The young robin must have flown into our window. When we arrived home after errands, it was lying on its back, perfectly aligned on the arm of our porch swing as though it had just decided to take a nap. Though I knew it was dead, I sat and held it in my hands, marveling at its perfect beauty and almost willing it to open its eyes again. Of course it didn't and I buried it on the far side of our raspberry patch.
I'm tired. Two funerals in one week have left me and my family physically and emotionally exhausted. Being greeted by a dead robin was not among the list of things I could deal with right then.
Life can seem, at times, to be oh, so fragile. A little bird still learning how to control its flight, hits the glass at just the right place, just the right angle, just the right speed. A young woman's doctor doesn't realize how severe her infection is. A teacher finds out he has cancer. A man with a heart of gold dies of a massive heart attack.
All life is a gift.
I've cried and yelled and shook my fist at God many times these past weeks. How dare he let a 32-year-old woman die! How dare he strike good men with good hearts in the prime of their lives! (okay, I think retirement age is prime) And why the robin? I like robins.
"All life is a gift and it owes us nothing. It doesn't owe us longevity. It doesn't owe us good health or wealth or happiness. It is pure gift."
I don't know the source of this saying. When I heard it the first time, it sounded almost cold - too objective. The more I read it, I began to see the wisdom in these words. We had the gift of our niece, Dani, for 32 years. In our minds, it's not long enough, but we had 32 years of the gift of her life. Our students had the gift of Mike Baker's teaching, humor, and compassion for many years. I can't begin to tell you how many people were touched by the gift of Dean Stefan's humor and warmth and generosity. To the universe, the universal, the supreme Good: Thank you for the gift of these people in our lives.
After experiencing a time when life seems so fragile, it's good to also remember how resilient life can be. My dad will be 94 in September. He didn't do any of the right things to assure longevity - except for having longevity run in his family. Our friend, Carolyn Osborn is, at 72, one of the few remaining survivors from the era of polio and the iron lung. There have been times she almost left us, but somehow, miraculously, she has come back every time. We've raised orphaned puppies from day 5 weighing a few ounces to wriggling piles of love, puppy kisses, and leaping on our laps. Our grandchildren and our gardens are growing as quickly as the weeds.
And the other night I dreamt of a tree growing at the back of our raspberry patch. As it grew, white blossoms appeared. They didn't turn into flowers, but out of each one, there came a tiny, living bird.
And they started to sing.