Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Dead Bird

Early one morning, my children found a dead bird on the lawn.

 I found them out on the porch, Birds of Ontario in their hands, working at identifying it. They wrapped it in leaves and placed it in a box, and before I had a chance to talk with them about it I saw them busy out on the hill. They were quite solemn about it all and later when I visited the site with the girls, I saw what they had created.

Carefully placed stones encircled the bird's final resting place, complete with a grave marker that reads: 

Name: Gorden 
Age: Adult
Dide of Window

Violet explained that the pony-hoof clippings were shaped like hearts.

Throughout the day, they visited the grave, even digging the bird back up to look at it closely once again. It was plain and grey, its thin lids covering its dull eyes, but it was beautiful in death all the same. They'd cover it back up, then run off to play again.

Margaret Wise Brown, in her inimitable way, wrote a story about a group of children who come across a dead bird lying in a field. They cradle it gently in their hands, find a box in which to bury it, cry and sing dirges, and create a beautiful grave for the fallen creature. They visit it every day, until they forget about it.

I found an old copy in a "discard" pile at a school library years ago, and have kept it all these years knowing that someday it would come in handy. I haven't read it to my children yet but mentioned it recently to my sister (who is a Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant) in a conversation we had about the animal "funerals" we used to have as children. 

Children play to make sense of the ordinary and the profound. They conjure deep emotions in play, exploring what it feels like to love, hate, celebrate, and grieve in imaginary ways. I know that this bird will come up in conversation in the days to come, and that they may also mention their GG (their closest experience with death).

 I felt proud to see them treat the bird with such respect, compassion, and dignity. 


  1. Somewhere in some corner of the house there is probably still a small ziploc bag containing hummingbird feathers. My grannddaughter found a hummingbird which likely "dide of window." Before she buried it in the flower bed, she plucked it so she could keep to tiny delicate feathers to admire later.

  2. "And the seasons they go round and round....." Oh, I LOVED this post of course. It reminded me, too, of our childhood animal/ feathered friend funerals and the pet cemetery we had. As part of my training, we dedicated a whole class to memorials and funerals for pets. I think that it is wonderful that the girls naturally knew what to do and respectfully marked this little bird's life and death. And his name is hilarious. Cause of death, not so much.

  3. Dide of window. Oh my. Your little ones are so very wonderful. I am glad that Gordon has been treated with such respect.

    I remember some 12 years ago when there was a bird body on the porch. A dide of window bird. Grandpa had just arrived at the house and Eldest announced, "Grandpa, there's a bird lying on the porch!" Grandpa asked, "What kind of bird?" Eldest, "A dead one."

  4. Me and the girls have been finding a lot of dead animals lately, mostly squirrels and small birds. The first was a squirrel on the sidewalk, looking like it was perfectly sleeping. We visited it for a few days before someone removed it and the girls talked about it for weeks. Shira wished that she could take it home and keep it in her bed, so she could look after it forever. I love how gentle they with with these creatures who have died. They both seemed to recognize the importance of the moment, but have so much interest in it nonetheless.

    Beautiful post.


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