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It finally happened! Yesterday, two speckled white eggs filled the nest outside my study window; in their place today, bob three naked chicks patched with gray down, their yellow beaks splitting with hunger, awaiting insects caught by their cardinal father; their mother keeps guard on a lower branch of the viburnum shrub, the afternoon sun shadowing its green leaves. For the next two weeks, frequent feedings will feather out the chicks and enable them to eat parts of berries or seeds softened by their parents.

Similar drama is enacted all over the world, the replication of the Genesis story: On day five, God created every winged bird…blessing them to multiply and fill the waters and the sky with life. It is precisely this unbroken chain of life that heartens the weary. Often when I used to walk in the nearby woods, a bird trill would seize my imagination and transport me to the wordless realm of the Sacred. A later blog told the story.

Never before this cardinal family appeared in my viburnum shrub, had I observed their instinctual caring, how it fosters fresh life with darting colors. It’s like Creator God orchestrated this event for up-close learning in my present circumstances—A more than timely lesson for me to assimilate.

And if Creator God set all this in motion what have we to fear?

 

                       In the shadow of your wings, I will sing your praises, O Lord. Psalm 63:7

 

Like a single grain of wheat tossed upon parched ground, we feel huge discomfit: estrangement from familiar routines, isolation in lockdown homes and solitary walks, the constriction of unaccustomed silence, and starvation for vital nutrients. Gone are the predictable sources of affirmation, save for our pets. Such pain and suffering are getting old: the funny jokes, no longer funny, topics of conversation lapsing into fickle weather patterns. Each morning’s tally of the victims seems to preclude considering our own.

Yet, Kovid-19 intensifies its killing swath like trigger-happy ghouls firing into the empty night. An epidemiologist likened this virus to an unpredictable Mexican jumping bean—no telling where its contagion will next appear.

How face this crisis that seems to have longer legs than first anticipated? How remain intact before its dismembering, despite slow-burning fears roasting our innards?

Back to the single grain of wheat for a response: it must die to its shortsighted will, it must allow the combing of the new deceased, it must scour the heart of stuff, it must acknowledge its creatureliness. With acceptance, comes fresh growth—this is God’s work.

Such life lessons continue informing my hospice experience, soon to enter its sixth month of praying, listening, and waiting. There’s still much to learn.

Jesus also spoke of the single grain of wheat in the Gospel of John. We’re in good company.

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