Cardinal for a loved one

BACKGROUND: My informant, MP, was born in the US but as a child, MP traveled with her parents all over South America. Her parents share an Irish heritage and the following piece is one belief that was passed down from her parents to her.

CONTEXT: This piece is from a conversation I had with MP about her family’s beliefs.

MP: Also, I grew up being told by my parents that if you see a cardinal, it’s like a sign from a loved one who has passed.

Me: Do you know why a cardinal?

MP: I think it’s supposed to be that the cardinal carries [the deceased’s] spirit or something.

THOUGHTS: I think in many cultures there is either a resounding fear or acceptance of the dead. In this case, I feel like MP’s community is more accepting of the dead. Where the appearance of the dead in other forms may be unsettling to some, in this case, it seems like something that brings comfort to the deceased’s family. I think part of that is the form in which the deceased is returning. I definitely think a cardinal — a pretty peaceful bird — may be less threatening than a decomposing phantom.