Believing is a Choice

If my mind is quiet enough I can hear the birds chirping from my apartment balcony. Even with the buzzing traffic of a nearby street and the chaotic construction work a floor beneath me, I can hear the sparrows’ singing and the cardinals’ calling. The quieter I get, the louder they get. 

Being quiet is a choice. Hearing the birds is a choice. If I am willing to hear them, I certainly will. 

When I hear birdsongs, I think of my mom. She used to love to listen to the birds. A few years ago, when my family moved from the house I’d grown up in, my mom said she couldn’t hear the birds in our backyard like she could at the old house. I hadn’t noticed. There seemed to be a normal amount of birds in the yard I thought. But I wasn’t listening for them then. Birds were just birds. They didn’t add or take away anything from my life (except that one time when I was about six in the Bahamas and a seagull landed on my french fries and took a few before leaving me in tears). Birds were just birds. 

After my mom died last year, that changed. I started to notice birds more and more. I started listening for them in the backyard. And they showed up. Red ones, blue ones, yellow ones, tiny hummingbirds, and even an eagle. Then I started to wonder why my mom couldn’t hear them. There was an entire symphony of birds frequenting our yard. So perhaps my mom just simply wasn’t listening. Her mind must have been too loud to hear the birds. I guess it might have been hard to hear them over the racket of physical sickness and the deafening clamor of untamed worry and whatever other unhealthy mentalities she held on to. It all had become too loud. No matter how loquacious the birds were, my mom wasn’t going to hear them. 

Birds were no longer just birds for me. They soon became my connection to my mom. I’ve come to believe that whenever I hear them sing, she’s near. 

About six months after she died, I took a solo trip to San Diego. Two days in I got a bad case of food poisoning. I’m talking liquid-coming-from-both-ends kind of food poisoning (sorry I hope you aren’t eating). It was rough. I was burning up. Then I was dripping with sweat. The room was spinning and I couldn’t keep anything down. The worst of it hit me around 3:00 in the morning. A time when most are asleep but my mom — who had lifelong self-prescribed insomnia — would have been wide awake probably watching a repeat episode of Dateline. I wanted nothing more than to call her up and tell her I wasn’t feeling well. She would have pacified me with an “aww my poor baby” and it would have made me feel just a tiny bit better knowing she cared. Well I couldn’t call her. That was the first trip I had taken by myself since she died and it really hit me that not only is my mom gone, but one of my closest friends is also gone. 

I laid in bed sleepless, turning and tossing, groaning and moaning. I cursed whatever it was that made me sick. I wept, missing my mom. And then after three straight hours of back and forth trips to the bathroom, the light of dawn started to make its way into my hotel room.

They were belting out songs like a choir of a thousand birds, singing in various tunes and pitches. 

Orange and pink streaks colored the sky, ushering in a new day. Outside my window birds were in full concert. I’m not exaggerating when I say I have never in my life heard birds sing so loudly. They were belting out songs like a choir of a thousand birds, singing in various tunes and pitches. 

You know when you’re sick and so you’re also irritable? Is that just me? Well whenever I’m not feeling well, literally everything annoys me. That morning, in the state I was in, I didn’t even want to hear the birds. But they were so loud that I couldn’t actually ignore them if I had wanted to. 

When I got my strength up, I decided to try to go downstairs to get some ginger ale and possibly step outside for some fresh air. I moped to the elevator, feeling more nauseous with every step. I must have looked as bad as I felt because on the elevator a lady looked at me and asked if I partied too hard last night. 

“No,” I mumbled. I definitely wasn’t in a talking mood. 

She was. “Well, did you hear those birds this morning?” she asked through a grin. That was amazing right!?” The door opened and she skipped off the elevator leaving a whiff of positivity. 

Of course I heard those birds. How could I not, I thought. Then it hit me. Yes, I heard them. But I didn’t actually hear them until that moment. At the same exact time I was sick and longed to call my mom, a chorus of birds — what I’ve decided is a symbol of her nearness — was right outside my window! That’s no coincidence. I choose to believe that’s a miracle. Magic. God. However you look at it, it’s unexplainable and otherworldly for me. It’s grander than I can comprehend. And I am okay with that. 

Thinking about that taught me something. 

Life is going to be what you choose for it to be. I get to decide if I hear the birds or not. Just as choosing to believe my mom is near when I hear them is a choice. Whatever I believe I have to live with it. It hurts to live a life completely absent from my mom. The cost of not believing is too much, too painful. So I believe she lives on in my heart. And in the birds. And in the sunshine. She’s near. We had a little saying: “mommy and Maya forever.” She’d been saying that my whole life. She knew she would die one day. So why on earth would she have insisted on us being together forever if she knew that’s a promise she couldn’t keep? She wouldn’t have. She believed in something bigger than what we can see. She had faith. She knew one day she’d no longer be here physically and have to live on with me in my heart.

So I choose to believe my mom is still with me. She can see the woman that I’m becoming. She is proud of me. She loves me even now.

I also choose to believe in a faithful God, in miracles and in everyday magic, which can be as simple as a singing bird.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: