Love Among the Juniper

Gathered in branches outside her dad's window were the birds he called God’s choir.

Posted in , Dec 21, 2014

An artist's rendering of an angel with a small bird on its finger

The birds will come back, I thought. They have to.

But outside, on the windowsill of my guest room, there were none to be seen. Not one. They’d stopped coming when Dad died, December 26. In the days since, there was still no sign of them.

It was as if the birds too were in a state of mourning and the whole world was a darker, gloomier place because of Dad’s death.

I sat down on the bed where Dad had spent his last days surrounded by family. I looked out the window at the thick bough of greenery I’d tacked outside the windowsill just after Thanksgiving.

Weak from chronic lung disease, Dad couldn’t get out of bed. A few juniper branches were a poor substitute for the outdoors he loved, but it was the best I could manage. “It’s beautiful,” Dad said when he saw it. But I wished it was more.

A few hours later, I was in the living room when I thought I heard him laughing. Dad, who struggled just to get a breath? No way. I ran into the bedroom. “I’ve never seen such antics,” Dad said, pointing to the window.

A variety of birds—finches and cardinals, tufted titmice and blue jays—frolicked about the greenery. I quickly spotted what had attracted them there. Interspersed through the branches were dozens of silvery blue berries. A real holiday feast.

All through December, every day, the birds came to the window. When they had eaten all of the berries, I cut more from the junipers on our property and restocked the buffet. Often I sat on the edge of Dad’s bed and we watched the little angels together, listened to them sing. God’s own choir, Dad called them.

“They’ll be back,” he always said when they flew off. But now he was wrong. The birds were gone and Dad was too, never to return. My heart filled with sadness. I got up from the guest room bed and took a step toward the doorway. Thump.

Startled, I looked behind me. There at the windowsill a small, gray bird pecked at the berries. Two others joined up. They’d come back. Just as Dad knew they would.

Perhaps they’d been busy escorting him to heaven, where God’s choir of angels would sing for Dad while his feathered friends sang for me.

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