It wasn’t that unusual to look out my back door to see the neighbor children huddled around something in the yard, pointing. It seems they are always making a discovery, exploring the edges near their fence, or finding new uses for their toys.

But this time, whatever they were looking at was in MY backyard. And on closer examination, I noticed they were throwing little twigs at whatever was there, occasionally backing away with looks of surprise. Apparently, whatever was on the ground beneath their huddle was alive. I decided to see for myself.

As I walked out the door, the oldest of them, who couldn’t be more than four or five years old, pointed and said, “It’s a bird.” And sure enough, there on the ground was a small, chubby bird, rocking back and forth.

bird on a fence

“Is it hurt?” I asked, knowing it must be or it would have skedaddled away from a flock of children.

“Yes,” the little spokesman said. “It fell from the tree.”

“Well, don’t touch him,” I said. “He might hurt you because he is scared.”

By this time, their dad, who had been mowing, came over to check out the action, and confirmed the story. Since he speaks little English, he mimed a bird flying then falling, and said as he pointed up, “He came out of tree.”

Then, he told the children to move on or the bird might “peck them.” And soon they were off.

I couldn’t help but think of my little bird encounter last summer, where a baby chick landed on my fence during flying lessons and was too scared to move for days. He eventually took flight after some encouragement from another bird friend, and when I wrote about the experience here, my friend Peggy took great comfort in the story during her last days on earth. I was honored to be asked by her daughter to read that story at the funeral.

So, when I peaked out the window a little later and didn’t see the little bird standing there, I was relieved again. Another bird success story.

The next day, however, when I went out in the yard to mow, I recoiled in sadness as I rounded the corner and nearly ran over the body of the little bird. Apparently I had not been able to see him standing in the yard any longer, because he eventually had laid down to die. And as I put him to rest in a cardboard box, I couldn’t help but mourn a little for him. But also for Peggy. I had hoped for another happy ending, another story of courage.

Instead, I got another death.

But the little bird’s death did have a message for me. In a week of good news and bad news, when even though my cancer test results came back good, others are receiving unexpected news — death news, I am reminded that death doesn’t win. If my only hope lies in holding off death for as long as possible, eventually my hope will run out. Someday, I will lose if death is the winner.

But, if my hope is bigger, if my hope involves both sacrifice AND redemption, then I can carry on despite bad news and failing health and discouraging prognoses. And I can rejoice that even though a sparrow may fall, he doesn’t fall outside the loving concern of Jesus.

And neither do I.


“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:29-31