I awoke to rain streaming down my window and Gabriel sobbing at my bedside, “Mom, I think the chicks are dead” he choked, “I thought they were sleeping, but they won’t wake up.”
Pulling him into my arms, we cried and with a prayer on my forehead we walked to the tub together. I’d hoped he was wrong, but they were gone. Silent and still.
Back to bed, we hid under my comforter, crying and talking for the next hour. Erik dutifully supplied us with Kleenex and reassuring words.
“Maybe,” Gabe sobbed, “maybe, we only have to wait three days and they’ll be resurrected.” I explained a bit and we decided together that baby chicks, beloved kittens and puppy dogs will all be resurrected when Christ comes again.
Mary, Xander, Hans and Stefan joined us in our tears, but nobody mourned the chicks quite like Gabriel. He had spent the most time with them, admired each feather and cheered them on at each hop and flutter.
Nestling them in a tiny box, we stepped outside for a solemn chickie funeral. Rain fell as we buried them amidst the strawberries, marking the spot with a flat red rock.
Yes, if we were farmers I would need to harden my children a bit to headless chickens and slaughtered cows. But we are not, our chickens are pets. And in this world where video games aim to “kill, kill, kill” and action movies stack up the body count, I am grateful for their sensitivity and sweetness. I have no desire to “toughen up” my boys; real men DO cry.
Yes, a tender heart can make life difficult (I know this all too well), but true empathy, the ability to feel and tend to others’ pain, has made my life infinitely richer.
Our day progressed quietly and with a renewed sense of life’s fragility. Gabe and Mary crawled into the same bed as night fell, whispering about baby chicks and angels. I tiptoed into Xander and Hans’ room and found my sweet Xander with tears on his pillow, “Why did they have to die? We did everything we could for them. Why did they have to die?”
The loss of a chick is simple and small, easily forgotten, but I know this will prepare them for larger tragedies, they will be a bit more able to mourn with those who mourn. And this time at least, it was better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.