The Death of a Cardinal

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

Christine Bolton

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  11 comments for “The Death of a Cardinal

  1. July 28, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Perhaps it is their brilliant color that marks things important?

    • Christine Bolton
      July 28, 2018 at 9:22 am

      Yes probably. Some people believe they are messengers from departed loved ones. Thanks for reading it. 😊

  2. July 27, 2018 at 10:39 am

    They have their own ways of mourning I think… maybe a sense of loss, but necessity means that life moves on… another year another mate.

    • Christine Bolton
      July 27, 2018 at 11:29 am

      Yes, you are right. We continue to evolve whatever the species 😊

  3. Tranature - quiet moments in nature
    July 27, 2018 at 6:49 am

    A beautiful write Christine and I love how you gave thanks and laid the cardinal to rest among the leaves. I have seen swans mourn the loss of their partner and seagulls too – after a while they seek out a new partner before the next breeding season begins and before long they are fully devoted to the new family.

    • Christine Bolton
      July 27, 2018 at 8:05 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, I respect those little creatures and am always amazed at their strength and resilience. They are beautiful ❤️. Thanks for reading my poem.

  4. July 27, 2018 at 1:46 am

    Thank you for joining us and for sharing not only your poem but also the background to it, Christine. I also love birds but have never seen a cardinal, dead or alive, only in pictures or on the TV – we don’t have them in the wild in England. I love how your poem begins with colour, the flash of scarlet so vivid and strong, and the comparison of birds and humans at the end is effective..

    • Christine Bolton
      July 31, 2018 at 1:52 pm

      Hi Kim
      Thanks for your kind words about the poem. Your message got sent to Spam so I missed it 😒
      I’m originally from England and know that we never saw Cardinals there. They are incredibly beautiful and some here regard their presence as messengers of departed loved ones. Interesting thought.
      I’m happy to participate in the challenges.

  5. July 26, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    I think they mourn whether like us or not. Mourning in their own ways.

    • Christine Bolton
      July 26, 2018 at 8:54 pm

      I find birds very special. I love observing their behavior. 😊

  6. June 7, 2018 at 9:30 pm


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