July 13, 2023, started like any normal day for me. I was tired; it was Thursday. I was behind at work with tasks and due dates stacking up like cordwood in late autumn. I pulled into the lot of my workplace, finished my call with my brother, and exited my vehicle begrudgingly, wanting nothing more than to be home writing. With my latest work in progress fresh in my mind and stories to tell, I was looking forward to the weekend.
I looked up to the roof of the Cathedral, the building in which I work, which sits just up from the ocean in the harbor of Portland Maine. Normally the roof is littered with seagulls, all too eager to swoop down from the peaks of the building for whatever morsels they can steal. They are the rats of the city, enormous rats with wings, and mostly the nemesis of my freshly washed car. In the ongoing battle of bird droppings, they had been winning this week and my car direly needed a wash.
Today was different. Three black birds sat on the roof above my office windows. It was such an odd sight I snapped a picture. In good spirited fun I sent my co-worker Amanda, who had already arrived a text.
“Can’t come in today. There is a murder of ravens on the roof over my office. Bad omens. Heading home.”
Without a second thought, it was into the office and back to the tasks and stresses of the day. At 1:00 pm, I missed a call from my brother. I called back at 1:08. He was upset and could barely get the words out. “Mom is dead. Her heart stopped this morning and they couldn’t revive her.”
In the Norse shamanic tradition, Odin’s ravens represent the powers of necromancy, clairvoyance, and they are the guides for the dead. In Irish mythology, the raven is closely linked to the Morrigan, one of the most complex deities in the Celtic pantheon. A “triple” goddess, whose sphere of influence includes fertility, birth, and death, she is also known as Badb Catha (Battle Raven), Macha (Sovereign Queen), and Nemain (Terror).
It is amazing, this funny fragile thing we call life. The shared experiences that unite us as a people. My dad passed long ago and while I contemplate the realities of the arrangements, the final duties at the funeral home, I take solace in my beliefs. I have no actual evidence, no proof as such, but I know... as sure as I know, the sun will rise... that our spirits are lasting if our flesh is not. I don’t know which religion is right, whose god’s name is wrong, and honestly I don’t believe in the end that it matters. I think what matters is how we live, how we raise our children. Whether we leave our little corner of the earth a better place because of our trials and tribulations. The lives we touch, that is what matters.
So whether you believe it was a sign from the God, Allah, or Odin, matters not. In my heart, it was the universe reaching out. It was the moment to say it’s alright. The child who was lost here on earth for a brief spell is returning home.