Now that we’re back to gravel, I hope to see some again. I’ll remember your story now whenever they’re in view.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Fran Haley says:

    Such a beautiful story tribute, Molly – that birds are involved delights my heart as they are such symbolic winged messengers of the spirit (as we may have mentioned before in comments). The flickers are so cheery – and your friend Sue, so radiant in that photo. My father loved Canada geese. I gave him a Canada goose yard ornament on one of his last Christmases. On the day of his funeral, in the empty field by the cemetery, a line of Canada geese stood in solemn attendance as our procession passed. Yes… birds are winged messengers.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Patty McLaughlin says:

    Beautifully written, Molly. Such a nice tribute again. Thanks for sharing. Patty

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

  10. Amy Ellerman says:

    So lovely. I see a connection between birding and writing–something about patience and willingness to pay attention to the tiniest of details.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What an effervescent spirit! I’m sorry for the loss of your dear friend. Thank you for celebrating her life in this slice. I’m workshopping not missing folks, but appreciating the time we had together. I am a work in progress on that account.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. humbleswede says:

    There are so many things to love about this slice. First, just the raw emotion. You’ve certainly had a tough spring. I’m very sorry. Still, you’ve managed to see flickers of hope through the tears. I love your word choices, like enthused and chuffed. They’re just not words I would have come up with. There’s so much of this that I can connect with, too. When our daughter died, it was June, and we craved signs of hope. One day in our kitchen, my wife was having a particularly rough day. “I’d just like to have some way of knowing that she’s okay, that she’s at peace,” she wailed. As if on cue, like your flicker, a tiny white butterfly fluttered across our kitchen. My wife put out her hand and the butterfly landed in her palm. So, like you, I do believe that the universe sometimes provides miraculous moments of connection. We’ve been sighting butterflies and seeing them as visitations or flickers of Emma for years. Here’s one of my wife’s poems. https://ejjazzyemm.blogspot.com/2012/01/come-to-me-as-butterfly.html

    Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thank you so much for sharing the butterfly story and your wife’s beautiful poem with me. Those miraculous moments of connection are powerful and such sweet comfort. I was deeply touched by your wife’s blog and her explanation of its purpose. Are you familiar with the poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer?


  13. Tabatha says:

    Your post and the comments are both poignant and full of love. We went to my aunt-in-law’s service recently and her grandson gave a beautiful eulogy which compared love and memories to what we eat…we can’t see what we’ve eaten in our bones and our blood, he said, but it’s what makes us. xo

    Liked by 1 person

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