Dreaming of Crows

“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.

24 thoughts on “Dreaming of Crows

  1. I am sorry to read about your husband’s friend. I watched my gma at 90+ weak and fragile cling to life for quite a while… I still choose to remember her as the strong woman she was and not the skin and bones body that laid so still. It was hard for me, but I had to “pray” she would be with her husband again, dancing together, fishing together, free forever as the wonderful couple they were. It is so hard to wish someone death but it can be the right thing to do at a certain point in time. I hope your friend has passed peacefully.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s hard to watch someone suffer. So often we prolong death and not life, yet by religion we are bound to continue doing it, despite the fact that most of us would love to change it for ourselves.

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  2. I am older than you, Bridget, and I’m afraid we are in a season when our own health, and the health of our friends, is much more precarious than just a few years back. It’s not always age, of course, but the odds start to tip as some of us enter our 70’s. A friend of mine had a heart transplant today. Each death of a friend, at any stage of our lives, is a very painful loss. I am so sorry to learn that your friend suffered such a debilitating stroke, and I am sure this has been hard on you and your husband. I’m so sorry. I am a “religious person” and I find comfort in many of my practices and personal faith, but it still hurts like heck when we lose someone we care about.

    We have a lot of crows nearby. Now I’m going to look at them very differently. I’m not planning to look them in the eye!

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    • I should have worded “religious people” differently…sorry if I came across as rude it was not my intention.

      Sadly, it’s the truth, the older we get, the more we face death around us. I don’t know what’s worse, to watch someone fade away slowly, or be surprised by a sudden loss. As for myself, I would like to go quietly and very sudden. 🙂

      As always, Debra, you comment means a lot.

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  3. While it saddens me to read this, I truly understand your wish. My grandmother had always been a strong, independent woman. When she became ill, when she needed machines and nursing, I hoped for a painful and dignified death. This wasn’t life for her, I saw her suffering while she was unable to say it. Her eyes were tired and sad and they had lost their sparkle. I was afraid to voice my wish for her, as people might consider it cruel, not humane, to wish for death. But when she became dependent on everything, she lost the biggest part of who she had been. It truly made me sad.
    So I truly understand your thoughts and feelings. I wish your friend may be around long enough to see everyone he cares about and say their farewell before he has a dignified end of his life’s journey.
    Wishing you and your husband much love and strength. It’s always hard to see someone you care about struggle.
    When you get around to writing again, we’ll be here to read your words once more.
    While I don’t pray, I’ll do ask before bedtime for a peaceful end for your friend. 🕯

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  4. I am so sorry Bridget, for the suffering of this man, the loss of your friend as you knew him. You know we think alike when it comes to prolonging a life that cannot be lived as it once was. ❤

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  5. Your paragraph to live life to the fullest, to be your best, and humble and grateful says it all. I pray every day – for all kinds of things. I will say a prayer for your friend.

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  6. I’m so sorry about your husband’s friend. You are not being cruel when you wish him a peaceful and dignified death. It’s what all of us want, and so few of us get. I wish peace for you and all his family and friends.

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  7. I’m saddened by your news, Bridget. I join you in wishing that your dear friend may go in peace and with dignity ❤ In times like these, we are reminded that "Life can be over in the blink of an eye." Born into a world permeated with superstitious beliefs, I have learned to pay attention to the signs and messages from beyond our physical reality. In this regard, the unexpected appearance of a butterfly or moth, so rare these days in my urban space, has a special significance for me.

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    • Thank you, Rosaliene. I like the ease you mention messages and signs beyond our physical reality. They have been with me all my life. I often think we have lost the capability to truly ‘see’ and ‘hear.’ I lean toward buddhism now and I can now imagine and accept so much what was forbidden when I was young.

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  8. I would agree that you are being realistic Bridget. I hope that common sense would always prevail over such decisions but there is always the question of who has authority to take decisions on another person’s behalf. I hope for the best outcome for your friend!

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  9. A poignant post filled with so many things that bear thinking about. It is easy to laugh at superstitions that have no meaning for us; more difficult to slough them off when we have grown up with them. My wish sent out in those quiet dark hours would have echoed yours: Let him go in peace and with dignity.

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