By then I was a little worried. I grabbed the binoculars for a closer look. He had puffed himself up twice his size as birds will do in the winter to keep warm. But it was still early September and the humid evening air hovered in the upper 80s. Suddenly his head popped up, stretching out his neck just a bit, and then immediately back into the folds of feathers around his shoulders. As I continued to watch I noticed it every five minutes or so. It almost looked like he had hiccups, but somehow I did not think that was the problem. Something worse was happening.
Near dusk he suddenly flew straight up to the feeder itself. Instead of perching on the outer rung designed for a bird to curl its feet around and be able to lean forward to eat from the small trough that ran around the bottom of the feeder, he flew into the trough itself, hunched down, and leaned against the clear plastic walls of the feeder. Then he became completely still—no more twitching or bouncing. I watched until it was too dark to see any longer.
The next morning I went out with my pail of birdseed to refill all the feeders around the house. There beneath the feeder lay the now much smaller body of the dove. Sometime in the night he had died and fallen off the feeder. We carefully disposed of the small body for the sake of the other birds and our Chloe just in case it had carried a contagious illness. It was a sad moment. I couldn’t help but think, “You weren’t alone, little guy. We watched you and we cared.”
We weren’t the only ones watching. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father, Matt 10:29. God notices when every little bird falls to the ground. And never forget the lesson Jesus draws from that: But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows, Matt 10:30-31.
Dying alone has become a metaphor for a purposeless existence. “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone,” (Orson Welles).
It’s used to depict life and death as a beginning and end that you cannot effect one way or the other. “Don’t expect anyone to stick around. You were born alone and you will die alone,” (Anonymous).
It’s used as a desperate pitiful plea for someone to care: “I just don’t want to die alone, that’s all. That’s not too much to ask for, is it? It would be nice to have someone care for me, for who I am, not about my wallet,” (Richard Pryor).
It’s used to show the meaninglessness of life: “At the end, we all die alone,” (Anonymous).
Is it any wonder that skeptics and atheists commit suicide? None of these things is true for a Christian.
For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever… Ps 37:28.
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you, Heb 13:5.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go, Josh 1:9.
Sometimes we can quote passages like these until we are blue in the face, but when the hour of trial comes, any sort of trial, and no one stands with us, we allow the physical eye to fool us into believing we are alone. We need to learn to see with spiritual eyes like our Lord did: Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me, John 16:32. We are the only ones who can take that promise away—when we don’t believe it. With God a believer is never alone no matter how much vacant space surrounds him.
If God promised to watch for every fallen bird, He will watch for me. Even if some day I breathe my last breath in an otherwise empty room, I can know that Someone cares enough to be nearby, watching and waiting to take me home.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints, Ps 116:15.
And I will gather you to your fathers…2 Chron 34:28.