On my early morning walk, I greeted the robins along the path and noticed a larger creature in the meadow. What I took to be a squirrel turned into a gray cottontail who freeze-framed until I was nearly next to him. When I took one more step, he/she disappeared in the tall grass. I came at the same time for the next two mornings, and the tableau was repeated.
My brother died in a motorcycle crash 12 years ago. He was too young — only 48 — to easily say goodbye.
At Andy’s graveside ceremony, my sisters and several others described seeing a colorful butterfly that hovered over the grave, circled above his friend giving a eulogy, and then buzzed the front row seats. My head was down at the time and I missed the whole performance.
I asked my brother after returning home: Show yourself to me. Show me a sign. Nothing happened for 12 long months. In his memory, I planted a weeping cherry tree and built a cairn of carefully chosen stones. The cairn is an ancient Celtic ritual, a combination burial mound and marker. I meditated there, seeking an answer, solace, something.
Then one morning during my regular brisk walk up the road, a brown bunny jumped out from the bushes just ahead of me. I slowed, not wanting to startle him into the road. He remained motionless until I was just a few feet away. I stopped in my tracks. He watched me for a few moments, then leaped over the stone wall and disappeared. I continued my walk, thinking that was rather unusual.
I completely forgot about the encounter, until the next morning, when I approached the same point on my walk and a brown bunny hopped through the grass, directly in front of me. I stopped walking; he stopped hopping. Our eyes met. I couldn’t honestly say this was the same bunny from the previous morning. Again, he remained motionless for several seconds, his eyes on mine. Then he turned and escaped into the tall grass.
After a moment, I slowly resumed my walk. I whispered, “Andy, is that you?” The sound of my own voice made me laugh. “Weird coincidence, that’s all,” I thought.
On the third morning, I began my walk with a lighter, quicker step, my eyes focused on the grass just ahead. I noticed a single yellow flower, a lone buttercup, waving in the breeze. I passed it by, and kept walking, the road beginning its gentle incline. I took in a deep breath and slowly exhaled, fighting the impulse to stop and turn around. I reached the top of the hill, my turning point. My pace usually picked up here since the return was a downhill slope. I was moving faster than usual, and as I neared a certain patch of grass, I began running.
A small brown furry head appeared, just next to the buttercup. I froze, nearly falling on the asphalt. I was transfixed for what seemed a very long time. A school bus rumbled up the road and I stumbled backwards. The furry head with long ears disappeared from sight.
Each morning for the next several weeks, I began an interior dialog as I headed up the road. In prayers and reminiscing, I was comforted by the appearance of my daily companion, although I longed to hear the sound of my brother’s voice in response.
On a chilly Fall morning, with overcast sky and dead leaves scattered everywhere, I walked alone. My entreaties met with silence. On Thursday, then Friday, then Saturday, it was the same. On Sunday, I walked in the opposite direction.
My grandson was five-years-old at the time. He lives on a small farm and has a great love for animals. At that age, he was either wise beyond his years, or sufficiently innocent to believe that nearly anything is possible. Probably both. When he asked his usual question during my regular babysitting session, “Oma, what happened to you today?” I told him the whole story, a month of morning encounters that came to an abrupt end.
He considered all the data in his analytical way, and then triumphantly pronounced, “I know, Oma! Your brother doesn’t want to be a bunny any more. Maybe he wants to be a tiger.”