The news came out of the blue. Jim was dying.
I had been planning a trip to Sudbury for my brother and sister-in –law’s 50thwedding anniversary. Their son Gene had arranged a surprise party. As a gift, I had decorated an eagle’s feather that I had found in our local forest. They were both avid ‘birders’ and Jim always wished that he could find one of his own.
Now it turned out that if I wanted to spend some time with him, I would need to arrive sooner than expected. I quickly rearranged my flight.
When I arrived at his bedside I laid the feather on his chest, held his hand and stroked his forehead. Within an hour, he was gone.
Two days later at a family gathering, I passed the feather on to my nephew Gene and his wife, Lee-Ann. Before I left Sudbury, Gene told me the following story.
The day after they received the feather, Gene and his brother Richard decided to take Jim’s old beater of a car into the woods. They brought along Richard’s twin sons, so the two boys could learn how to drive a standard.
Each boy took a turn using the gearshift and clutch to drive the car. Once Aden had mastered shifting, it was Connor’s turn. He had a bit more difficulty. Shifting and stalling, the car alternately jerked and stopped along the country road. Suddenly, the clutch stuck and the car sat frozen on a hill.
Richard and the two boys got out to push, while Gene tried to free up the clutch. As the car lurched downhill, the clutch suddenly released, freeing the car to roll down the rest of the slope.
When the others caught up with Gene, they piled in and turned the car around. As they cautiously crawled their way back up the grade with the car stuck in low gear, an eagle dropped out of the sky alongside them and closely followed the four stunned guys back up to the top of the hill.
They knew, of course that it was Jim.