“Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’” Genesis 16:13 (NKJV)
It’s a perfect day for spreading Liz’s ashes. Warm. Sunny. Breezy. And my sister Ann and I have found an idyllic location: a serene spot along this murmuring river. There’s a bench here in the shade of a rustling poplar tree, and no one is around to disturb us. The confluence where it joins a larger river is right over there, and our eyes are filled in every direction with the lushness of God’s creation.
As we relax here in the shade, we’re delighted to catch sight of a Great Blue Heron, wading in the shallows just a bit upstream from us. A Great Egret lands not far from the heron, and they fish together in harmony for a while. But it isn’t long before the heron becomes jealous of its territory and chases the egret away from its fishing hole with squawks and screeches like we’ve never heard before!
Watching the show those two are putting on is a big treat for my sister and me—the kind of thing our family has always enjoyed. Our parents were bird watchers, and from the time we were little, they taught us to keep our eyes open for our avian friends. In fact, part of the reason we’ve chosen this spot is because we’ve heard that there are eagles nesting nearby. Our sister Liz especially loved eagles, and it would be so special to spot one today as we scatter some of her remains here in this peaceful spot—a place she would have thoroughly enjoyed.
The time comes to scatter Liz’s ashes. We share a moving liturgy appropriate for the occasion from the second volume of Every Moment Holy, and as we’re drying our tears, we catch sight of a raptor soaring high above us. Is it the eagle we’ve been wishing for? “I see a while head! It’s gotta be an eagle!” I cry. “I don’t think so,” Ann counters. “The shape of its wings isn’t quite right.” But what else could it be? So I pull out my bird app and scan the information. “An osprey! Maybe it’s an osprey!” But by this time, it has flown out of sight, and we have no way to confirm our guess.
…until it swoops down not too far from us! Yes, it’s an osprey! We hear its cry and confirm our visual identification with the audio from my app. Next thing we know, we hear the screech of another osprey—they’re calling to one another! Then SPLASH! One of them divebombs into the water for a fish! What a thrill! It’s like God is urging the ospreys to put on an air and water show for us! By the time the performance is over, we’ve spotted four ospreys soaring above and around us! The fact that there are four of them is especially significant because there were four girls in our family. So there’s one osprey soaring in the heavens for each of us!
As much as we love birds, and as often as we’ve placed ourselves in situations like this, hoping to catch sight of some of God’s majesty displayed by our feathered friends, this is only the second time in our lives that either of us has seen an osprey. …and never before have we witnessed a display anything like this! We’re very aware that “You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees” has seen us in our grief and sorrow and is meeting us with His consolation. There seems to be a message in the ospreys’ performance that our sister Liz is completely free of everything that ever hindered her, and she is soaring with Him. And for us, even as the grieving process continues, we can also soar freely with “You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees,” with new evidence that He knows and understands us more deeply than we could ever imagine.
~ Kathryn Kircher, writer and photographer