I/We, my wife and I, are responsible for the death of a precious life; a hummingbird. I guess this is as good a time as any to write about everyone’s favorite topic – death.
We have two hummingbird feeders and keep them both stocked. We love those little guys. Unfortunately, the ants love the food as much as the birds. It seems like everything we did, the ants would still find the poles and the food – until we found double sided tape. Once we placed a little two sided tape on the poles, the ant problem went away.
That worked great, for awhile. The other night, I looked outside our patio sliding door to see our large flowering plant leaning against one of the feeder poles. So I went outside to trim it back a bit. And that’s when I saw her.
I was heart stricken. A tiny female had gotten too close to the pole itself and been trapped by our ant tape. The method we’d chosen to help save her food had ended up killing her. All that was left was a tiny body molded against the pole. No doubt she struggled for hours…poor thing.
My wife was out of town and we texted each other, promising each other that we must do better in the future. I blame myself mostly. It was my wife’s idea to use the tape, but I’ve always prided myself in the past on my ability to think through risks and options – I should have been able to predict this risk. It won’t happen again.
My earliest memory of death was shared in this story (link), about a kitten that had choked on a potato chip. Coincidentally, another early memory of death also is about a kitten that I saw getting knocked around by cars as it had made the mistake of finding a busy road. I saw the look of terror on its little face just as it stumbled into a sewer opening. I immediately pulled my car over and ran over to the sewer manhole. Unfortunately, it was far too deep and I quickly realized that the kitten had no chance of survival. Funny how an image like that can stay with a person. That was 39 years ago and I can still recall the scene in complete and vivid detail. It’s that last look on the kitten’s face – shear terror and confusion.
We’ve always been pet owners, cats, and we’ve loved them dearly. Many of you out there reading this, I’m sure have loved and lost a dear pet. In our marriage, my wife and I have dealt with the loss of four precious felines (link Sasha). One of our ragdolls is now 12 years old. I’m hoping she has many years left but our experience tells us she likely will pass within the next few.
Death – do you remember when you had to explain what death is to a child? Or perhaps you don’t have children – do you recall your first encounter with death yourself?
With our son Tim, it came one day with a hamster. Tim’s brother Corey always had a couple of little pets. Once he had an African Pygmy Hedgehog. They look cute but you need leather gloves to pick them up. You might as well have a pet cactus that tries to jump at you. On the day in question, he had a pair of cute hamsters. Most of us were outside in the backyard, tending to our garden. Corey had brought down the hamsters and had their environment set up on a small table sitting in our family room.
Tim was inside with the hamsters and I guess we didn’t really think there would be an issue. Tim was perhaps 4 or 5 years old I’m guessing. He either had reached in and tried to take one of the little critters out or one had climbed up to the top where there was a small door. Either way, Tim had clamped the door shut right on the neck of the hamster. I’m sure he thought that he was just keeping the little guy in the cage, but he accidentally killed it. I still have a fond memory of my wife trying to revive the little critter with her finger and a straw. Tim didn’t quite understand at first, but soon I could see he got it when I said – we all die.
Funerals. I’ve attended a few including saying words at the funeral of my stepfather. I’ve attended the visitations for parents of a couple of friends and even had to attend the services for the death of a young husband to my sister. But it was the service for my stepfather that caused me to decide to never attend another funeral or visitation unless someone there needed me specifically. Funerals are for the living. I don’t need, or want, to attend one to say goodbye to the recently departed. I addressed this in the story about the death of my brother Mike.
Losing that hummingbird made me want to hide in the closet
These days I’m spending semi retirement working part time for a large animal veterinary practice, (the practice is large, not the animals). As I process the invoices for cremation services, it always causes me pause. I reflect on the sadness of the loss for the pet owners. Life, like this story, is a maze. Everything that happens to us is somehow linked together by hidden strings. Most of us ask for divine instruction, forgiveness and explanation. The truth though, (my truth anyway), is that each of us has to navigate our way through our own personal maze. Tomorrow I go under the knife – wish me luck.