I first thought I could write again about a month ago, and I knew what I was going to write about: Joseph and I had found a young, wounded sparrow outside our home, and we had saved it. That morning, before the sparrow, we had biked (Joseph in a seat on the back) to my parents' house about five miles away. There, I had sat on the bed where I last said goodbye to my mom and cried. That is, I cried for about 10 seconds until Joseph started squeezing my cheeks and making silly faces, screaming, "Don't cry! Stop crying!" I stopped -- laughed, even -- and we got ready to ride home, but I was still so sad.
We were three houses away from our own home when we encountered the sparrow spinning in desperate circles on the sidewalk. We stopped, wondering what to do. This sparrow was clearly in trouble.
Eventually, thinking of the cats that lived just down the street, I gathered a shoebox and some soft hand towels and placed the sparrow on the safety of our back screened-in porch. A quick drive to pick up the girls from basketball camp and we were back, the girls now joining in the concern and excitement. Grace called her cousin Emma, who said, "You should take it to Cedar Run." This wildlife refuge, just down the street from her home in Medford, had a hospital for treating wounded animals. Of course! I called. They would take her.
|Animal lovers Joseph, Genevieve, and Grace.|
Forty minutes later, we drove the winding road through the woods that led to Cedar Run. The sparrow sat calmly now in its box on Genevieve's lap, then Grace's. When, after I had parked the car, I leaned over the box to check on her, the sparrow seemed to meet my gaze with a trusting look. Take care of me. Or, perhaps, it was resignation, and a question. This is out of my control. Will you take care of me, or hurt me?
It felt good carrying her into the hospital. We filled out some paperwork, passed the sparrow to them, and left. They seemed to know exactly what to do.
That night, I thought about the sparrow, and how it had fallen onto my path so wounded and small. And I thought about how I had felt better after doing this small, good thing. I was ready to write. It felt good -- maybe great, even -- to make that decision. Thank you, little sparrow, I thought.
But it was not to be. "Starting to doubt u only get what u can handle," was the text from one of my closest friends this week, telling me of a terrible crisis in her family that threatened to put her over the edge (it came on the heels of several other crises), "Wondering, what next?" Her words brought me back to the reason I never wrote the sparrow story.
The night I planned to write, I arrived home from the movies with the kids, feeling happy. I would put them to bed and sit down at the computer. The feeling of that little sparrow, its heart beating fast, in my hands, the satisfaction of helping it...
My thoughts, along with me, and the kids, came to an abrupt halt at the bottom of our front porch stairs. There, right in front of us, was a dead bird. It was actually on our welcome mat, I kid you not. It was black, and its feet stuck straight up in the air, stiffly. I looked behind me to see if someone was playing a joke on me. Joseph and Genevieve were waiting for my reaction. When I didn't say anything, Joseph started talking, an innocent three-year-old's words, but ones that cut me to the core. "It's dead, Mom, see? It's eyes are open, but it's dead. That means it's never coming back. It's dead, forever." Genevieve continued to watch me closely, and Joseph kept talking, both of them close behind as I carried the bird to the back yard to bury it. "Are you ok, mom?" Genevieve asked.
I didn't write that night. I went to bed early, right after the kids, and dreamed in fits. In one dream, I was in my childhood home, and my mom was there, only it wasn't really my mom -- I realized this even in the dream -- and, feeling badly, I tried to lock myself in a bathroom so I wouldn't have to see her.
"You only get what you can handle," some say, and maybe there's truth in it ("If He brings you to it, He'll bring you through it! That's what I always say!" I overheard a woman at church saying once). But to be honest I've always hated this saying, and I think that any thinking person can clearly see that some people do get more than they can handle. I don't know why.
Still, the human heart can handle a lot. My heart can. And though I often feel like the sparrow in my hands that day, helpless in the face of a universe that will do with me what it pleases, I'm going to keep trying for that deeper trust, the one that says Take care of me and then believes, deep down, that Someone will.
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." - Matthew 10: 29-31