IT HAS BEEN a long time since I have experienced such a surround of feathers. Unexpected though they always are, it is a phenomenon that began for me in 2011, in the last months of my mother’s life. Walking that difficult road with someone you love is hard, deeply emotional, often trying. I had just returned from a long trip to visit her when, exhausted, I stepped into our pantry, looking for something to eat. I was standing there, absently surrounded by shelves of pasta and sugar and dog food when suddenly I was overcome with the sadness of it all, the loss and fear, the reality of what was ahead. I offered a silent prayer for strength, and a tiny feather floated from the ceiling—I swear it is true—and I put out my hand and caught it.
I’ve got you, the feather seemed to say. You are not alone. I am here.
I felt calmer, comforted, grateful. And from then on, feathers seemed to appear in my life just when I most needed reassurance.
It happened so often I began to write of the incidences here, chronicling them via The Daily Grace. Some were tiny and quiet, some so grand as to defy explanation. The week we took Eliza for her freshman year of college, for example. I was thrilled, delighted, over the proverbial moon that she was going to experience something as wonderful as four years at Clemson! Then we said goodbye and Tim and I drove home and sorrow and sadness and loss gut-punched me in a way I never expected. There were several days of endless tears, and then one morning I woke up, gave myself a stern talking-to and went to the kitchen for coffee, resolved to connect to the joy in life again. Standing at the window with my steaming cup (my lip quivering a bit, I cannot lie), I looked out to our beloved pond to see this.
Feathers, feathers everywhere, as far as the eye could see.
It was a phenomenon we had never seen on Bickley’s Pond, and we only experienced it one other time.
The day she came home, the end of her freshman year.
MY MOTHER died in February of 2012. My brothers asked that I design the program for her funeral, and in doing so I felt the need to put something meaningful on the blank back page. In the notes she’d made about her arrangements—eight years prior—she’d requested the hymn On Eagles’ Wings as part of the service. I wasn’t familiar with the song, and so I looked it up, knowing it was likely based on a piece of scripture that may have been particularly meaningful to her, that I might use for the back.
On Eagles’ Wings is a devotional song composed by Michael Joncas, a priest, in 1979 after Vatican Council II, when the Catholic Church began using vernacular hymns at Mass. Its words are loosely based on Psalm 91 and Isaiah 40:31.
Psalm 91. Scripture I already knew by heart.
He shall cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
I will never forget the feeling of reading that passage, knowing she had chosen it all those years prior—long before her sickness, and ages before feathers, for me, began to fall.
AND HERE WE ARE NOW. Just last week I made a public statement, staked my claim as CATHY RIGG | Writer, via the (rather terrifying) public launch of a website stating such and of my acknowledgement there is a novel in the works even if it is, as it turns out, yet unfinished. Once again, feathers abound.
I have found them in the yard, on the sidewalk, stuck to my clothes as I pulled them, entangled, from the laundry basket. On the desk to the right of the computer on which I write. I do not believe this to be coincidence, and I smile every time. It is divine messaging, I know, a reminder that although the world feels unsteady and nothing seems certain, I am to keep believing; I am to go on with my work; I am a child of God, and I am cherished and supported and beloved.
And my mother is with me, I also know this. Every sentence I write, every paragraph I strike and rewrite and write again—there she is, just as she always has been, heartily cheering me on.