I opened the door in the dawn light and there he was.
Tiny feathers, perfect tiny beak and little orange feet. I looked up and saw his brothers and sisters peering at me from their nest 10 feet above the concrete patio, waiting to see what I’d do.
I called over my shoulder into the house, waking the sleeper. He came out wild haired, looked at the ground, then at me – slowly shaking his head.
I ran inside in my rubber boots and grabbed a shallow blue bucket, heading to the lawn to fill it with grass and straw. I carefully placed the tiny body on top. Could it survive? The tiny beak was working less and less.
I set the makeshift hospital bed in the weak morning sunlight and watched.
Less than a week before, I’d laid in the cold bed and watched my heart on the monitor a few feet above me, a comforting beat pounding a rhythm like a dark ocean tide. They wheeled me into a second room and put the heavy lead blanket over the bump in my stomach as the cold dye sank into my veins. As soon as the machine kicked into gear, tiny hands and feet began to strike.
“Hold still please,” the technician said. But it wasn’t me. I tried to slow my heartbeat.
I’d come in when my vision began to check out, when I couldn’t stop vomiting, couldn’t catch my breath, couldn’t walk across a parking lot without my hands and feet going numb. “Go,” my OB had said. “Go tonight.”
So I’d walked into the ER on a Thursday night with nothing but a bright red backpack, and 5 days later I still claimed a bed.
He’d slept in my room almost every night, curled awkwardly on an uncomfortable chair as the doctors came in every couple of hours from dusk to dawn, dawn to dusk, taking more blood, more readings, listening to my stomach, chatting about compression socks, loud roommates and how funny it was that nobody got real rest in a hospital.
The nausea hit hard, and there he was – wheeling the IV pole in and out of the sterile bathroom with the florescent light again and again. We watched bad tv and laughed and joked and slept and cried. We waited through the Echo. The CT and the XRays. The Lung Function tests, clot checks, the second Echo and the Blood Gasses. The walking tests, the ultrasounds and doppler heart checks.
I dreamed I was falling from a great height, my stomach lurching into my throat. I opened my eyes and saw my mom. She was with me at 3am when the pain hit, hard and constant, wrapping it’s fingers around my stomach in a new way. Her hands were at my back in a moment, trying to ease the pain. This was a new pain. A dark pain that went through the epicenter, cracking the walls as it went with nothing but a concrete floor at the bottom of the fall. The doors opened and the faces began to blur.
We waited. They watched for hours. And when that cold monitor touched my stomach and the fast steady heart song rang out, mine felt like it could finally start again.
6 days later I stood on the porch in the afternoon sun, staring into a bucket that held the tiny, still feathers. His mother sat above us, watching. We walked to the golden field and laid him to rest beneath the late spring sky.
He was just a fledgling. Just one small, tiny heartbeat among billions. So why was I so sad?
Because so are we all. So am I. So is he. And sometimes it feels like we all step a little too close to the edge of that great height.
That’s when I spread out my hands looking for hope like a blind man. That’s when my fingers snag on the hearts surrounding mine. That’s when I remember to stop looking down at the fall and raise my eyes instead to the sky maker. That’s when I feel the growing pains.
“What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”
So are you.
So are we all.