Popular culture has often portrayed angels as beautiful women with wings and long, flowing hair dancing over fluttery, white gowns. As a child, I envisioned my guardian angel in this way. When I was afraid, I would close my eyes and ask my angel for protection and guidance.
Through the years, life has brought me in contact with many angels who led me away from danger and taught me valuable lessons. One such experience came when I was nineteen years old and spending the summer on Long Island with my grandmother. The house where my grandmother lived was in Rocky Point, directly across from the Long Island Sound. One morning I walked outside into the yard and found a tiny, baby bird. He had no feathers and his beak was open and pointing towards the sun.
I knew he needed someone to take care of him. I excitedly called to my grandmother and she hurried outside to see what the commotion was about. When she saw the bird, she said, “His mother must have seen something wrong with him and thrown him out of the nest.” I thought this was unbelievably cruel and I asked my grandmother if we could take him inside and help rescue him. She reluctantly agreed.
There was an empty room upstairs, and Nana suggested we make a place for him there. Some old towels provided a little “nest” for him in the corner. I decided to name him “Tweety” after the bird in the old Sylvester and Tweety cartoons. He definitely lived up to his name. Every morning at 4 a.m. he would chirp impatiently for his food. At the first sound of his cry I sprang out of bed and brought him his breakfast of Karo-syrup and mealworms.
Since he had no feathers I didn’t even know what kind of a bird he was. His first feathers were blue, so I originally thought he was a blue-jay. He changed every day, and it was exciting to watch him grow. He was beginning to look like a chubby ball of red and brown feathers, and I soon realized that Tweety was a baby robin. At this point, he was Disney-cute and had completely stolen my heart. The beach and boyfriends could wait. I had no time for anything but Tweety!!
Tweety would purch on my finger as I moved my hand up and down. He would open and close his wings and eventually learned how to fly. It was exhilarating to watch him glide around the room. At this point, he was also starting to communicate with me in his own “robin language.” He would turn his head from side to side and look at me intently with each eye. Also, he would fly to me, sit on my shoulder and nuzzle my long, curly hair in his beak.
As the days passed, Tweety would sit longingly by the window and watch the other birds fly into the trees. Nana told me that it wasn’t fair to keep him inside anymore. Deep inside I knew she was right. Although it broke my heart, the next morning I opened the window and watched him fly outside. It was bittersweet to see the wings I taught to fly soar towards the bluff overlooking the Sound. My heart hurt as he flew into the morning air. I whispered “Good luck, Tweety,” as he disappeared from my life as quickly as he came. I had a good cry and then went downstairs to help my grandmother in the kitchen. That night, I went to sleep with tears in my eyes. Although it seemed like forever, I must not have been sleeping very long when I was awakened by a familiar cry. Could it be? I raced upstairs to find my Tweety sitting on his “nest” waiting for his breakfast. I had left the window open just in case he wanted to come home, but really didn’t expect to see him again.
During the next week, Tweety flew in and out at will. I was already making plans to bring him back home to Manhattan and introduce him to the “city pigeons” who lived on the roof!! He seemed so happy until one day he just stopped eating. He constantly sat in his corner and was getting thinner every day. I brought him to a wildlife vet who said he had something called “gapeworm.” He gave me antibiotics to treat the worms. I religiously gave him the medicine over the next few days, but unfortunately, Tweety wasn’t responding. One morning I went upstairs and he was gone.
I held him in my arms and cried uncontrollably. My grandmother came upstairs and put her arms around me. She said “Come, let’s go outside and bury him in the garden.” In the garden again, I started to cry. My grandmother held my hand and said “Tweety is at peace now. He is not suffering.” “The people who are left behind suffer because they miss the soul who passed.” She then asked me to remember what she said when I first found Tweety that “his mother probably knew he was sick and threw him out the nest.” “We are only here on this earth for as long as God wants us here, and then he brings us home.” As we continued to lay Tweety to rest, Nana continued to tell me “Because of you, Tweety got to experience life, if even for a short time, and because of him, you had the gift of watching the miracle of life.” “Even though you are no longer together in this world, you will always have a special bond.” After the burial, we went back inside for dinner.
The next day, I received a phone call from my mother. My father had pneumonia and was in the hospital. I told my grandmother I was going to see him and asked if she wanted to come. She said she was tired, and would stay home and rest, but to send my father her love.
When my mother, brother and I came home we called for my grandmother but she didn’t answer. When I heard my mother cry “oh my God,” my heart skipped a beat. Nana had passed away while sewing a bedspread. She still had the needle and thread in her hands.
Finding her like this was my worst nightmare come true. However, I believe my “guardian angel” allowed her to have a final talk with me foreshadowing her journey to teach and protect me from the harsh reality of death. Because of my “special angel” my grandmother told me just hours before her death that “it’s not the departed who suffer, but those who are left behind,” and that “when God’s plan for us on earth has been fulfilled he calls us home.”
Watching Tweety grow and instinctively learn to become a robin was a celebration of life that I shared with a small creature. Along with the celebration of life comes the reality that life on this earth will eventually end. However this ending doesn’t sever the bonds with those we love, and is also a new beginning of life with our creator; a creator who sends us unlikely angels to protect and guide us.