Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Lesson...I Think

I killed two birds yesterday. Not one, but two.

Of course, it was an accident. I didn’t intend to render my feathered friends lifeless in one split second, but it happened.

I was driving along a side street with four of my individuals. I was in my company van, which is actually a 2008 Honda Odyssey, and not an immense 15-seater which one would usually expect me to be driving, considering the company I work for. We had just finished shopping for an elderly man, who is housebound, and were on our way to drop his groceries off to him.

As I coasted slowly down a side street, I noticed two birds entwined in what I assumed was a mating dance of some sort: flittering up and down, twirling around, and generally lacking any concern for the rest of the goings-on in the world, namely a van driving down the street.

And then it happened.

As I opened my mouth and spoke “Look at those silly birds!” they careened uncaringly down towards my wheel well. I heard a slight thump, and then took a large gasp of air.

“Oh no, I think I hit the birds!” I cried. As I peered through the rear view mirror, I saw it: a small wing sticking up from a brown lump in the middle of the street, almost as if it was waving “bye-bye.” My individuals were partially worried, but willing to keep on driving. I, however, had to turn the van around to view the horror of what I had done.

As I pulled up, I did not see two bodies, but one conglomeration of feathers and guts. Relieved that one bird possibly escaped this torturous demise, I rolled down my window to grieve over the one with less luck.

And then I saw them…legs. Not two, but four. I had killed these birds so heinously that their little bodies actually blended together as if they were one. Which quite possibly was their original intent, but I assume in a much more rewarding and satisfying way.

I’m still trying to figure out the lesson here, or the irony. I’m not having much luck, though.

Sort of like the time I decapitated a squirrel on Halloween, just as little ghouls, goblins and princesses were starting to appear in the streets in their quest for treats. I ran it over after it played “red light, green light”, going back and forth in the street, when it finally ignored the command of “red light” and decided to keep on going anyway, heading for my car on the driver’s side. I slammed on my brakes and noticed that it didn’t come out on the passenger side as I had hoped. I turned to look out my window, wondering if anyone had actually witnessed this murder firsthand. I saw two little old ladies in their lawn chairs at the house next to me, their mouths hanging open with painful looks on their faces.

“…He didn’t make it, did he?” I asked them.

They shook their heads “no.”

“…I ran him over, didn’t I?”

They nodded their heads “yes.”

I got out of my car and nearly passed out from the carnage. I’m not even sure what happened to the top of his head…all that was left was his bottom jaw and the rest of his body.

The ladies kindly gave me a garbage bag and a roll of paper towels. I picked up the poor little varmint and put him in the bag (and he was a hefty little critter, too…I’m betting he weighed at least five pounds). I know I could have left him there, but I figured it would be a really bad “trick” for the kids to see as they crossed the street from one house to the next. I cried as I threw him out in my garbage pail on the side of my house, and whispered a small “I’m sorry” to the universe.

Again…what was the lesson here?

I know they were only animals, but to take a life is ghastly even so. Yes, I am the person who will try to scoot the bee out of the house before I spray it with hair spray (hey, it works, and it’s not as poisonous as Raid). I am the person who cried uncontrollably when I saw the rat dying from the food he ate in the trap the county had placed in my yard. I have a definite fondness for all of God’s creatures, sometimes to a fault.

Perhaps these things happen to remind us of how precious life is, and how quickly it can be over. Maybe God allows his lesser creatures to be sacrificed so that we can be awakened to the relationships that are dying around us, the relationships that could end in a split second and won’t ever be healed because of our pride, our stubbornness.

I know I have a few of those relationships in my life. I’m sure we all do. I’ve been reflecting on how to mend them, how to restore them to their original beauty. But just as the critters made bad choices that hurt them, this is how it is in life as well. The birds’ lifeless little bodies will never be separated and the squirrel will never get his head back. So we have to accept it, mourn it, and bury it (…or at least throw it in the garbage). And then we move on.