Miriam, Jonah, the dogs, and I (Beth) go for a walk most mornings. It’s quite the production. Miriam gets her mask, and I get mine. Jonah gets in the stroller, and we leash a dog to each side. When we walk around the neighborhood, I keep my eyes out for packs of dogs, or people without masks. We often cross to the other side of the street to keep our social distance. Thankfully, lots of people give is a wide berth because of the dogs. Covid19 is sweeping through our city, but people are mostly living their lives as normal. Social distance is not a big part of this culture.
Today, as we were crossing a street to walk by the praça and then head home, we saw little brown dot on the white expanse of hot sidewalk. (It was 9:30 and already in the mid 90s.) It was a little finch. This species, a common waxbill, is not native to Brazil but people keep them as pets, and use them in the goldmines. There has come to be a wild population here, though. This little finch was not in a good way.
We scooped him up and gave him a stroller ride back to our house. Miriam was determined to doctor him back to health. We fixed him a little nest in a plastic pot. Miriam filled it with handfuls of grass.
She picked a bunch of grass seeds and put it in a bottle cap beside the bird. We gave it a few drops of water with a medicine syringe, hung the planter on the window away from cats and dogs and toddlers, and went about our morning. I checked an hour later to find that the bird had died.
He died in a sweet little nest, holding a flower that my daughter had picked for him.
I told Miriam, and we found a spot to bury him in the shade under one of our palm trees. I had to wet the ground in order to dig a little hole because it is the dry season, and the dirt is as hard as concrete. I asked Miriam if she wanted to name the bird before we buried him. She decided on Fred. We laid Fred in the hole, and Miriam said a little prayer while I put the dirt back in. We put a rock over the grave to deter the dogs, and one of our hibiscus blooms to celebrate Fred’s little life.
Miriam is learning about death. She is learning that not everything has a happy ending. It seems we are surrounded by unhappy endings lately. But even in these endings, God sees us. The the Gospels say that not even a sparrow, in this case a finch, is forgotten by God, nor falls to the ground without God knowing it. Fred the finch was placed in our path by God. He died, but he went gently while being known and loved. Jesus says in Matthew 10:29-31, “‘Aren’t two sparrows sold for only a penny? But not one of them falls to the ground without your Father knowing it. He even counts every hair on your head! So don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.”
God sees you. He knows you. You are not alone. You are not forgotten. My heart breaks from all the pain around us. From all the confusion, and corruption. From all the anger and injustice. My heart breaks from all of the death. From all of the unhappy endings. But little Fred reminded me that God sees. God knows my sorrow intimately. He is sitting with me in it. He is present to our pain. He doesn’t promise a happy ending in this life, though. But we are by no means alone and abandoned. We are worth so much more than that.
After burying Fred, Miriam went about her day content with the fact that she will see Fred again in heaven. My faith in God’s restoration is what keeps me from despair. There are no happy endings promised in this life, but thankfully this is only the beginning chapter. Through Christ the rest of our unending pages will be filled with indescribable joy. However, we are not there yet. For now, in chapter 1, I grieve. But I take solace to know that my grief is seen by Him who knows me better than I know myself. God sees us. He knows us. We are not alone. We are not forgotten.