Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Cardinal

Before I begin this story, a quick disclaimer. I don't know what you believe, this story is not about beliefs or trying to convince you to believe something you do not. This story is about a personal experience that meant something to me and I found worthy to share.

Three years ago, on June 1, 2006, my grandmother passed away. She was a sweet lady who firmly believed in killing with kindness and always supported her family in good times and bad. She loved animals, one particular one being cardinals, and hence had collected a good number of them. After she passed, it was decided that each grandchild would be given one to help remember her.

I never felt I needed a cardinal to remember my Grandmother, but I did decide that every time I saw a cardinal going forth from then on, it would mean that my Grandma was looking out for me like she had during some critical times in my life.

On Monday, June 1, 2009 I was scheduled to give my tenth speech for Toastmasters. Since the tenth speech is a landmark in which you are awarded your Competent Communicator award, I decided to invite my family and friends to come see it. This was a big mistake because it amplified my nervousness about giving the speech.

I had spent a lot of time writing, revising and reviewing my speech but for some reason I could not get it to stick in my mind. The night before I recorded myself saying each part of the speech and even set it to play back in a loop while I slept. Unfortunately, the only consequence of this was my having a dream in which I could not get an mp3 player I was listening to with my speech playing to stop, no matter how many times I hit pause.

Sleep deprived and a nervous wreck, I struggled through my normal routine and headed off to work. Almost on the verge of a panic attack, I pulled up to the stop sign at the end of my neighborhood and that's when it happened. Over the car flew a cardinal, ducking in to sight right in front of me. It hung in the air for a few moments and then glided off down the road.

A wave washed over me and I thought of my grandma. It was like she was saying not to worry, it would all turn out alright. And the panic inside of me released.

That night I gave my speech and it went even better than I expected. My family and friends enjoyed it. It was a great accomplishment for me and a night I won't soon forget.

But what sticks with me now is the memory of that cardinal flying overhead and the knowledge that even still, in those critical moments, my grandma is still looking over me.

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