The Heron of Hope

My brother tells of a heron that is hunting squirrels around his barn. He sees the big bird in his mind’s eye as he describes this odd occurrence to me at a family gathering.

“JoDee, there’s a heron hanging around our barn. It’s this tall I tell you.” He motions with his hand.

I wonder whether he thinks this big bird is a sign; A messenger of hope sent from God to encourage them in their time of grief.

You see, pain swims in their home, due to the recent death of my sister-in-law’s father. Piranhas of the soul—grief and despair—lurk in the waters.

“Herons hunt fish,” my brother explains, “and also squirrels. I think this bird comes from a nearby marsh.”

A marsh in the upper desert? I think. I don’t want to doubt his reasoning but his story seems as odd as a visit from this tall bird in the country valley where my brother and sister-in-law live. In fact, the only water sources around are a couple of ponds. I remember seeing them as a kid. I don’t speak the obvious:

Why is this bird hanging around your barn?

Yet I come home and look up herons online and find some interesting information. Herons are extremely protective of their nests and will attack intruders.

Herons are also known to have angry flair ups, which, interestingly, is Step 3 of the grief process.

I go online to discover Christine Grote’s post; The Blue Heron pays a visit. Christine knows about processing grief. In fact, in her memoir, Dancing in Heaven, Christine shares her family’s story about her younger sister Annie:

Dancing in Heaven is an inspirational story about Annie s life, death, and her significance in the lives of those of us who loved her and others who were touched by her. This memoir provides a window into my family’ s life with a severely disabled member. But more importantly, Dancing in Heaven is a testimony to the basic intrinsic value of human life.”

Sometimes we need a heron to visit our lives, whether in person like the white one above that showed up in our backyard one day or in our imaginations. We need this messenger of hope to help us to cope with grief and despair.

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