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I’m so sorry for your loss, Emily Dickinson

Aka, Hope is a thing with feathers, but this one seems to have passed on

One April, a few years ago, I was a calm, collected college chaplain, and I was shepherding my college students to a conference in Davis, California.  

This didn’t go according to plan.  

Despite leaving plenty early for our flight out of Phoenix, our caravan got caught in an epic traffic jam in the Arizona desert.  (Long story short, there was an accident involving live cows on the highway, and it had to be closed for over 18 hours.) 

We missed our flight.  We missed it by a couple of hours. 

 After an energetic game of Whose Phone will Work In A Canyon?, the lady at US Air first informed me that she could get us on the next flight for the tidy sum of $7,500– change fees plus the increase in ticket price.  (The Spirit intervened, and that call dropped.)   
The next lady I spoke to was quiet for a moment, and said, “I’m not telling you this, you know.  But if you just didn’t show up for your flight, they’d have to put you on the next one for free.  But I can’t tell you that.” Click. 
  We finally arrived at the airport in time for the second flight to Davis, and I talked our way onto the plane–turns out that second lady I never spoke to was correct!– and made it to California.  

So the time we arrived at the hotel that night at around 11:30pm, I was a bundle of nerves.  I hadn’t really eaten, I was exhausted, and all I wanted was to sit down, eat a sandwich, drink a glass of wine, and cry.  

No sooner had I released the students, and sat down in the hotel bar with the other chaplains, then I felt someone looking at me.  I looked up, and sure enough, there stood my students, all in a row, staring at me, unblinking.  “Y’all look like cats, waiting to be fed,” I said. “What’s up?” 

It came out all at once. “Megan, there’s this bird….” “Megan, we found this bird, he’s dead” “His name is Davy.” “He died, and it was horrible and can you do a funeral?” “Can you do a funeral for a bird?” “Can you do a funeral for Davy?” 

To be entirely honest, this was not a thrilling prospect for me at that particular moment.  I did not want to go back out at midnight, in the cold, in the dark, in the wet, to find and bury a dead bird.  And yet, the words I heard coming out of my mouth were “Sure, ok, let me go get my stole.” 

So off we went, off into the night.  We found Davy, and the students told me what had happened. He had gotten attacked and killed by a bigger bird (in front of the students) and thus had met his end.  So knowing this, one of the other chaplains and I improvised some prayers: giving thanks for Davy’s life, and for all the creatures of God, who rest in God’s love and show forth endless creativity of creation.  The birds of the air and the lilies of the field, and even, though I am loathe to admit it, the cows.  

The funeral of Davy the Bird was a Spirit-filled moment for me.  In that mysterious way ritual has, prayering together spoke louder into everyone’s collective exhaustion and fear than anything else could have.  I was lucky to have buried Davy.  In a perfect way, that was precisely what I needed to be doing just then.  It was what we all needed, and the Spirit knew it.  

Rest in peace, Davy.

This post is a participating post in the Acts8 BLOGFORCE on "When have you felt the Holy Spirit in the Episcopal Church?"

Other BLOGFORCE member posts on this topic (Link active on the Friday following this post)

The Acts8 Moment is a missionary society whose purpose is to "Proclaim resurrection in the Episcopal Church."

About megancastellan

Episcopal priest, writer, wearer of fancy shoes.

2 responses »

  1. To me there’s something special about birds – thank you for taking the time!

  2. One year when hatching chicks in my kindergarten, one of them died after a couple of days. We had a funeral, although our para took it home for burial. Each of the kids said something they loved about our chick. My favorite was the one who loved it because it was so yellow. It was pretty amazing. The kids are now out of college…


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