Death's Red Bird

“Come to me, come to me,” chirps the red bird in the old oak tree.

“I can’t,” I say. “I can’t.”

Slowing heart and sputtering breath, I hold on. I can’t leave yet.
I wait for the child’s voice, the lonely face, the one thing that holds me back.

“Come to me, come to me,” chirps the red bird in the old oak tree.

“Not leave?” I say. “Not leave?”

The little one enters, cheeks a’bloomin, hands a’flailing. He holds flowers, thrusts flowers into my waiting hands.
I smile, I laugh, I listen to the little voice of our future, the ones who learn from the past, shape the present, and keep hope in my heart.

“Come to me, come to me,” chirps the red bird in the old oak tree.

“Hold on,” I say. “Hold on.”

I cough, a dry, hacking cough. My body, it shudders in time with the escaped breath.
The smile, the joy, it melts from the little boy’s face. He reaches out, strokes my cheek, and is sad.
I breath in, this one holds, and I squeeze his hand in reassurance, but he is not fooled.
He knows.

“Come to me, come to me,” chirps the red bird in the old oak tree.

“Not yet,” I say. “Not yet.”

He bows his head. He knows I am leaving.
I will no longer share with the world my smiles, no longer receive the gift of rain, feel it patter against my cheeks.
He knows.
I won’t breath again, sneeze again, laugh again.
He knows.

“Come to me, come to me,” chirps the red bird in the old oak tree.

“One sec,” I say. “One sec.”

I hold his hand, I pat his head. He need not be sad, I explain. This is how it is meant to be.
He sniffles, unhappy.
I pull him in tight; hold him close to me, close to my slowing heart. That helps, I think. At least, it helps me.
He can not leave this world the way I will. I try to impress this on him, try to make him accept this gift God has bestowed. The rain, the wind, the starry night. Life.

“Come to me, come to me,” chirps the red bird in the old oak tree.

“Almost,” I say. “Almost.”

He wiggles in my grasp; I am holding him far too tight. But not for me. He tilts his head, watching me, and reaches out to pat my cheek. His soft palms rest upon my wrinkled cheek, the wrinkles that tell my story, my life, my past. I don’t want him to leave.

But he must leave, must make his own story, his own life, his own past. He must accept my gift, God’s gift. Life.

He lifts his head, he turns and ventures out of my sight.
He will love the laughter now, cherish the rain, and share the smiles that I cannot. I settle back; peaceful now, for my gift is passed on.

“Come to me, come to me,” chirps the red bird in the old oak tree.

“All right,” I say. “All right.”





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