Six Lessons I Learned from a Dead Bird


I sat down to eat my breakfast the other day and promptly heard a boom against the window. I looked and saw a bird conked out on the pavement. The bird must have hit the window, conked its head, and now lay SPLAT right there in front of me, on its back.

It twitched its legs.

Besides that, it did not move.

I was about to eat my yogurt-and-granola peacefully but it seemed that the Universe had a lesson to teach me about dying.

I am a member of my village’s hevra kadisha, the burial circle, so I’m used to seeing a woman in the stillness after death. But I didn’t want to witness this poor bird’s twitching. I did not want to see those final moments before death. I thought, OK, what’s the lesson? Life is so unpredictable, short and fragile. We have to appreciate each moment. We have to find compassion for all creatures. We have to remember our own mortality. And we have to accept what we cannot change.

Got the lesson, I thought. I prayed for the little bird’s soul and its passage to the next life. I wanted to give it some privacy so I went back to eating my breakfast.

Then I felt bad for casually eating while the bird was dying, DYING, so I looked again. And—huh? The bird had popped up while I wasn’t looking. It was standing and looking around as if nothing had happened. Ha!

So what were the next lessons?

We can’t save anyone else. We can love them and pray for them but we sometimes have to sit back and let them either nap or struggle (I’m not sure which) until they can get back on their own two feet.

We don’t know the truth about anyone else. We don’t know what’s really going on in anyone else’s life. Sometimes we think someome is struggling and we can’t bear the discomfort of watching them. We want to jump in and save them. But if I had approached the bird, I might have hurt it more than I could have helped.

Finally, we can’t give up before the miracle. Just when we think it is all over, something amazing could happen. That bird was the hero of its own life story.


About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is the author of several books, including The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker), shortlisted for a National Jewish Book Award. Her novel, A Remarkable Kindness, (HarperCollins) was published in 2015. She is the First Prize Winner of Moment Magazine's 2019 Fiction Contest. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, Glamour, The Forward, The North American Review, Times of Israel, and is a reporter for Israel21C, and many other publications. She is author of Big Up Yourself: It's About Time You Like Being You and The Mom Who Took off On Her Motorcycle, a memoir of her 10,000-mile motorcycle trip to Alaska and back to New York. She lives in a small beach village in Western Galilee, Israel, with her husband and family. She is a member of the local hevra kadisha, the burial circle, and a Muslim-Jewish-Christian-Druze women's group in the nearby town of Akko. And, she likes snowboarding and climbing trees.
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8 Responses to Six Lessons I Learned from a Dead Bird

  1. juliabarrett says:

    I’m very glad the bird survived. Birds go into shock quickly- look dead. Next time pick up the bird, place it in a shoe box in a quiet dark place for an hour and then check on it, outside. If it’s alive it will perk right up and fly off. If it’s dead, well, give it a nice burial.

    • dianabletter says:

      I didn’t know that, Julia! Thank you for the information. Have you done this? And yes, I would have given it a nice burial!

  2. Poignant, beautiful lessons, Diana. A less sensitive additional lesson is this: birds often fly into windows and “stun” themselves, lying there for awhile and appearing dead.
    My daughter was four when she watched a magpie fly against our front window. She hopped off her chair and ran out the door. She knelt beside the bird and made the sign of the cross (this was during her period of imitating her Catholic friend) closed her eyes and said a prayer.
    When the bird opened its eyes and flapped its wings, Molly wasn’t shocked. She crossed herself again and proclaimed it a miracle!

    • dianabletter says:

      Hi Marylin, That’s a great story about Molly and the miracle! I like the drama, too, of her making the sign of the cross and saying a prayer. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Rhonda Blender says:

    I love this so much that I printed it out on Friday and hung it above my desk at work. I’ve never read the “not giving up before the miracle” statement before. I highlighted that with a yellow marker. As always, wonderful!

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