A few days ago Christine and the boys discovered a small sick bird on our front steps. It was just sitting very still and had some ice on its tail feathers. They scooped it up into a box, gave it some food water and a small towel for a nest and called a wildlife sanctuary and Teresa for info on how to care for the bird.
The plan was to let the bird rest and see if it would try to fly away the next day. If not the wildlife sanctuary said they'd take it in. Throughout the day the boys kept a vigilant watch over the bird. It seemed to be resting comfortably. It slept a lot and peaked its head up to look around every once in a while.
Just after we put the kids to bed the bird died. This wasn't unexpected. We were warned that these birds are very fragile, but it was still sad. We considered telling the boys that we let it go, but decided the truth was probably a better way to go. Telling Alex we let the bird he was looking after go, while he was sleeping, would be a major violation of the trust he put in us to watch it while he was sleeping.
The next morning Alex asked about the bird. We explained that it was sick and had died. He asked a lot of questions about when the bird would start breathing again and when it finally sunk in he was sad. I needed to get to work, but the boys some closure and more importantly, I wanted to make sure they didn't spend the day trying to hug a dead bird, so we decided to bury it.
After breakfast the boys and I got bundled up in our winter jackets and snow boots and took the bird out to the backyard. The grass was covered in a thin sheet of ice and Conner didn't weigh enough to break through. He kept slipping as he walked. We chose an out of the way spot and I started to dig.
When I was a teenager we used to get a Christmas tree with a root ball and then plant it in the yard after Christmas. As I dug a grave for the bird and I couldn't help but notice what a strange sensation it was to dig a hole through ice and snow without there being 6 inches of permafrost under the surface. Since this was the first snow of the year the ground was still soft. I don't think I'll ever forget those days of planting Christmas trees, in February, by painstakingly chiseling through the frozen ground while my father reminded me that if I had dug the hole in September, like he told me to, I wouldn't need the pickaxe.
The boys didn't seem to notice my flash of reminiscences. We buried the bird in a nice spot under a tree. When we were done saying goodbye Alex lead the way back into the house. Conner was clearly concerned about traversing the ice so I picked him up and was rewarded with a big smile. We went inside, got cleaned up, and life returned to normal.