It’s spring, and that means periodically coming across empty bird shell fragments as we walk our property looking at the world coming back to life after its winter sleep. I get excited every time I see one. The thought of the new life fills me with joy and I get a slight thrill. I also hardly ever come across one of these shells when a hazy memory of long ago doesn’t overtake me.
They say kids are resilient, that they are mostly unaware and can’t remember things but this particular memory will stay with me forever. It was a golden day on a beach, so long ago I’m not even sure how old I was. I was probably around five-years old and I remember it vividly. I was at a seashore with my parents and I found a bird’s egg. I remember being so excited at the hope it held. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was life in that egg. A tiny bird waiting to be born and it filled me with an unspeakable joy.
I cradled it in my hand, determined to protect it until the time came for it to break through the shell and join the world. As I walked with my mother and father, my father bumped into me. The egg fell from my hand and broke upon the sand. I can see the baby bird lying there to this day.
Looking back now I realize the bird was probably already dead, but I didn’t know that as a child. The grief that filled me upon seeing that tiny bird lying there is something that will never leave me. I was a child who felt things very deeply. I’m not even sure my parents were aware of what happened. They were walking purposely and had other things on their minds. They might not have known that I had found the egg.
I remember choking down my grief, not wanting them to feel bad. My parents never knew the amount of pain I was in that day. I tried feebly to explain it but then stopped because I was so afraid of making my father sad for knocking the egg from my hand. I was a sensitive child who never could bear to hurt anyone.
I’m not sure why this particular memory has stayed with me so clearly, but I assume it has to do with loss of innocence. I suppose that is when the child I was learned about the Fall, about death. I’m not sure if I had experienced death by that time in the few years I had been alive. I’m sure I had probably known someone who had died but I think the bird’s egg on the beach was the moment in my life where I really understood death and experienced grief for the first time. Maybe this little event was God’s mercy in preparing me for some painful deaths I was to deal with in my early years.
I remember worrying about my little boy because he experienced a whole lot of loss in one year at a very young age. I was terrified he would have long term issues. I remember when he could barely speak clearly yet haltingly tried to tell me that he “didn’t want anything to happen to me.” It’s fascinating to me that he took the losses our family experienced that year and poured them all into his sadness at the death of our pet parakeet. The grief over losing that bird seemed to help him process the loss of his grandmother, our beloved cat, a dog we were taking care of, and our bunny as well. Anytime he was sad it was because of missing Sky our parakeet. He wrote a song on the piano about Sky’s death and sometimes when we heard birds singing he would get sad and talk about Sky. Maybe losing his parakeet will be the thing that marks innocence lost for my little one and will remain in his memory. A child’s small grief is no less real than our adult large ones. May we always remember to be sensitive to that, and gentle as they navigate the Fall. And may we be thankful for a kind Creator that uses moments in our life to prepare us for the things to come until all is made new.