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Finding My Nana’s Spirit in South Africa

On May 14, 2015 I saw my Nana in the South African bush. She died May 14, 2014.

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I may sound crazy, but I am a big believer that dreams are a means of communication. Right after my Nana passed, I had conversations with her in my dreams. Every night for several nights. Then one night she told me she had to go and she walked away. She never came back. Night after night I would go to bed, hoping and praying she would come to me just once more, but she didn’t. It was devastating.

That changed right before Husband and I left for South Africa. I had a dream about her and she told me that she would show me a sign that she was still with me. So naturally, I was looking all day on May 14th for her sign, but I had no idea what it would be.

May 14th was such a weird day. This was the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most-the start of our 4 day South African safari-but I was feeling very melancholy and had been dreading the day for several months. I was extremely close to my Nana and her death was the first time I felt truly shattered. I had moved my wedding up an entire year so she would be able to be there, but she passed 10 days before I got married. You always think you have more time than you do. It took many months to even be able to talk about her without breaking down. (That’s a lie. I still can’t.) I could only hope that I got through the day with minimal tears and could actually enjoy the safari.

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Our safari started at 3:30 pm and I was immediately alert, looking for that elusive sign from my grandmother with equal parts skepticism and anticipation. Honestly, I thought maybe I was crazy. And anyway, how would I know if I saw the sign? I doubted whatever it was was going to stand up and say “Hey Katrina, here’s your sign so you can stop stressing.”

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Guinea Fowl

Nana was a passionate ‘birder’. She loved birds and she knew almost all of their calls and you could be in some remote place and see a bird you’ve never seen before and she’d say “Oh that,s a ___”. If she didn’t know the bird, she would pull out one of her bird books and look it up. I remember in 3rd grade our school library had a sale and I found this ratty old bird book and used some of my $0.50 weekly allowance to buy it for her for Christmas. She kept that old book on her shelf for years and years. I felt certain that if there was a sign to see, it would be in the form of a bird.

We found a bunch of Guinea Fowl on the side of the road. Birds! Was this it? I didn’t think so.

Africa 238Next we saw several rhinos. Could this be it? Rhinos are endangered and we saw more than one grazing. I was worried we wouldn’t see any on our trip, and here were two! I still didn’t think this was a sign.

Africa 302Next, we came upon a giant herd of Cape Buffalo at a watering hole. There were hundreds and hundreds of them, along with a lot of babies. Maybe this was the sign, the circle of life, the old ones moving on, making way for a new generation.

Africa 335I was in awe of the spectacle of all of these Cape Buffalo and figured this was probably her sign. The sun was sinking fast and the birds would all be flying back to their trees to roost, so I didn’t think we’d see another one.

We left the herd and our guide drove us towards a clearing where we would have drinks and watch the sunset. Right before we got to the clearing, he stopped hard and pointed up in a tree.

“Wow, look at that!”

And there it was. I knew it the second I saw it: my Nana was saying hello.

Africa 337Our guide didn’t know exactly what kind of bird this was, either a hawk or an eagle, but that was beside the point. This was a majestic, strong, beautiful bird and I know Nana would have been excited to see it if she were alive, and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that this was her in spirit. It was so obvious it felt like the bird was saying “Here I am, I’m your sign!”

I snapped two pictures of the bird, taking maybe 10 seconds total, and then it decided to leave. It took off, flying into the brilliant sunset, flapping its powerful wings, gliding away into the shadows. The truck started up. Everyone else was looking forward, talking about the rhinos and the buffalo, but I watched that bird until it  disappeared.

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