Suburban Journal: The Dead Bird

by Carl Wade Thompson


We had just arrived home from Oklahoma after visiting my parents for the weekend. As we got ready for the new work week, my thoughts went back to the visit and seeing my grandma for what might have been the last time. She was living in the nursing home near my parents’ house, was 90 years old, and was dying. My Mom and uncle had made the decision to take her off the machines and let her die in peace, something which my grandma had wanted for a long time. Now back home in Fort Worth, I could only periodically call my parents and ask on my grandma’s status as every hour left me wondering if she were alive or dead. As we went about our chores to get ready for the week, I felt numb and tired from the emotional turmoil of the weekend. As I prepared my satchel before I went to tutor students at the university, my wife and twin sons went outside to hang clothes to dry.

“Wade, come quick,” said my wife Jeab as I my sons cried out in astonishment. As I went out into the back yard, my mind reflecting on my grandmother who was dying two hours away, I wondered what was wrong.

“It’s a dead bird,” she said, pointing at a still body lying near the back porch. For a moment, I just stared at the dead bird, looking at it as if it was the first time I had ever seen something dead. Getting a plastic bag, I carefully picked it up with a paper towel and peered at it for a moment. As my children asked questions about why the bird was not flying, I looked into its eyes, which reflected like glass. The bird was colored a dark brown with an off-white under plumage, and for a moment I imagined the bird was just sleeping, taking a rest from a long flight. But I knew I was just dreaming, and quickly I placed the dead bird in the plastic bag, tied it up, and went and put it in the garbage can. Going back into the house, I tried my best to answer my kids’ questions on what happened to the bird and if it would be all right.

“The bird is just sleeping. It needs to rest,” my wife and I said, not ready to explain the concept of death to our toddlers just yet.

Looking at my children, I thought about the dead bird and my grandmother. Just a day ago, my sons had hugged and kissed her for what was probably the last time in their young lives. They had no idea they were actually saying goodbye to a person they would vaguely remember from their childhood years later. But the bird brought that reality closer to home as I tried to emotionally accept my grandmother’s impending death. All I could do was wait and see, and try to let the process of grief to run its course. Because letting go of the person who I was closest to in my childhood was not something I could accept overnight. And I thought the bird was an omen of what was going to come in the next couple of days. I just wish it were so simple to let go, but I knew it wouldn’t be.

father and son silhouettes at sunset


This is an article in my Subdivision Journal series. I am trying to use mindfulness to observe nature in my neighborhood. Other articles in the series:

A Budding Tree

An Encounter With a Falcon

The Carrying of Sounds
The View from My Window


Author PhotoCarl Wade Thompson is a poet, essayist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. He has published poetry and memoir essays in The Mayo Review, The Concho River Review, One in Four, Anak Sastra, The Galway Review, The Blue Collar Review, Piker Press, The Eunoia Review, Blue Minaret, Nebo Literary Magazine, Alphelion Literary Webzine, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. His poems explore the link between the urban and the rural.

Photo by jes2ufoto

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