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A Little Pile Of Seeds-


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This post also appears on my Blog- http://alittlepileofseeds.blogspot.com/ I am placing it here because I hve heard from many that it has helped them to reconcile the complaints of their friends and family about their "non-productive" behavior while they are greiving..

One Thursday this past April Jesse (my seven-year-old) was running a temperature of 101 degrees when he woke up in the morning. I stayed home with him. Around noon I had to take him out to do a couple of errands that couldn't wait. On our way to the car, we found a dead song sparrow lying in the driveway next to the car. I explained to Jesse that sometimes a bird will get fooled by the way sunlight reflects off glass and fly into a window with so much force that they break their necks. I surmised that that is what happened to this poor little bird. Jesse proceeded to inspect all the windows of the car until he found a tiny fluff of feather still clinging to the glass at the point of impact. We decided that we would bury the bird when we returned. When we returned, however, Jesse was spiking another fever and was so tired I took him inside and we forgot about the bird. The next morning the bird was still there but I had to hurry big brother Dave off to school while my wife Cathy stayed with Jesse. The bird lay there unburied until I got home from work. When I finally got the chance to dig a little grave and go to collect the bird for burial, it was about 6pm on Friday. As I approached it, I couldn't believe what I saw. There was a pile of sunflower seeds next to its beak. Not just a little pile, it was very nearly as big as the bird. At first I thought maybe Jesse had done this but as I looked more carefully, I could see that the seeds had been carried there and the shells had been cracked open and the kernels had been left in the forlorn hope that they might inspire a miracle. The little bird who did this beautiful, heartbreaking thing was undoubtedly the mate of the other.

A song sparrow is a small bird, unable to carry more than one of those seeds at a time. One can only imagine the desperate emotion that drove that bird to and from the bird feeder so many times on this errand of devotion. Of course, that was the height of mating season. Animal behaviorists might tell you that all this is no more than an artifact of the mating behavior that was interrupted by this untimely death. I wouldn't get involved in that discussion myself. There is probably a little truth to that theory but there is a greater truth to be had here. These are times in which loyalty and devotion are easy to mock. In both business and our personal lives we are encouraged to think about the cost/benefit ratio of everything we do. Is the status quo "working" for you right now? Are you getting the maximum return on your time and money? If not, change things! Lay off 10% of the workforce. Leave your relationship. Forget doing what you love and learn to love doing something that pays better. We often take the paradigms of the global marketplace and evolution to indicate that we need to make these decisions with an entirely cold and appraising intellect.

Yes, what happened to this little bird is sad, but if you look deeper, there is hope and comfort that outweighs the sadness. As it is written in Koheleth (Ecclesiastes), “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.” The cost of building that pile of seeds was far in excess of any possible benefit for the surviving bird. A more “adaptive” behavior, one that would have yielded a better return would have been to move on and find another mate. But those “adaptive” behaviors are in the house of feasting. In the house of mourning you can glimpse the greater power that redeems the sadness, pain and privations from which feasting and wealth can only provide ephemeral insulation. If we only had eyes to see it and a heart to understand it, it is everywhere but we can encounter it most directly when the time of loss comes. It is this spirit (force? being? order?) that transcends the simplistic logic and arithmetic of narrow self-interest. Call it God or Karma or Love or anything else you like - It shines through in that little pile of seeds and it animates billions of such miracles every second. © 2006 Jerome N. Gould

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Funny....I'd just read this story recently somewhere else....a beautiful testament to the love that lies within every living creature, through relationship, no matter the species...and a reminder, too, that some of the most profound lessons are demonstrated by our fellow travellers on this planet, if we have the inner vision and wisdom to see.

I also personally know a woman who witnessed similar behaviour between a rescued lovebird and cockatiel who loved each other, when the cockatiel died. The lovebird tried to put his beloved on her feet, tried to feed her, and once he realized his efforts were in vain, he crept into the corner of the aviary and grieved for months.

We are all more similar than not. I believe that, as Susan Chernak McElroy said, "Either all death is important, or no death is important." We all become "non-productive" and suffer the same kinds of sorrows over the loss of those we love. Thank you for sharing this poignant story here.

Edited by Maylissa
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I remember when I had to have my 16 year old cat put to sleep, how my other cat would wander around and cry all night, looking for him. I don't like cats to sleep with me, but I let her for a few nights, and that seemed to comfort both of us.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi All,

Thank you Cain, for sharing this wonderful story and I just think sharing is a wonderful way to show you care. I remember when my mom first died, my dog Chelsea went all through the house looking for her and whining. I told her that grandma loved her but had to go away. After awhile Chelsea seemed to understand and stopped whinning. But when my dad died Chelsea started up again and when I had to give her to my brother because I could not keep her where I moved to my brother told me she started up the whining again. I try to see her atleast once a month and it seems to help her deal with everything she has gone through. Take care All and here is a great big hug for you All. Shelley

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