Today, I watched a bird suffer and die.
I was finishing my meal at a chinese restaurant, about to crack open the fortune cookie, when I heard a rattling slap on the window to my left. Seeing no one outside, I looked down to see what had hit the window and there it was, fluttering on the sidewalk. Small grey bird with generic brown markings, short but pointed beak in black. The beak was curled downward at the tip, most likely from the impact. Five people trickled by in the first minute; it fluttered and tried to get away from them but got no further than two feet from where it landed. The people noticed, some bent over to see it, but sensing the need for more help than they could invest, they walked on. And I sat inside watching.
I don’t know if the wind was knocked out of it. I don’t know if it was dazed, but for a bird its movements were erratic. The damage was obvious. It pulled its wings in, tried to get up on its feet but failed in standing. Its head twitched and its mouth was open as it tried to breathe. The breaths were deep and fast, and then shallow and fast, and then its eyes lowered and closed. The breaths were shallow and slow, and then nothing. A few seconds of motionlessness, and then its tail and legs twitched. I have seen a death rattle.
The fortune cookie read, “You will be showered with good fortune.”
The horror of death is to die alone and unnoticed. I could not help this bird to live, but I was there to help make its unfortunate death meaningful. I paid attention. The biblical verse of Luke 12:6 says “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.” This bird will not go forgotten.