How an Injured Bird Helped Her Cope with Grief

After a tragic loss, B.J. Taylor found healing with the animals in her life.

Posted in , Feb 1, 2019

How an Injured Bird Helped Her Cope with Grief

It was the day after I had knee surgery for a torn meniscus—the latest in a long line of things that had brought me pain. The doctor had urged me to walk on my leg, so I hobbled out the side door and headed to the backyard. Our dog, Charlie Bear, scooted out in front of me. He went straight to a spot on the sidewalk and put his nose down. “What is it, Charlie?” I asked.

A baby bird, maybe an inch and a half long. Gently, using just two fingers, I picked him up and put him in my palm. His tiny orange-and-black beak opened, and his chest moved. I carried him carefully inside. “Look at this beautiful little bird,” I said to my husband.

“Where did you find him?” Roger asked me.

“Outside. Charlie saw him.”

“Give him some bread,” Roger said.

The baby needed to be outside so his mama could find him. I set him on top of a plastic garbage can turned upside down, where he wouldn’t be stepped on, and left a little piece of bread in front of his beak. Does a baby bird eat bread? Probably not, but I wasn’t sure what else to do. I knew how to take care of dogs and cats, not birds. I looked around for his mama. There was no sign of her.

“God, please help this baby bird get better.” The prayer came like a breath, unbidden. I was surprised. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d talked to God.

That afternoon I found the bird lying on the ground again. “Baby! Did you try to fly?” I set him back on his perch. Then I saw a larger bird, her iridescent wings going a mile a minute. She swooped in low, making that whirring sound that hummingbirds make when they zoom. His mama. I stepped back to let her check on him. After she flew off, I broke off a piece of a bush. I lifted the bird and laid him on the bed of green leaves. “Baby, you need to rest and get better.”

The next day, it started to drizzle. The wind picked up. I rushed outside and added an old wooden bird feeder to block the wind, along with a larger sprig of thick green leaves, leaving room around the bird for his mother to comfort him. She visited a lot, zooming in and out.

The third day, I checked his perch. He was gone. I went in to tell Roger. “That’s great,” Roger said. “He can fly now.” I looked out the window, hoping for a glimpse of the bird so I’d know for sure he was okay.

Walking around the yard later, I saw something small and brown floating in the pool. The baby bird! I plucked him out. He was wet and exhausted, but still alive. “Oh, Baby, stay out of the water.” I settled him back on his nest of leaves.

I went to tell Roger. He put his arm around my shoulders. “This isn’t just about the baby bird, is it?” he said gently. No, it wasn’t.

I sat outside that night, Charlie Bear on my lap, and thought about God for the first time in a long time. I had been angry for five years, ever since my great-grandbaby died.

Having a great-grandchild at my age was something most people couldn’t begin to fathom. My friends were either still wishing for grandchildren or having their first. I was 57 when Hailey was born. I’d had my son before I was 20; he had my grandson when he was 20; and that grandson had Hailey when he was 20. I loved being a young grandma and great-grandma.

Soon after Hailey was born, I flew out to Wisconsin to see her. She was on medication for pertussis; coughs wracked her body. I held her close, kissed her sweet face and asked God to help her.

But Hailey died. She was only seven weeks old. A profound sadness filled me. Charlie Bear would sit on my lap and lick at my tears. For weeks, months, then years, the grief didn’t lift. And anger simmered within me. It seemed so wrong that a little baby didn’t get a chance to live. Hadn’t God heard our prayers for Hailey? Didn’t he see our tears?

The night was getting cold. I made sure the bird was snug in his makeshift nest. Then Charlie and I went back into the house.

The next morning, I found the bird sitting up—dry, alive and perky. I spent the day at work. Around 7:30 that night, I was out back with Charlie Bear, exercising my knee. A tiny hummingbird zoomed in and out of the bushes. Really tiny. It had to be the baby bird.

I snuggled Charlie Bear close. A larger hummingbird zoomed in. “That’s the mama bird, Charlie,” I said. “She’s been at her baby’s side the whole time.”

Charlie Bear turned his head and licked my cheek. He had been with me through my grief. God too. He had never left me, not even when I pulled away. He saw my pain and anger, and he reached me as only he could—with another baby who needed my prayers. Hailey’s sickness had been too much for her little body to bear. God took her in his loving arms and carried her home. I could accept that now.

I watched the baby bird and his mama fly off into the evening sky, my grief and anger carried away with them, my faith returning.

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