This past Christmas morning, I received a beautiful necklace with a drawing of a red cardinal on the front.

The words on the back said, “A gentle reminder that we’re never far apart. My spirit will live on forever there within your heart.”

It was the sweetest gift. It somehow brought me comfort when remembering my beloved family members and my dear friends who have gone before me.

Five days after Christmas, I turned 70. This seems to be a time in my life when my thoughts often drift backwards as I remember other days.

At night, my dreams are filled with images of my children as toddlers, and I can feel the richness and the joy of raising young children.

In those dreams, my friends have younger faces, and we all are busy with the demands of motherhood.

When my husband and I were newlyweds, we made the decision to bring my special-needs brother to live with us. He stayed in our home for 13 years, and then we moved him into an apartment a few blocks away. He went to work every day, riding the city bus, and then he walked over here for dinner every night.

This summer, he began having physical problems, and we made the decision to put him into a nursing home.

He had a wonderful adjustment, and he seemed very happy. The facility had the COVID-19 virus three times, but he remained safe.

Then we received the phone call. The virus had returned for the fourth time, and it had captured him.

My husband said that when he heard the news, he felt like he had been punched in the stomach. I saw him, and I believe it.

Being in this tunnel, I am reminded that now is the time to let go and to let God.

Just look at the words from Philippians 4:6: ”Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

They are comforting words. To me, they whisper, “Stop the fear, Mary Ann. Put your trust in God!”

Sometimes, in His mighty generosity, He helps us find courage and strength despite our weaknesses and frailty.

About an hour after the phone call, I looked out a window into my back yard. It was filled with a handful of the most beautiful red cardinals. In fact, they were so bright, it felt as if they were powered by LED light bulbs.

Of course, I know they were divinely colored, and I know they were sent to comfort me. To offer me hope instead of fear. And they did.

Editor's note: Mary Ann's brother spent five days in the hospital. He has now returned to the nursing home.