My baby birds died yesterday.
They weren’t actually my birds, but it felt like they were.
Last month, a pair of blue jays built their nest right up against my house on top of two floodlights. Another pair of jays had done the same thing five years earlier, but we hadn’t known it until we’d heard the chirp-chirp right outside our kitchen window.
This time, we realized what was going on much sooner. I was overjoyed to see the parent birds fly by the window carrying twigs and grass. When I didn’t see them at work for a few days, I was afraid they had changed their minds. When they set to work again, I cheered.
I love spring. The greens, the freshness, the new life unfolding and awakening all around me.
I loved adopting these wild birds and getting a front row seat to their little lives for this time. I had such joy watching them. I named them Lipton and Twining (after the brands of tea), I pondered names for their future children, I pressed my face against the glass and peered at the nest with increasingly greater anticipation, straining to see new movement, new life.
On Sunday, I saw the first sign of life: a little beak protruding upward, barely visible from where I stood outside on my green plastic chair. I didn’t know how many babies there were, or if all of them had hatched yet, but I had most of the names prepared (they were to be named after types of tea).
On Monday afternoon, I arrived home from work and glanced up as I usually do when I’m coming or going.
The nest wasn’t there.
Confusion. My heart and my eyes dropped. Shock. There was the nest, lying on the ground, mostly intact … and there were two mangled baby jays. Disbelief. Anguish.
I don’t consider myself to be an overly emotional person, but this day was different. This day I was sobbing loudly; sobbing with raw, erratic emotion; sobbing for these fragile little ones who had fallen and broken their necks only days after hatching.
I found out later that two other baby birds had fallen from the nest earlier that day.
Four tiny blue jays died that day. I wrote their names on a plain box and buried them behind our house.
I named them Green, Black, Earl, and Oolong.
Before this happened, I was looking forward to writing a blog about these birds. A blog about life. Now, it’s a blog about death.
Or maybe it’s about more than that.
Maybe it’s about the fragility of life, or the importance of having a soft heart that loves deeply even when that means weeping freely. Maybe it’s about the God who holds us in our fragility and cries with us.
I wept for my birds because I knew them and saw them and named them. And yet, their deaths and my sorrow are only a miniscule example of the sadness and suffering in this world.
I don’t cry for those I don’t know, not unless someone tells me their story in a compelling, poignant way. Seeing my birds die, or saying a hard goodbye, or hearing about a friend’s pain breaks my heart, but the suffering and injustice among unfamiliars doesn’t affect me as deeply.
But it should, shouldn’t it?
Life is precious, beautiful, sacred. All life.
I want to weep for the lives I know personally and for the lives I do not know. I want my heart to remain soft, delicate, and yet full of hope. For we “do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” We can’t fix everything and cure everyone, but we can breathe hope into one life at a time — one moment, one conversation, one helping hand, one word at a time.
I don’t know why the nest fell, and I don’t know why there is so much pain and sorrow in this world. But I know that God cares about it all, and that he doesn’t generalize suffering. He sees each individual life and hears each individual cry.
Matthew 10:29-31: “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.”