Yesterday, I conducted my first Blessing of the Animals worship service. The weather graciously cooperated, so we held the service in a pine grove behind the Fellowship. We had many two-legged and four-legged attendees, including dogs, cats, birds, one gecko and two monarch butterfly cocoons.
The day began interestingly. When I arrived and walked toward the Fellowship, I noticed a bird sitting on the pavement. I was already fairly close when I noticed him and was surprised he had not already flown off. It occurred to me that the bird was perhaps injured, so I slowly approached, speaking calmly. He made no effort to flee and I gently stroked his feathers.
I couldn’t discern what had happened, so I went inside and got a basket, lined it with a dishcloth and returned to bring the bird in to safety. Since it was a rather large bird (perhaps six inches long), I assumed it was not a baby, but had either been hit by a car or flown into a window and injured a wing. I cut out the bottom of a paper cup and gave him some water and then began preparing for the service. I posted a picture of the little fellow on Facebook and encouraged anyone experienced to offer assistance.
I stopped by my companion every 10 minutes or so, asking him how he was doing and trying to offer some calming energy. He moved very little, and occasionally closed his eyes as if trying to rest. Since I cannot own animals in my rental home, I thought that this might be the universe’s way of offering me a living friend to bring to the animal blessing, and not a puppet or stuffed animal.
About an hour before the service, I passed by the basket. The bird’s eyes were open, but he did not seem to be breathing. I stroked him and realized that he had died, as his little body already seemed to be stiffening. I surmised that he must have suffered internal injuries and had succumbed to them.
I was disappointed that he could not be part of the blessing, saddened that I couldn’t do more to help him, and resigned to the reality that I had probably done all that could be done. At the end of the animal blessing, I brought him into the worship, as a reminder that the circle of birth and death is an essential element of Life. Ironically, I had read Gary Kowalski’s words before the sermon:
We give thanks for the animals
Who live close to nature,
Who remind us of the sanctities of birth and death,
Who do not trouble their lives with foreboding or grief,
Who let go each moment as it passes,
And accept each new one as it comes
With serenity and grace.
Holding the basket with his little body, I accepted his death with serenity and accepted his last hours of life as a gift as the grace of the cosmos. I couldn’t prevent his death. I can’t know if he understood my good intentions. Maybe all that matters is that I did what I could to make his passing peaceful. Sometimes good intentions aren’t enough, but they are all we can offer. And maybe that thread of Love will linger on, strengthening our interdependent web of all existence.