…he said: ‘Now you have seen me, you shall see me no more, unless you are willing to serve seven years and a day for me, so that I may become a man once more.’ Then he told her to take three feathers from under his side, and whatever she wished through them would come to pass. Then he left her at a great house to be laundry-maid for seven years and a day.
“Three Feathers,” More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs, 1894
In this tale, a woman is not allowed to see what her own husband looks like.
With untamed curiosity, one night she lights a candle so she can see him. Jacobs writes, “He was handsome enough to make all the women of the world fall in love with him. But scarcely had she seen him when he began to change into a bird.”
The bird-man exiles his wife to seven years and a day as a laundress so he can regain his human form; yet he also gives her three feathers for making wishes.
Through the feathers she really doesn’t do seven years of labor. The feathers do the work for her.
Like the wife and her husband, I finally looked upon the truth about my son Brennan; soon thereafter he flew away into the unseen realm, a victim of a heroin overdose.
Signs of his presence
My friend Kay taught me to watch for signs of his continuing presence in my life.
A week ago would have been his 22nd birthday. Like the bird-man, he sent me three feathers to let me know he’s nearby, working his magic. And like the wife, I have labor to perform, writing a book about grieving. It is a labor of love.
The first feather presented itself a few days before his third birthday after passing. It appeared at Lake Isabella in Loveland, Ohio, while I walked and talked about him with my friend Laura. The large turkey vulture feather stuck straight up in the grass next to the road. Turkey vultures are symbols of devoted motherhood. Their plumage would probably make good quills for writing. Perhaps Brennan has sent me a Quick-quotes Quill from Harry Potter.
Right in front of me
The second feather floated down out of the clear blue sky, landing right in front of me on the day before his birthday.
I knew then that feathers would be the sign of his presence for this birthday.
A third feather
On his birthday, I discovered the third feather–caught somehow on a gossamer thread hanging from the shelf above my laundry sink.
I believe my son, invisible to me now, left me three birthday feathers for making wishes as I labor on his book.
And there will be three parts to his book–-perhaps a feather for making wishes and receiving inspiration from my son as I write on each section.
It was a beautiful gift to me on his birthday.
Signs from our deceased loved ones can be subtle. Keep an open mind and heart and watch for them. My friend Kathy, whose sister Karen passed a year ago, writes, “It’s also interesting to me how often animals appear in some significant way when people move on… when Mother died, we heard a Mourning Dove…at 1:30am, a rather unusual time for bird song.
“As we walked to the door to enter the house to say Goodbye to Karen (after all the police/medical investigations were done – standard procedure for an “unattended death”), someone happened to glance to the left and there in the field was a doe, looking right at us. She stood for the longest time, unafraid, then bounded away into the cedars looking so graceful and free. ”
What signs have you received from your deceased loved one?