Yesterday I let the dog out into the backyard. After a few minutes, I went back out to bring her in.
She was hovering over something in the snow. At first I thought it was a piece of wood, or maybe some garbage. Then I realized it was a bird.
I picked up the bird. It was a small sparrow. It was cold and wet, and looked dead. I was beginning to consider where to put it, when its beak opened and closed.
I brought it into the house, holding it cupped in my hands. I examined it. It's feathers were ruffled, but I saw no wounds or signs of blood.
I was hoping that it was just stunned, or maybe cold. I spoke to it, softly. I kept both hands around it, trying to be gentle, trying to warm it up.
It began to move more, it's claws flexing a couple of times. It gasped a few times.
It moved its head slightly. Its claws flexed again. It gasped a few more times, seemingly with more energy.
I continued to hold it.
It was gone.
I wrapped it in some tissue and laid it to rest.
I hoped that at least in its final moments it had felt more comfortable, more cared for.
Later, I took my dog for a walk.
I thought of the sparrow. I bid him farewell.
I thought of my beloved dogs and cats and other creatures who had passed away over the years.
Maggie. Mollie. Scooter. Hannah. Mittens. Seamus. Duke. Itsy. Mathom. Sandy. Lucky. And others.
I was with some of them when they died. Holding them or petting them. Not wanting them to be alone.
Those beloved pets were loved, and they loved in turn.
I hoped that they were aware that they were loved. I hoped that was comforting to them.
And though I know they are not supposed to have souls, I still hope that maybe God in his mercy will let them be there to greet me when my time comes.
I thought of God's love for all living things. He gives them life. He feeds them.
Even the sparrows.
Perhaps in his dying moments Brother Sparrow felt bathed in God's love.
And perhaps he sang with joy as he passed into eternity.