Bless the dying

Yesterday I gave a blessing to a baby bird who was hiding in a little pocket of packed dirt between the posts of a wrought-iron fence. It was a little puffball of baby bird downy feather, its two little eyes staring wildly onto the sidewalk. We wouldn’t have seen it if my dog hadn’t sniffed at it before deciding to keep walking. It camouflaged flawlessly with the dust.

“We have to save it,” said Lou.

”We can’t save it,” I responded. “It’s sick already and is going to die.”

”I know,” Lou replied. “But can’t we just take it home and let it be comfortable until it dies?”

I sighed. “You know that COVID-19 probably came from a bat or something, right?”

We stood in silence for a moment and watched the little shivering bird. “Would you like me to give it a blessing?” I asked. Lou nodded.

I knelt on the sidewalk and stretched out my hand close to the little bird, the orphan discarded from its mothers nest, the one not given a fair chance at life, the one who would huddle under fence posts until the blessing of death descended. I looked into its little eyes as I spoke, and after I said, “Amen,” we said goodbye.

I cannot make sense of this.

There is no sense to be made of this.

What I do know is this: we can all bless the spaces we are in. And wherever we are, it matters.

We can bless the spaces we are in. Gently, and always inadequately. But we can do it. This is the work of a chaplain, to bless the most difficult spaces, whatever that looks like, even in the midst of suffering. Even in the midst of death.

If we give up that calling, my friends, we have definitely lost.

I want to share with you today not a scripture passage, but one of my very favorite prayers from the Episcopal tradition. Maybe it will help you bless this darkening time, or even the darkening of your own spirit, as it has for me.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.


1 thought on “Bless the dying”

  1. Thank you, Rev. April. Your story of the little bird is incredibly sad, and contains the anxieties we probably all have now about touching any one and any thing – and the difficulties of being alone. It is most important through this that we maintain contact with those we know who live alone, or are vulnerable or anxious. (BTW I am praying for the little bird.!) Thank you for the lovely prayer.
    Blessings for you and your family, Jane


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