The Spring semester of my sophomore year was a pretty rough semester. Not only was I taking four art classes, (6 hours a week, each, although they only count for 3 hours a week,) but it was also my first year as a Learning Community Resident Assistant and I had other classes and commitments, as well. A lot of things went wrong that semester and made me miss school.
One of those things was a sparrow.
I can’t remember exactly what I had been working on, but I remember I had just come into the Tower Hall from the art building. I was either working on traditional photography or linoleum printmaking…both were really time-consuming and required a lot of work outside of class. Anyways, I entered Tower and walked behind the Front Desk where the RAs work and often spend a lot of time. I generally stop by to visit with the working RA before heading up to my room. RA Ariel immediately jumped up from her studying and exclaimed, “Noelle! Your residents brought something for you!” she exclaimed.
I had had a really long, hard, tiring day and I couldn’t wait to get to sleep. In fact, I had had a really long, hard, tiring semester. A little pick-me-up from some residents would be a wonderful little surprise! “Really? My residents brought me something?” I asked.
Ariel told her friend who was on the opposite side of the desk to get what the residents dropped off. She interrupted her studying and dashed to one of the tables that was in the center of the lobby. I saw her pick up a styrofoam container used for storing food you get “to-go” and began thinking, “Food? My residents brought me food? That’s sweet of them…I often miss meals because of how busy I am, so it’s nice that they thought of me.” My heart was filling with warmth until suddenly, it was crushed.
As the girl brought the container up, I became confused. It didn’t look like there was food in it…What was that? As the container was placed on the desk, I found that it was stuffed with a small blue towel. The girl pulled back the towel to reveal a small, injured sparrow. I gasped as my eyes took in the horrid sight of the bird. His head looked crushed as blood stained the feathers around his eyes and mouth. His body was limp as the bird lay in the container, wings withdrawn and legs drawn in. The bird’s entire body shuddered with each breath, appearing as if the bird was struggling just to breath. My heart dropped and my tears began to swell.
“Your residents found this bird lying in the road and came in here looking for you,” Ariel explained as her friend picked up the bird wrapped in the blue towel.
“Me? Why me?” I asked as the girl handed the bird to me.
“Well, they know how much you love animals. They figured you’d know what to do…”
“I-I don’t really know what to do…I don’t…I’m not a vet…Can we take him to a vet?” I began to hold the small bird in my hands. I held him close to my face to look him over, though it pained me to do so.
“I don’t know,” Ariel sighed. “We didn’t know what to do, either. The residents brought down this towel and we put him in this thing. It’s all we had…It’s been about an hour maybe…”
I continued to watch the small bird, holding him as carefully as I could. I felt that maybe he shouldn’t have been picked up in the first place. I watched his quick, short breaths. Huff, huff. Huff, huff. Huff, huff…His breaths seemed to be echoing his heartbeats. I didn’t know what to do. What could I do for this bird? What could I do?!
Suddenly, the huffs stopped. The sparrow did not draw another breath.
All three of us held our own breaths as we waited…
That sparrow died in my hands that night. I held that sparrow as he drew his final, dying breath. He was only in my life for about five minutes, but that tiny little bird has left a stain on my heart. I still feel deeply for that bird and it pains me to write this.
“Is he-?” asked Ariel’s friend.
“I don’t know!” Ariel cried out.
I stood silent, glancing from girl to girl, praying that the bird would begin breathing again.
He never did.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Noelle!” cried Ariel. “Oh, I’m so sorry!” I looked at her with tears welling in my eyes. “Oh, please. Please, don’t cry!”
As soon as she finished her sentence, the tears in my eyes broke their barrier and began streaming down my face. I began crying for that bird. I cried for his pain and for his sad ending. Not really knowing what to do, I cautiously placed the bird back in the container, moving slowly and methodically. I pulled the towel over the bird, just up to his neck as if I was tucking him into bed. I wanted him to be comfortable. My mind became overwhelmed with thoughts. Why did the bird die? Why couldn’t I do anything? Why did he have to suffer? I was so frustrated.
Ariel continued to plead for me to stop crying as she relentlessly apologized. She looked as if she was about to cry, herself.
After minutes of shock, I finally broke myself from that moment. I finally moved from that spot. I finally tore my mind from that subject. I finally left the bird.
I resumed my return to my room, unlocked the door, and fell on my bed. I cried for that bird. I cried and cried and cried for him. I stayed up several hours crying in sadness and bewilderment. I cried in frustration and regret. I cried.
Although I had planned to go to bed early and wake up on time for my 8:00am class, my plans were detoured. I was up all night with that bird in my thoughts. I did not go to class the next morning. I couldn’t bring myself to do it as my mind was entangled with emotions. I just couldn’t do it.
Later, when I finally returned to class days later, I ended up bring the bird with me in my heart. We were starting a screenprinting project and I created a design honoring the sparrow that died in my hands. I drew the sparrow flying off the edge of the image, representing his fleeting life and his departure through death.
Though that spirit may have been just a bird, I loved him, and he will be missed.
I’m sorry sparrow. I’m really sorry.