Sorry I've been gone. I'll confess -- the elderly relative who passed away was my mother-in-law. We had a complicated relationship, and it has been good for me to serve her by helping clean up the years of accumulation.
The bulk of it is behind us. It took two weekends renting a box truck to haul trash to the dump, and to move furniture that each of the sons are taking into their homes. I was hesitant to accept anything, because the more I moved around in her house sorting and cleaning, the more I was convicted that I had not been a very good daughter-in-law. We never really "got" each other, and since she and her other daughter-in-law were two peas in a pod, I left them to their own devices. In other words, I didn't try very hard.
But in the mess, I've seen more of who she was when she was having good days, and I'm sad that I missed out on that, so convinced was I of her less admirable moments being standard. This process has been good for us and healing, so it's a good thing.
When my grandfather died in 2000, right after he passed my mom was walking by the little grassy area outside his apartment and saw a cardinal. It seemed to stay for a while and watch her. If you know cardinals, you know they're skittish. She took it as a sign from her dad that things were "okay." To this day, when we see a cardinal, we think of Grandpa.
Saturday morning my husband backed the box truck down our driveway and came inside to get us. "Come look!" he called. "Bring the camera!" This is what we saw, not six feet from the box truck!
This resonates on so many levels -- my in-laws were bird lovers, they spent a lot of time in Germany where owls are a symbol of wisdom, etc. Bottom line, I think this was God's way of telling me "it's okay." My mother-in-law died in her sleep, in her own bed, in her own home. No pain, no hospitals, as far as we can tell, no fear.
My son moved really close for a photo, and the owl fluffed up and then let loose with a ... well, let's just say his tummy was less full when he was finished. It didn't get my son, but we all laughed. That, too, was like my mother-in-law. When she'd had enough of your foolishness, she definitely let you know.
Rest in peace, Oma.