In the middle of 1994, my grandfather Al left a movie theatre with his wife one evening and spotted a lone feather on the ground. As other moviegoers headed back toward their cars, he stood still, transfixed by it. He gave his wife a quick look, then bent over and picked it up. He remarked to his wife about the irony of it, and she humored him with a quick “Hmmm” and a nod in agreement.
They had just been to see Forrest Gump, which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture that year. In the opening credits of the film, a single feather floats in the air, its destiny shaped by a guiding breeze. The feather falls upon Forrest’s lap, and so begins our understanding of his journey. The feather becomes a symbol of Forrest’s life, a metaphor for his willingness to go wherever the wind took him and face the challenges he met along the way. In true Hollywood fashion, the feather also ends the film, giving us a bookend to neatly frame his life.
My grandfather understood this well; recently, he too had been carried by the wind into unknown territory. Grandpa Al was diagnosed in 1993 with a rare form of cancer known as Multiple Myeloma, meaning “many tumors.” The illness came on as suddenly as a gust of wind, and within a short time it raged within him at gale force speed.
A couple of weeks after Forrest Gump, Grandpa Al called my mother to tell her of his sighting. She found the story interesting, and she smiled as she relayed it to me some time later.
Grandpa Al passed away in 1996 at the young age of sixty, the cancer having taken him within a mere three years. His death had a strong impact on me; I had just turned eleven only weeks earlier, and no one close to me had ever died.
About two years ago, I was walking on the streets of Manhattan when I stopped in my path. Directly in front of me lay a single, strong feather, the only one visible anywhere on the street. As I have a slight neurosis about germs, I decided not to pick it up, but the odd image stuck with me. Of course, I had not thought about Grandpa Al’s story in over a decade, and so it remained a fascinating encounter.
A week or so passed, and I had a phone conversation with my aunt, one of my grandfather’s other daughters. By then I had made the connection of my feather sighting to Grandpa Al’s story, and I decided to share it with her. When I mentioned my unexpected encounter, Wendi paused for a moment.
“That’s so funny!” she said. “I saw a feather on the ground too!”
We decided it was a wonderful sign, and, coincidence or not, were glad to have shared the experience.
Only a few months ago, I had a reading with a local medium in New York whose reputation is impressive. He had worked with celebrities, done national radio shows, and was known for his evidential information. During my appointment, he easily rattled off names of family members, my close friends, many of their birthdays, and names of deceased relatives and friends. And none of it excited me as much as when he came to:
“I’m seeing a man whose name starts with an ‘A’,” he said.
“Yes,” I answered, “I think I know who that is. My grandfather Al.”
A moment passed.
“Okay,” he responded, then paused for a few seconds. “I’m seeing a feather.”
After my session, I was finally able to piece together a puzzle that had baffled me for years. Wendi and I had seen a feather in separate places at different times, but it had stood out in our path enough for us to recall it. Grandpa Al had seen a feather as he left the movie theatre that night in 1994, only a year after cancer had given him a three-to-five year death sentence.