My necessary Bird has flown.

This season of Thanksgiving is a good time to remember my friend who was known on this blog as “Bird.” She fell asleep in the Lord last year, but at the time I couldn’t find the words to write about her passing. She had been very dear to me, affectionately motherly and sisterly at the same time. Even past her 100th birthday she was thoroughly engaged in the present and was a good counselor and truth-teller. Not in platitudes or the kind of universally applicable advice that fails to touch the individual in a warm way, but in the manner of a Christian, a “little Christ” who comes alongside and shares the joy or pain. Bird took me Bird +K 97into her heart and gave me of her self: her motherhood of thirteen children, her married womanliness shaped by devotion to a passionate and visionary man, her thankfulness to a loving Father.

I didn’t meet Bird until she was already in her 80’s and had been a widow for some time, so I am not qualified to speak about her life as a whole. But certainly if someone can be supremely happy and content from the ages of 85 to 102, that is a huge accomplishment, not to speak of the many good people having descended from her. Even if she hadn’t been so good a friend to me, just the example of her life would have been encouraging. There was nothing flashy about Bird, no career or teaching ministry or fame; her habit of self-giving was gentle and quiet.

Recently her son kindly sent me a copy of the special journal thP1110738at she liked to write in, her Gnome Gnotebook, repository of decades of treasures she had collected in the form of poems, quotes and proverbs. I had enjoyed exploring the original book whose pages had long ago been filled up; when she ran out of room Bird simply wrote any new notes and poems on scraps of paper and kept them tucked between the pages, the whole bundle getting fatter and fatter, held together with a rubber band and always kept within arm’s reach.

As I began to browse the contents this month, a couple of entries jumped right out at me as completely expressive of truths that she had learned deeply and lived out every day. They happen to be written conveniently  right next to each other on one of the bound pages of the Gnotebook, and if any maxims might have been formative for the woman I knew, these would be likely ones.

P1110740 Bird's book

When I tried a year ago to write this tribute, the words “Bird has flown” were in my mind, and when recently the following autumn poem by John Updike came to my attention it seemed to complement my feelings. The world is a bleaker place without her – there is no replacement. And yet, there is that “certain loveliness” still present, spread abroad and noticed by those giving thanks in the spirit of my Bird.

NOVEMBER

The stripped and shapely
Maple grieves
The loss of her
departed leaves.

The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.

And yet the world,
Nevertheless,
Displays a certain
Loveliness —

The beauty of
the bone. Tall God
must see our souls
this way, and nod.

Give thanks, we do,
each in his place
Around the table
during Grace.

–John Updike

 

If you didn’t get a chance to read what I’ve written about my friend before, this post on Bird’s Open Heart features a photo of her as a young woman, and A New Apron for Bird tells a story about our friendship.

15 thoughts on “My necessary Bird has flown.

  1. What a very beautiful tribute to a lady whose life sounds as though it was permeated with a wise goodness and love! May her memory be eternal. May we all live to be so gracious, simple, and kind in old age.

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  2. how lovely. She in her warmth and love I feel are still with you. But I can imagine that you do miss her and so glad for the gift of that journal for you. May we all be able to be simple and love like your Bird. May her memory be eternal! (Hugs and love)….

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  3. Thank you for telling us this story of your Bird. I have never known such a Bird, they are very rare indeed, and you have been mightily blessed with her companionship I think. But reading your words about her, I love her like I knew her. May her memory be eternal. The poem suits also. Eucharisteo. Enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving with your family.

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  4. What a lovely tribute. Memories of Bird came flying back to me when I read your sweet writing. Even in her absence, we’re encouraged by her character and outpouring of grace and love. As a mother of just two, I’m encouraged by her life devoted to meeting the needs of her husband and family and faithfulness in her position and roles while doing so. Bird’s example shows the beauty of a contented and peaceful soul.

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  5. Thanks for sharing about your friend. She sounds like a precious lady. It’s moving, to me, to see that you and her family are sharing her journal. I write in my journal in the hopes that my kids will share it among themselves after I’m gone. Little reminders of how much they are loved and how faithful God is. I look forward to meeting Bird someday. 🙂

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  6. Many thanks for the poem! I love autumn poems. And your Bird friend has always sounded like a special human, a treasure to know. You say this world is a bleaker place without her, and certainly this fallen world is a bit bleaker with each death of someone whose heart is full of love. But heaven is brighter, yes?! And that’s where we’re going.

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