I welcomed the warm safety of being alone in my car and driving home. I was done crying, but my emotions felt raw. Two hours earlier, Mom had called to say Daddy had died. Since it was ten at night and our two small children were already in bed, my husband Arnie and I decided he would stay home with the children while I went to the hospital alone to be with Mom.
The late May midnight sky was awash with stars. A light sweater provided all I needed for comfort. The open garage door welcomed me when I pulled into the driveway. With the ease of habit, I drove into the small building and turned off the car engine. Taking my time, I walked out and stopped on the driveway to take a slow, deep breath. The rich, earthy smell of grass cut earlier in the day, freshly worked garden soil, and the sweet scent of blossoming lilacs made reminded me of my farmer father.
It was hard to imagine Daddy being dead. I yearned to be with him one last time. Was everything right with him now that he had left behind his sick, aging body?
A year ago, Daddy and I had walked in the orchard on his farm. He’d told me, “Kathy, I’m ready to die.”
I was 31 years old. Death was a frightening, unwanted thing to me.
Daddy, who was 78, answered my protest by gently pointing out, “I don’t feel well anymore and I’m lonely. Many of my friends have already died.”
As I stood remembering this on the driveway, some unidentified instinct prompted me to look up. Just as I tipped my head back, a huge bird silently swooped low over my head, then soared up to land on the house’s chimney. By the light of the star-studded night sky, I could easily recognize the bird. The long-eared owl looked down at me and hooted three times.