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Where there’s a will

Jude Simpson


Certain strange little jobs have become mine by reason of being the first to arrive downstairs each morning. Removing the knives from the dishwasher before the customary daily argument between two toddlers who've both developed a psychotic need to unload and put away the cutlery.  (The interaction will still be furious, but at least now not fatal.)  Unlocking the back door and placing the key in an unreachable place (for reasons to do with children, washing machines, toilets and drains).  And lastly, scooping up tiny, dead, ragged baby birds from the patio.

It's one of Spring's most poignant tasks.  As seasonal as gambolling lambs, daffodils and love, but  as tragic as Autumn. A flightless scramble of skinny feathers and stiff little legs. A reminder of lost children or never-born babies.  A poke in the eye from a cruel, cyclical Mother Nature.

Gently wielding the dustpan and brush, I coax the bird on tenderly, squeamishly. Then I  hesitate as to where best to dispose of the minuscule mess.  Black bin or green?

The Council's checklist does not specify which bin to use for the remains of baby birds. I cannot (in this present moment) bring myself to categorise them alongside chicken bones. Buddhists might peacefully put them in the recycling bin. I go for green.  The colour of trees.

Meanwhile, on my desk inside, sits a will-writing pack. There aren't many superstitious bones in my body, but every time I consider beginning this morbid task, I imagine a wonderstruck Christian whispering to the lady next to her at my funeral, 'She'd written her will just the night before!  The Lord knew...!'

Yes the Lord knows.  But I'm fairly sure he's unlikely, in deciding whether to sustain or snuff me out, to be swayed by my procrastination in writing down my last requests.  Still I can't bring myself to do it.

Everything in us clings on to life, while life itself in all its glory and bitterness often seems indifferent as to whether we are clamped on or not.

But this is to confuse Mother Nature with Father God.  It's easy to do - especially when God is clearly a better Mother.  Mother Nature is what we call the myriad ingrained ways that the living world maintains, prunes, ends and regrows itself. God is beyond that. To be the giver of life, you have to be larger than life.

Was it really only a middle-aged housewife and her Cath Kidston dustpan who bore witness to the tiny bird bundle in my garden?  No. God was there. Wasn't it Jesus who said, even when a tiny bird falls to the ground, our heavenly Father knows?

And we are worth more than many sparrows. That thought seems callous in the face of this tiny bird tragedy - ha, I'm worth more than loads of you - but the point is not that we overestimate God's love for sparrows, but that we vastly underestimate his besottedness with us as human beings.