My encounters with the red bird had been limited until a week after my mother died. I was sitting on the couch, consumed with grief when it first arrived. 

The red bird flew to the transom and peered in at me. It sat there as I sobbed. I looked up, and it looked at me as if to say, ‘It will be OK.” Many times, the red bird would appear when I was going through times of sadness or deep reflection.

I remember once, as I strolled through the botanical gardens on my mother’s birthday, the red bird’s appearance. I stopped at a beautiful planting of dahlias, engrossed in thought as dahlias were my mother’s favorite flower. I felt the sensation of being watched, and there was the red bird. It was sitting on a twig, watching me. It stayed there for several minutes and then flew away. It reappeared when I entered the rose garden, my mother’s second favorite flower. 

Another time, I had been painting and suddenly was needed on an unscheduled Zoom call. I hurried in and grabbed the first thing in my closet, which happened to be my mother’s favorite blouse. I threw it over my painting clothes and jumped on the call. Shortly afterwards the red bird landed on the deck, walked over to the French doors, peered up at me and started squawking loudly, staring right at me. The red bird was so loud that those on the Zoom call asked what the noise was about. 

Several weeks after my father passed, I was sitting on my back deck, once again consumed in grief. The red bird landed on the chair next to me as I gazed out on the body of water my home looked upon. The red bird was calm, peering at me, then gently flew to my shoulder. It sat there only for a few seconds, but I swear it gave me a kiss on the check. 

The red bird continued to be a healing presence to me as I worked through my grief and pain of losing both parents in a relatively short time. As time marched on, the red bird would appear on meaningful dates. Its beauty and meaning touched me deeply each time I encountered it. 

Several years later, I moved to another state where the red bird does not migrate or live. I knew that the red bird would not appear any further to me. In October, my husband and I rented through a vacation website a condo at the beach to celebrate our wedding anniversary. 

We arrived late at night and did only what was needed to unpack, pushing out everything until the next day. In the morning, I discovered the coffee pot and soon had that precious dark fluid brewing. Once done, I reached into the cupboard and grabbed the closest mug. I almost dropped it as I turned the mug to look at the front. There was the red bird.

A white and red coffee mug with a bird on it

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You might think the red bird moments were coincidental; maybe they were. I know that every time the red bird appeared, it was a time when I was feeling lost, or I was needing support. 

As I have shared my stories of the red bird with leaders, their faces often soften, and their eyes glisten. The red bird, for me, was a connection to the profound loss of my parents. One leader I spoke with quietly said, I wish I had a red bird to feel connected again. 

Did the red bird find me, or was I looking for it in my longing to seek meaning and understanding? I believe it is a little of both. What I know is that the red bird symbolizes the deep need we all carry in our hearts — the need for connection. 

This time of the year is a time for reflection. What is your red bird that connects you again or more deeply to purpose and meaning? 

Martie L. Moore, MAOM, RN, CPHQ, is the President/CEO of M2WL Consulting. She has been an executive healthcare leader for more than 20 years. She has served on advisory boards for the National Pressure Injury Advisory Panel, American Nurses Association, Dean’s Advisory Board at the University of Central Florida College of Nursing and Sigma, International Honor Society for Nursing. She was honored by Saint Martin’s University with an honorary doctorate degree for her service and accomplishments in advancing healthcare.

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