Several years ago, I was asked to officiate the funeral of a young man (a Marine) killed in Afghanistan. The day before the ceremony, his family and I waited silently, in a private area of the airport, until a few minutes before the plane carrying his body home was about to land and then a very kind veteran, in charge of these occasions, asked us if we would like to go outside. Helen Keller once said that death is nothing more than passing from one room to another, and while I thought that I believed this, I was experiencing many emotions, and one of them was doubt.
About 5 minutes before his plane landed, I looked up in the sky, and noticed a large bird flying toward us. It looked like an eagle, but I knew that it couldn’t be since we were in the middle of a busy airport and seeing an eagle is a pretty rare occurrence, even in the most rural areas, around here.
As it got closer, I thought, “My God, it is an eagle” …it came closer and closer and landed right in the middle of the runway in front of us. And then it started doing the strangest thing; it began jumping up and down, almost like it was dancing, saying, “Notice me! notice me!”
We did notice. The symbol for the United States Marine Corps is an Eagle standing on top of the world with its wings spread. It felt like a sign from Philip saying, “I’m ok! I’m ok!”…his parents felt this too. I was flooded with goosebumps and the words, “thank you, thank you, thank you” flowed through me. After a couple of minutes, it flew back in the direction that it came from. We watched it get smaller and smaller in the sky, as the plane bringing Philip’s body home, came in to land…they must have passed each other in the air.
It seems that a lot of people are making their transitions at this time; leaving this very brief life experience, and going on to the next. As much as we would like to hold onto all of those that we love, this isn’t the way of this life. The mystery, and the part that we cannot get our minds around, is that Life does not end with the death of the physical body. In our grief, it can be hard to feel the presence of our loved one…and sometimes the birds of the air, and the animals, come to our aid and remind us that there really is no death.
“I’ve told my children that when I die, to release balloons in the sky to celebrate that I graduated. For me, death is a graduation“. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross