A few weeks ago, in my post “Spring has sprung,” I mentioned the little bird who chose the winter wreath on our front door as her new home for her 3 tiny eggs. She would sit in the nest all day, loudly chirping away almost constantly, and quickly fly away if we opened the door from the inside or as we approached it from the outside. I noticed it had been unusually quiet for the past few days, and mentioned it to my husband. He suggested that maybe the mom had abandoned the nest, but said to wait a few weeks before we removed it.
Yesterday, while I was working on a couple of DIY projects in the garage, my 5-year-old rode up the driveway, hopped off his bike and asked if he could climb a ladder to look at the eggs. Since my own curiosity was already peaked, I agreed. The mama bird did not flutter past as we approached the door; there was no sign of her anywhere, so I placed a ladder in front of the door. I climbed up first to investigate and as I looked into the nest I saw only one egg and what looked like a lot of feathers. I let Ryan take a peek, but since he couldn’t see much and I couldn’t safely lift him while balancing on the ladder myself, I carefully removed the wreath from the door so we could both get a better look. My son peered closely into the tiny nest, looked at the single egg still remaining, and then pointed to the feathers next to it and asked, “What’s that?” As I looked closer, I noticed it was one teeny-tiny dead bird and before I could decide how to handle the situation, he had also figured it out. So he asked what happened to the bird and why the mom wasn’t there with it anymore. I tried to explain that the bird may have been born sick and died quickly after hatching, and suggested that the mama bird and the one bird we suspected had hatched and was healthy moved to a new nest since she couldn’t bury her baby bird. I continued to explain, since she left the nest, the other egg never had a chance to hatch because there was no one to keep it safe and warm. I could see he was saddened by my story as he looked at the lifeless bird. I was, too. All I could do was give him a hug and a kiss.
Now I was torn about what to do next. All my boys were so eager to see the new little birds as they hatched on our door; they felt as if they were their very own. Hayden and Nicholas would be devastated if they came home and I told them the truth, so I considered throwing it away and telling them the eggs hatched and all the birds must have happily flown away whenever they eventually asked about it. I quickly realized that plan would never work since I was certain Ryan would spill the news the minute they walked through the door from school. Seeing a real bird egg and a real dead bird in a nest on your door was news much too big for any 5-year-old to forget. I was stuck and knew I had to tell them all the depressing news no matter how much I dreaded it. I carefully placed the wreath back in its place on the door.
As if on cue, as the older two entered the house, Ryan ran up and shouted the news about the dead bird. Backpacks dropped to the floor and they both gasped as they ran back to the front door. I removed the wreath and showed it to them while explaining my sad (and probably incorrect) hypothesis of events. Hayden was confused as to why the mom would leave her babies, even if they were dead, but said emphatically, “At least the babies are with Jesus in Heaven!” Though Nicholas understood what had happened, his eyes filled with tears before he walked to his room.
I knocked on his door a few minutes later and asked what he thought we should do with the nest and its’ contents. He wanted to keep the egg warm under a light to try to hatch it, but I told him that the egg was already dead since the mama bird hadn’t been back in a few days to take care of it and keep it warm herself. After more discussion about life and death, he rummaged through his closet and pulled out a shoebox to bury it in. I found an old towel to line the box with, then he gently placed the nest in the box.
While I dug a hole on the side of the house, the boys picked flowers from the yard and placed them inside the box next to the nest. We had one last look before we closed it. Nicholas placed the box in the ground and we patted the dirt on top. “I want to say a prayer,” said Nicholas with his eyes watering. He went on to ask God to welcome the little bird and the unhatched egg into Heaven with him, and to watch over the mama bird and her new baby and keep them safe always. Then, he wiped his eyes and the three of them ran from the burial spot hollering and laughing as they played and impromptu game of tag.
Closure is a magical thing.