Girlie-whirl had two friends over to play the other day. We decided to pack a picnic lunch and head to our favorite park. The day was warm, the sky blue and the park crowded with families enjoying each other.
After playing for a while, we headed over to the picnic tables for lunch. We hadn't been eating long, when a woman at a nearby table screamed out an expletive. Everyone, of course, looked to see what the problem was. She had just noticed a seemingly dead baby bird under her table. Her family quickly moved to another table.
The whole area had now been alerted to the baby birds presence. It was interesting to watch the reactions. Birds had been flying continually in and out and no one seemed to pay any attention. But one dead baby bird and everyone was riveted. The children, especially were drawn to it. Time and again, moms had to remind children not to touch, not to get too close. Parent's faces showed pity and concern. One look wasn't sufficient for anyone, all eyes continually strayed back to the bird.
Then, the once thought dead bird started to flop and flail. The children cried out, "It's moving, it's moving!" Before, everyone felt sad, but now we were stricken. It was obviously not going to survive, was quickly on it's way out, and watching it struggle just hurt. As we stood around wondering what to do. One woman stood up and with her napkin, gently rolled the bird over, he flailed and was immediately on his back again. She tried again and eventually got the little thing to stay on it's stomach. It now looked more comfortable, and flailed less, but we all knew that it was just a matter of time.
Eventually I went back to the playground with the girls, but I kept going back to check on the bird. The last time, the bird was gone. I think it had breathed it's last and someone removed the body. A nice sign of respect.
Life is all around us, so much so that I think we take it for granted, don't even notice it--I know I do. Death, on the other hand, tends to be hidden from society. Old people move to rest homes where we don't see their physical descent. People dying of natural causes or accidents frequently do so in hospitals, hidden from view. Even the death of animals, something that 50 years ago was a common occurance is now a rarity for most of us. We don't kill the chicken and eat it, we buy a package of meat from the store.
Although our society hides death as much as possible, although we diliberately try to be ignorant of death and everything surrounding it, everyone at the park knew instinctively that the death struggles of that bird were not insignificant, that they mattered. Young or old, educated or otherwise, rich or poor, everyone there recognized that life is sacred, you could see it in their faces. It's a universal truth, and a beautiful thing.