“Someone is going to die,” he said and when I followed his gaze, I saw a crow had landed in the tree right in front of his office window. Only one bird. It sat still, looked in our direction, almost like it was watching us through the glass. It was the time of the year when the trees were leafless beauties, nothing blogged our view.
My boss, wasn’t much older than me, perhaps ten years. He leaned back in his big office chair and looked outside for a while. I stood quietly on the other side of his desk, waited for him to hand me the signed letters, so I could mail them all out. It happened so long ago, yet the memory of this day is so clear in my mind like it was yesterday. I was a young adult, had a summer internship in a tax consultant office in Vienna, Austria.
My boss and I understood each other. We were both from the same area, had grown up in the mountains far away from the big and loud city. His superstitions were nothing I hadn’t heard before and while I never believed in it, I didn’t like the sight of a single crow either.
A few days later my boss was on his way back home. His mother-in-law had passed away -not unexpectedly, she had been ill for a while. The bird and death! Coincidence?
A crow or a raven is the messenger of misfortune in so many cultures. Old pagan beliefs that made it into our modern times. Especially in Austria, where I am from, different birds are often the sign of either good luck or the bringer of really bad news.
While I define myself as non-superstitious, I can’t help but throw a little bit of salt over my left shoulder to reverse the bad luck when I spill some. I act just the way my grandma did. I like to dry and press a four-leave-clover for good luck like everybody else, and I pretend to spit on a penny three times before I pick it up from the ground. The silly things we learn as children and never forget!
“I am dreaming of crows,” I heard myself say in a dream seventeen days ago. I had spoken aloud in my sleep and I had noticed it. A single crow landing in a field had bothered me even in my sleep.
The next morning I told my husband about it, who did not understand why I was so upset. He had the and-you-are-telling-me-this-why look on his face. A short time later his focus was back on his cell phone, which nowadays gives him selected news updates in the mornings.
Two nights later, after my husband had gone to bed, his cell phone rang. It was a little after 10 pm. I had finished watching the end of a tv series and it was past my bedtime. Late-night calls! Nothing good comes from it. The next morning, we got the news that one of my husband’s best friends had suffered a massive stroke the day before. He is exactly my age.
Life has been a rollercoaster over the last two weeks. Our friend had a bilateral stroke that affects both sides of his brain. The first surgery confirmed he had had a blood clot on both sides. Only three days later, he had another brain surgery, so they could drain the fluid that was building up. They removed part of this skull and placed a drainage tube.
The outlook wasn’t good, but it didn’t seem hopeless. “He will most likely never be able to live by himself or work, he will need care at all times.” His son was devastated and so were we all. “He has a peripheral vision loss, will have tunnel vision for the rest of his life. His right side has been affected the most and we think he will never regain all his strengths.” The doctors gave us the news straight, there was no sugar-coating.
They took him off the ventilator but had to put him back on it. His oxygen levels went down. A week later, he got a tracheostomy and a feeding tube. That news was the hardest for me to accept. He is my age, not even sixty years old.
All of a sudden, I felt young again.
I couldn’t help but think of the crow in my dreams. How silly of me? I had just published a picture showing crows in the winter on Wordless Wednesday the week before. Surely my dream had something to do with it.
It’s just a coincidence!
All my friends who pray at night, make sure our friend is in their prayers. I don’t know what they ask God for. What do you wish for at this point? What do you ask the gods to do?
The life of religious people seems so often easier than mine. If you believe in a God, no matter the outcome, in the end, it’s always God’s plan.
As for me, an agnostic, it’s not that simple. I have to come up with a wish I can whisper into the darkness at night before I fall asleep. I believe the human will to live can be strong. People have overcome much worse, yet I still found myself unable to articulate a wish.
What would I wish for myself in his situation? The answer is a no-brainer and I am afraid that once again I will sound very cruel. I would wish for either full recovery or at least a life that would be worth living or…
At night, I stared at the ceiling. No matter how hard I tried, I still didn’t know what to wish for and so I didn’t.
Thursday, almost two weeks after our friend had suffered the stroke, there was another update, it went out to all of us. Thirty people that don’t know each other, are now connected in a group text, so his son only has to type everything once. Modern technology! It’s a blessing and a curse.
Our friend had another surgery, the feeding tube had been clogged and during surgery, they found another blood clot in his aorta, in his stomach. The doctors are asking family and friends to come by this weekend to say goodbye the text read and right then my wish became clear.
Let him go in peace and with dignity, if all there is left would be a life on machines.
If he can’t take care of himself anymore, do I really wish for him to sit in a nursing home for twenty or thirty years until he is seventy or eighty? Being fed and changed like a toddler? No, I don’t.
Has life made me cruel or am I realistic?
My husband and two other friends left yesterday in the afternoon and went on an eight-hour road trip to visit a great man who most likely won’t be with us very much longer.
Humans can define the odds, through will and strengths, human determination can move mountains but it doesn’t happen often.
I am a big dreamer, but also a down-to-earth realist. Universe! Prove me wrong, please!
I hope I will never dream of crows again or see a single raven or crow. How is that for being a realist?
I have been busy with real life. I neglected my series “Losing it all,” have been absent-minded when I commented, have overlooked or not read blog posts as I normally do. Life has taken over and it also has shown me that while I have days when I feel old, I am actually still very young.
Life can be over in the blink of an eye. It can change for all of us in a second. I take so much for granted and now I got another reminder to live life to the fullest, to be my best, and stay humble and grateful.
Life has its hard moments for all of us!
As for our friend? I wish for him what he would wish for me if it would be the other way around because I know exactly what his wish would be.