Bad Worms

Last month brought us the challenge of dealing with death for the first time. Questions, concerns, crying and poking a dead bird with a long stick. You know, the usual steps to grieving.

My house has a rather large picture window up front which makes spying on the neighbors quite appealing.  On a whim I decided to install a little flower garden and bird bath just below this window out front so my son Reid could enjoy some of the wildlife that comes and goes from the yard.

One afternoon we noticed a bird, probably a robin or a dove, or a parrot (honestly I have no idea what kind of bird it was) enjoying the bird bath. Splashing away Mr. Bird was having the time of his life! A little afternoon break from all that busy worm-hunting.

Now, I know the water in that bath had been in there for a couple of days and I’m not sure how clean it really was – but about an hour later the nameless bird was giving us a little twitch and he looked as if he had consumed one too many birdie shots of tequila.

With a not so graceful flap and flop down to the ground the bird started acting a little peculiar, running into the side of the house, wondering around aimlessly and pecking at the concrete.  He was showing me all the signs of a bird getting ready to make that final flight to the big bird’s nest in the sky.

Sure enough, the next time Reid went to the window looking for our feathered entertainment, there he was laying on the ground motionless.  Reid yelled at me to come look because “the birdie was sleeping.”  Well if he was napping, he must be a deep sleeper because if I had all those flies on me I wouldn’t be sleeping very soundly. Just sayin’.

Out we went manned with a plastic bag and a long stick.  I gave Tweedle Dee a little poke just to make sure he had truly expired before attempting to scoop him up. The last thing I wanted was a sharp beak shanking me in the jugular.  While Reid watched I explained that our little friend had become sick and now had died.  I was trying my best to get in the mind of a four-year-old to explain death on the simplest terms:  “We all get old and die and go to Heaven…”  “He’s with all of his bird friends now… ” “He just ate some bad beetles or a bad worm….”

What do you say?  Watching Reid try to process all of this broke my heart, I tried my best to help him puzzle it all out. He asked: “But how could that be, his eyes are still open?!” “He’ll wake up soon and fly away daddy.  Just leave him there!” “This makes me so sad, I just want him to take a bath again.”

I placed the bird in a plastic bag as Reid started to cry.  He hugged mom and started bawling, confused as to why just an hour earlier big bird was alive and kicking, enjoying a day at the bird spa.  We walked over to the side of the house and gave him a proper burial in one of the garbage cans.  We said a little prayer and I explained to Reid that because this bird had passed, new little baby birds were going to be born to take his place. It was the circle of life, you know, like The Lion King.

It was an emotional afternoon for my little family but one of those moments I’ll treasure. Even with the sadness in my son’s eyes it was rather sweet to see how big his heart was.  He truly cared for that little bird and its well-being.  My little dude is growing up and through all those tears and heartache, in true little boy fashion, Reid looked up at me a said “Daddy can I have mac and cheese for lunch?”

From Colorado Parent July 2015