A few weeks ago, I started noticing crows around the building where I work. They’d land on light posts in the parking lot when I arrived in the morning, or fly by the creek at the edge of the property when I went for lunchtime walks.

Then they started showing up at home. I’d hear them caw from the back yard or the power lines over the driveway. My husband and I have lived here for 11 years, and I’ve never seen crows in our neighborhood with such regularity before. Pretty cool. We dig crows. My maiden name, Liskow, is actually shortened from Lisokrow. (It’s Prussian. I have no clue what it means, and neither does Google.)

I was excited to see so many crows around, but didn’t think their presence had any significance. And then… I got to Florida.

In March, my Aunt Shirley was diagnosed with lung cancer. By the time treatment started, it had already metastasized. Chemo, radiation, Keytruda… nothing worked. Various family members took turns staying with Shirley to help get her to treatments, run errands, and eventually serve as her arms and legs as she got weaker. At the start of June, my cousin, her husband, and my aunt decided it was time to start hospice care at home. I booked a week-long trip to help out. Shirley’s health went downhill quickly; my mom decided to return to Florida earlier than she had planned. A series of thunderstorms on the East Coast resulted in cancelled flights; Mom and I took an unexpected road trip rather than waiting to re-book air travel.

When we got to Florida, I saw crows EVERYWHERE.

Crows are associated with wisdom, magic, and transition… especially shifting appearances and physical forms. They’re sharp. They have an intense gaze that cuts right through what’s on the surface to unravel what’s underneath. They seem to pass easily between the physical and spiritual planes. For me, they’ve always embodied intense magic.

And now… they surrounded me. Guiding me to trust my intuition and do the things that would best help my family process our grief as Shirley slipped away. Reminding me that there are tremendous lessons in loss, though we may be too numb to internalize them until much later. Giving me hope that just as spiritual guides and helpers were showing up for me, they were there for Shirley to help ease her passage.

The night Shirley died, as I was standing outside her house alone, a crow landed on a rooftop just a few feet from my head. I’d never seen one so close before. The crow tilted its head, helping me breathe and release. I’m not able to describe the power in that moment. Somehow, just having a crow that close made a terrible, raw, painful situation bearable.

In the 13 days since my aunt died, I’ve continued to see crows. On the drive back from Florida, in the trees across the street, in the woods behind the building I work in. They’re still showing up for me; helping me through this transition. Reminding me to breathe. Giving me permission to grieve. Telling me it’s OK to release old beliefs and that if I’m not the same person that I was before this experience, that’s perfectly acceptable. The crows somehow acknowledge that I’m sadder and sharper now, that my priorities have shifted.

I don’t know what work the crows and I will do together in the coming months. But I’m committed to learning as much as I can from our journey.