by Joann Duran
Precious was our cockatiel. He was around 30 years old when he passed on October 21st – two days after my Mom’s birthday. My husband David and I inherited him from my mom when she could no longer care for him. We had him for 19 years. Thirty years old is pretty old for a cockatiel, and for such a small creature, he had a huge presence in our home. He was like a little reminder of my mom, who passed in 2011. She taught him little musical phrases and even a military drum roll that he used to tap out on his cage – sometimes tapping on different parts of his cage to create different sounds! Once when he escaped, he flew into the top of a big tree next door and whistled the military victory song. I laughed and cried at the same time. Eight hours later he decided to come back and landed on my head. From that moment on, he was no longer mom’s bird, but mine.
David called him Buddy, and although he wouldn’t admit it, Precious grew on him over the years. I would catch them napping together, and Dave would take his cage outside whenever he did yard work to keep him company (Precious, not him of course). Precious’ favorite place was under Dave’s chin. Any chance he could get to sit there, he would.
Precious loved to be wherever we were. He certainly had his “me” time when he would play in the closet amongst our T-shirts or sit on the special perch Dave made him in front of the bathroom mirror. But he would always come back to where one of us was. Having a quiet time? He wanted to sit on or chew your bible. Cleaning? He wanted to make sure you were doing a good job. Gardening? He wanted to sit outside and supervise.
On Precious’ last day, he was so weak that he could no longer get to his food or water, and now I needed to stay close to bring food and water to him. At his usual bedtime, I began closing his cage up to take him to the bedroom, asking the usual question, “Wanna go ni-night?” to which he normally responded with a chirp. This time he didn’t. He looked at me and with all his might tried to stand up on top of the little towel I had put around him so he wouldn’t fall over. He wanted to get out. So, instead, I took him out to cuddle which had become a daily ritual that week – but on this day he wanted another one. I put him on my chest, and we sat on the couch together and took a nap. This was to be our last cuddle. When I awoke, I was almost late to a meeting and had to whisk him off to bed. I carefully returned him to his cage saying, “Time to go ni-night” – and he just looked at me. I don’t know if he knew or what, but I will always remember that moment of eye contact. I tucked him away for the night.
In the middle of the night, I heard something – maybe the flap of a wing, maybe him falling? I got up and shined my flashlight in his cage, but he seemed undisturbed. I’ll never know what that sound was – perhaps his little spirit leaving his body? Maybe an angel’s wing come to get him? A girl can only hope…
The next morning, I went to get him up – in the last two days he didn’t seem able to chirp any more, so I couldn’t expect the usual signal that he was ready to come out. When I opened his cage, he was still propped up in his favorite corner – very still. I called to him but no response – no movement. Precious was gone.
When Dave came home, we had a burial fit for the Precious little king that he was. He now lies under the lemon tree – a daily reminder and a comforting way to know he’s “still there”.
As I reflect on Precious’ life and the lessons he taught me, Psalm 46:10
comes to mind. This was etched into a sign I once saw:
BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.
BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM.
BE STILL AND KNOW.
Precious had a strong desire to be with us – to just BE with us. He didn’t care if we were busy, or what we looked like or felt like. Sometimes he let us know quietly, and sometimes he would squawk until we had to pay attention! How similar this is to spending time with God – He doesn’t care what’s on our to-do list, or how we look or feel, He just wants to BE with us! Sometimes He lets us know with a still, small voice and sometimes it’s a brick to the head! The importance is not in the DOING but in the BEING.
Had I whisked Precious off to bed at his usual time on that last day, ignoring his strong desire to get out and BE with me, I would have missed it! That final cuddle fills my heart even today, and I suspect for all time. I took a moment to listen, to take the time to spend with him. And that little nap we took together, for the last time, taught me the importance of BEING – in the Precious moment.