Just last week a neighbor called to ask a favor. She was at work and received news that her 97 year old mother-in-law, who lives in an assisted living facility, was not doing well and was taken to the hospital with a suspected stroke. Our neighbor requested that we help with her dog while she rushed to the hospital. We listened to her instructions as to where the leash was kept, how to coax the dog down the stairs to go outside, and lastly where the reward treats were kept. Of course we were happy to help our dear neighbor but felt sad for what could be her impending loss. As we walked next door we stopped in our tracks because laying there on her driveway was a beautiful male cardinal, dead. He was so beautiful. Of course his color was striking but to see him laying there, with no outward signs of distress, was quite shocking considering the task at hand. Was it an omen? Was it a sign of inevitable passing? All these crazy things went through our minds. We were worried for our neighbor, her dog and now this.
As it turned out, her mother-in-law improved later that day and there was no evidence of stroke. She was experiencing some kind of infection so everything turned out well. So what of the Cardinal? I picked him up and buried him in the garden with a covering of leaves. I said a word of thanks for his life and felt a sadness come over me. Who knows what happened to him. Perhaps he flew into an oncoming car, or just died of old age. It was hard to tell but it did stir something in me. I began to think about birds in general and how their behavior is so similar to humans. They mate for life, building a nest to share with their partner. They raise their family in that nest until the young are ready to spread their wings and fly away. The melancholy feeling stayed with me for several days and I subsequently wrote this poem. I hope you will understand and enjoy it.
Death of a Cardinal
A flash of scarlet caught my eye
A cardinal had come down from the sky
I wondered how could that be?
He was too old to have fallen from a tree
He lay there with not a sign of breath
So beautiful but clearly this was his death
I found him alone in someone’s driveway
With no visible damage as he peacefully lay
I imagined his mate full of concern
What did she think when he did not return
Do they mourn like us when a loved one is lost?
Save face in front of the babies no matter the cost
These things always go through my mind
Is sorrow just for the likes of mankind?
Birds have partners as humans do
We all breathe and breed and need food too
We love and nurture those we love
So why did this Cardinal come down from above
It made me realize that life is to be treasured
Who dies and why is not to be measured
This beautiful bird was laid in a leafy grave
With my word of thanks for the joy he gave