Early one spring Sunday morning I was sipping a cup of tea and reading the Sunday NY Times when I heard Lola, our golden retriever, stumbling around outside on our deck. Lola suffers from a seizure disorder so I quickly jumped up and flew out the door to assist her. Instead, I found Lola checking out a basket that was located on a shelf outside on the deck. I moved Lola out of the way and saw a lovely nest with four perfect little eggs inside. Knowing we couldn’t move the basket or the nest, Ron and I strategically and painstakingly moved and arranged our deck furniture and created a maze out of tables and chairs. Mother Bird could access her nest and yet there was enough of a barrier that Lola couldn’t nose around. We wanted to give Mother Bird and her eggs some privacy for the next few weeks. It worked. Lola came and went inside and outside and minded her own business. Mother Bird and her eggs were safe, she came and went as she pleased, and Lola was more interested in playing with her tennis balls and gnawing on her rawhide. All was well in the Bara backyard.
A few weeks later, after spending a couple of days with my Mom, Ron and I were in our living room and I was telling him about my recent trip to Ft. Smith. Our family made the painful decision to move my Mom to the care of hospice. She is out of medical and therapeutic options. Despite the physical and cognitive challenges of Parkinson’s Disease, she has maintained dignity, grace, and kindness. I was teary and emotionally tired. I was talking to Ron about the experience of meeting with the hospice nurse and I was reviewing everything: did I ask all the right questions, was there anything I missed, how will my mom respond with less medication. There were so many thoughts and emotions going on in my head.
Suddenly, we heard a large crash on the deck and ran outside to see what happened. Well, Lola happened. She must have smelled new life because she wiggled her way through the maze of deck furniture and had her nose in the basket. The nest was turned on it’s side. The birds were born that day–they were so very tiny and fragile. Two of them had crashed to the deck and I thought for sure they were dead. The other two were lying beside the nest with their little beaks open, looking for their Mom and waiting to be fed. Mother Bird was near and squawking away. I shot inside, grabbed some gloves and a spoon to scoop up the little babies. I also grabbed my little garden shovel to dig a hole to bury the two babies who had fallen to the deck. Ron was distraught–life is so precious! He went inside and lit the intention candle in our kitchen. (Lately, that candle is lit almost everyday–it’s always something!) I went to scoop up the two babies on the deck and they were both moving! I scooped them up and put them with the other two, hoping they’d stay warm until Mother Bird reappeared. I called the vet to find out what to do. I watched until I saw Mother Bird return. Ron googled how to care for baby birds. We did everything we could. Mother Bird came back three times. Sadly, all the baby birds died. Mother Bird scooted each of them under the nest…almost a protection and a little burial.
The next morning I went out to bury the birds and clean up the nest. Again, I was emotional. I just put my Mom in hospice, and then without warning, put four baby birds in hospice. The chatter in my head returned: did I do everything I could, should I have taken the birds to the vet, would they have even survived the car ride? I looked up and saw the most beautiful sunrise. A new day was beginning. I paused for a minute, took a deep breath, and realized that despite our best efforts, sometimes things just are–they just happen. Despite my best efforts for my Mom, hospice care IS the best place for her. Despite our best efforts to protect Mother Bird and her babies, we were not successful. Tears began running down my cheeks- but these were tears of release, not sadness. I was at peace that I did the best I could for this little bird family and also for my Mom and her care for the past several years. I buried the little birds under a beautiful Japanese maple tree in our front yard, said a little prayer for Mother Bird and for my Mom, and marinated on the richness of Rumi’s words that life is a balance between holding on and letting go.