EXCERPT: 'Messages,' by Bonnie McEneaney

The great blue heron was the one bird that had significance in my life. When my parents lived in Florida, a great blue heron patrolled the water's edge in front of their home. In the morning, as my father was having breakfast, he would always look out the window to check on the bird's whereabouts. Inevitably, it would show up, its majestic silhouette outlined against the morning sun. There was such a connection between my father and the heron that one Christmas Eamon and I bought him a stunning replica of a heron from Steuben Glass.

After my father died, whenever Eamon or I saw a blue heron, we were reminded of my father and the time we'd spent together. For me, the bird was particularly meaningful because it was a point of connection between Eamon and my father. When I saw it in the cemetery, I felt it was a spiritual sign that this was the correct place to lay Eamon to rest, and it gave me a measure of peace at a very nonpeaceful time. The blue heron helped me choose a cemetery for Eamon, but I still needed to decide exactly where he should be buried. The only other time I saw the bird was several weeks later when I returned to the cemetery to select a burial plot. My friend Lori came with me; she and her husband had known Eamon for over twenty years. I felt comfortable having her help me select the best possible grave site, but we were having trouble picking one out. The chief administrator of the cemetery was driving us, and he kept stopping at location after location. We would get out of the car and stand on the available site to see how we felt about it. Nothing felt right. How could it? I was having a difficult time believing what I was doing. It felt like a nightmare. How could I possibly be searching for the right place to bury my husband?

9/11 World Trade Center Aerials

Did all of this really happen?

Finally, our guide had another thought. "I've been taking you to all the newer locations that are available," he said. "Let me show you one of the older areas."

He drove us down the hill and to the right of where we had been looking. "There," he pointed, "what about that area? See, over there."

Lori and I got out of the car once more and walked up a slight incline to the place he was recommending. We stood there, breathing in the cold air. I shut my eyes and felt a new warmth flow through my body as the sun broke through the clouds. When I looked up, there it was. The great blue heron! Lori, whom I had already told about the earlier sighting, now saw it, too. It was right in front of me again, next to where the car was parked. The bird had come out of nowhere. It seemed impossible that we had neither heard nor seen him land, given the breadth of his wingspan.

"Lori, where did he come from?" I asked.

"I have no idea," she replied. She was just as amazed as I was.

We both knew that this was where Eamon would be buried. It was the perfect place. I felt a sense of peace. In all my many trips to visit Eamon's grave, I never again saw the great blue heron.

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