Last night, a bird flew into our kitchen window. We were eating supper when it happened. We heard a loud crash against the glass. My wife and I walked into the backyard to find a red-bellied woodpecker, lying on the grass, convulsing.

My wife picked it up. She held it. We talked to it.

“It’s a baby,” said my wife, who was starting to cry. “I think it broke its neck.”

She wasn’t only crying about the bird. At least not entirely. She was crying because this world has given us a lot to cry about lately. Quarantines. Riots. Deaths. It’s been difficult to keep smiling.

We named the bird Beatrice. We put Beatrice into a shoebox and fed her wet cat food. We watched her sleep on a bed of pine straw.

The thing is, we’ve been finding a lot of wounded animals like this since the quarantine began. I guess we have nothing else better to do. Last month alone we nursed one wounded cat, one broken-winged butterfly, and one lame starling. The cat survived. The butterfly died. The starling needed professional medical care.

I found the starling outside my office one morning. It was a baby bird, brown-and-white speckled, flailing on the ground. My wife named him Boomer. Boomer slept in a shoebox beside our bed. We thought he would improve, but he didn’t.

Finally, when Boomer’s wing didn’t seem to be getting better, we called a wildlife rehab. We drove a few hours to get there.

That day, there were a few people ahead of us in line, cradling boxes that contained animals. There was a little girl, with bright blonde hair, wearing red tennis shoes. She held a box with a wild rabbit in it. Her mother was beside her. We were all standing on the sidewalk, wearing face masks, waiting our turn.

“This is a rabbit,” the girl told me.

I smiled. “You don’t say.”

“I found him. His name is Larry.” This kid was all business.

“Larry can’t walk or run,” she went on. “But he’s cool. I’ve had him since last week.” Her eyes focused on my shoebox. “Hey, what kind of animal do you have?”

The girl opened my box without even asking. Obviously she hadn’t heard about social distancing regulations.

“OH MAN! IT’S A BIRD, MOM! I LOVE THOSE THINGS!”

Her mother apologized for her daughter’s outburst. “I’m sorry, she just loves animals. We’re always rescuing them. She and her grandmother are always rescuing tons of cats and squirrels, even a baby alligator.”

The girl held her arms out like she was measuring a big fish. “Me and my grandma found an alligator that was THIS big. I wanted to keep it, but grandma said alligators eat lap dogs.”

The sun was getting hot while we waited for the nurse to receive our animals. I could see the little girl starting to get emotional when she realized that her time with Larry was coming to an end. Her mood was getting more somber.

Her mother kept reminding her: “Sweetie, don’t be sad, remember what your grandma always says.”

But the girl wasn’t thinking of Grandma. She ignored her mother and stroked Larry’s head. “Rabbits are my favorite animal,” she said to me. “What’s your favorite animal?”

“Dogs are my favorite animal.”

The girl’s attention drifted back to Larry. She lifted Larry from his box and held him, wetting his fur with her kisses. She was talking to Larry like he could understand her. To say this child loved her rabbit would be an understatement. This little girl would have stepped in front of a train for Larry.

Finally, the nurse came to take the animal. But the girl was having a hard time letting go. She tried to be brave, but it was not working. She began to sob. Her mother had to pry the animal loose from her arms.

“They’re gonna take care of you, Larry,” the girl said. “They’re gonna make you all better. I love you.”

The woman in scrubs took Larry away, they disappeared through the back doors. And we could all feel the girl’s heart shatter into a million pieces. The tears of a child are precious.

“Remember what your grandma says,” said her mother again, wiping the girl’s face.

My curiosity got the best of me. I just had to know. So I asked her mother what Grandma always says.

Her mother said. “Grandma says ‘Love is the best medicine, and that’s the best thing we can give.’”

Before they left, the child wiped her her snotty nose with her palms. “I hope your bird feels better,” the girl said.

I watched them pile into their minivan before driving away. And I sure hope that child found another wounded animal to love.

Anyway, today we took the woodpecker to a wildlife hospital across the county line. It was the same scenario as before, more or less. The same hot weather. Same surgical masks. Same shoebox containing a bird.

My wife kept lifting the shoebox lid and whispering to the bird until we turned it over to the nurses. When the lady came to take the animal away, my wife whispered to the bird, “Goodbye, Beatrice. We love you.”

We both waved farewell on our way out the door. I felt sort of silly waving goodbye to a woodpecker, but I’m getting used feeling silly.

My wife was smiling, but her eyes were pink. She leaned her head into my shoulder.

“Don’t be sad,” I told her. “Remember what Grandma always says.”

And in these troubled times, I hope I never forget.

20 comments

  1. MR - June 2, 2020 11:09 am

    And boy, do we need some of Grandma’s medicine now, more than ever.

    Reply
  2. Keloth Anne - June 2, 2020 11:34 am

    Loved reading this — a wonderful way to begin Tuesday morning. Love surely is the best medicine and you two certainly spread it around! The positive of my many days of this “quarantine” and having Much time alone —- I seem much more aware of the beauty and amazing world and all its great creatures. Sometimes I think staying home—away from the cruel world—might not be so bad.
    Thank you ♥️♥️

    Reply
  3. Marilyn - June 2, 2020 12:01 pm

    Bless you and Jamie for loving animals enough to see that they are properly cared for. Those who love animals also love people. This is a wonderful reminder that we all are to love one another, regardless of color or creed.

    Reply
  4. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - June 2, 2020 12:04 pm

    Grandma is a wise woman.

    Reply
  5. Dianne - June 2, 2020 12:06 pm

    There is a song that is sung by Babbie Mason called Love Is The More Excellent Way, and it most certainly is. Love is something that the world desperately needs now more than ever.

    Reply
  6. Joyce Barrett - June 2, 2020 12:15 pm

    Nature reveals such wonder and revelation about life when we slow down enough to actually absorb it and let it impact us as God intended. And yes, so many animal stories in these days, some sweet, some so very sad. Even now, there are four baby wrens being tended by their wren mommy and daddy in a burrow in my potted ivy plant on our screened-in lanai. They found a tiny opening at the bottom of the screen and nested in what they might have considered a safe place. A first-in-corona-visit from little grandchildren is showing them new life, the love and care of a little bird family and how God wants us to know His plan for what many see as insignificant creatures. Lessons for all of us.

    Reply
  7. Susan A. Royal - June 2, 2020 12:29 pm

    We need to remember to be like that little girl and have compassion for all living things..

    Reply
  8. Cleo Goddard - June 2, 2020 12:37 pm

    Sean, thank you for this post. What a great show of love from you two and the little girl! It makes me think of the hymn, “His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me…”.

    Reply
  9. Diane Wendorf - June 2, 2020 12:45 pm

    Hi. I just read your book. It made me laugh and cry. A friend gave me your book knowing I needed some special comfort. Get that. I’m a minister. She’s a musician. Go figure. We take care of each other. Anyways, thank you for today’s post too.

    Reply
  10. Berryman Mary M - June 2, 2020 12:47 pm

    Love is always the best medicine, Sean. Thanks for today’s thoughts.

    Reply
  11. Kathleen Manfredo - June 2, 2020 1:17 pm

    Thank you Sean- this really touched my soul.

    Reply
  12. Donna - June 2, 2020 2:39 pm

    Such a lovely reminder to (turn off the tube) stop and taste the sweetness of the world. Thank You Sean.

    Reply
  13. Goober Fife - June 2, 2020 4:31 pm

    Another Good one Sean…Keep them coming Lord know we need them!…

    Reply
  14. Linda Moon - June 2, 2020 4:54 pm

    I loved reading about all this love for birds and other creatures. You’re right about Jamie’s tears for Beatrice, the bird. They weren’t just for her. I think the Priest you talked to yesterday would agree that Someone loves us and the sparrows more than we can ever imagine, maybe especially during troubled times. And the girl’s grandmother was right about love and medicine, but I’ll add one more to it…..laughter is the best medicine for me, with some love mixed in. So please stay silly, Sean, to keep me healthy! And tell Jamie that “Uma” loves her!

    Reply
  15. Laurie - June 2, 2020 5:11 pm

    Sean and Jamie, thank you so much for this post and for being you. I have read so many of your stories, but this one has touched me like no other. It took me back to a childhood with a very special Mama who taught us respect and care for all things living. I have many memories of bottle fed baby bunnies, birds, and even a butterfly with deformed wings that we kept and fed sugar water. Luckily, this weirdness has been passed down to my children and grandchildren! As long as there are people in the world like you and Jamie, and that little angel in line with Larry, there is hope for this world! Thank you so much!! You overfilled my heart today. ❤️

    Reply
  16. Patricia Gibson - June 2, 2020 7:10 pm

    I hope I don’t forget either and love to you and your wife❤️

    Reply
  17. MAM - June 2, 2020 11:36 pm

    Awwww… yes, the tears overflowed!

    Reply
  18. Mary Boutelle - July 11, 2020 3:11 am

    I rescued a baby bird when the nest was destroyed in a storm. I hit attached to him in a few days, but knew I couldn’t provide the constant care he needed. I took him to a wildlife rehabilitator and three weeks later I received a nice letter telling me they had just released the bird. It’s a nice feeling that I saved a life.

    Reply
  19. Jeanne Fitzgerald - July 11, 2020 12:28 pm

    You are a very special human, who has been given a very special gift from God Himself. You have a unique purpose on this earth, Sean Dietrich. The rest of us humans are the benefactors of your gift.. Thank you for for being willing to fulfill your purpose. ❤

    Reply
  20. Joe Patterson - July 12, 2020 5:12 pm

    Another beautiful story thanks for sharing

    Reply

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