Ouija Birds
Alice Whittenburg
Doorknobs Winner
In 1961, I was eighteen and still living with Mother. That was the year the doctors told us she had a delicate heart. One day she sat me down and said, “I know you’re a skeptic, but I promise that when I’m gone I’ll send you a message from the other side. A sparrow will bring it.”

On Sunday afternoons she and my aunt worked the Ouija board, trying to connect with the afterlife. I would sometimes watch their slim fingers slide around the board for a while, amazed that anyone could believe the dead would reveal any secrets.

When Mother passed on, I took the Ouija board to Goodwill, along with some books by Edgar Cayce. But when I found Mother’s book about Saint Millburga under the floorboards I learned these things:

Birds are a spiritual conduit.
Their nature is ethereal.
They have a role as messengers.
They fly to align us with heaven.
They look down with keen eyes on our fortunes.
They send feathers into the afterlife that come back infused with tenderness.
Though Millburga protected the crops from birds, she became the birds’ patron as well.

One winter morning three sparrows came, looking cold and hopeful. I remembered Mother’s promise and fed them well.

Since then I have fed birds daily and listened intently to their voices. I have also been devoted to Millburga. But if a sparrow has ever brought me a message from Mother, I have not been able to decipher it.

First published: November, 2013
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