89: The Sparrow

89: The Sparrow

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles and More

The Sparrow

Dogs are miracles with paws.

~Attributed to Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy

My father-in-law was a kind and loyal man. His main concern in life was the welfare of his family, including my husband, Tal. After years of battling a terminal lung condition, he passed away peacefully at his home on a cold winter morning with Tal and my mother-in-law by his side.

Later that day, the family’s Golden Retriever began barking inside the house. As Tal opened the door to let out the dog, a little sparrow flew in. Darting about the living room, the tiny bird sang an energetic song to my mother-in-law and Tal. After several minutes, the bird exited through the open door, flying away into the wintry bright-white sky. Something struck Tal as unusual about the encounter, so we researched the symbolism of sparrows and discovered a legend that they can see souls and carry them to heaven.

Two years passed, seasons came and went, and it was winter once again. On a cool and clear afternoon, Tal and I took our beloved dog, Toby, for what would be his last walk. His body was shutting down from a rare autoimmune disorder. The illness had progressed rapidly, and Toby seemed to have aged ten years in a matter of days. Our once vibrant Greyhound, who used to trot gracefully down our street, now had a heavily labored stride. Even though he was exhausted, his sweet brindle face looked happy as he took in the surrounding smells. Not even a terminal disease could take away his love of a good olfactory excursion around the neighborhood.

As we returned to our condominium’s entrance, we heard a twinkling sound. Tal and I looked up and saw a wind chime made of rainbow-colored pieces dancing in the breeze on a patio above. We had never noticed it before.

An hour later, Toby passed away peacefully on his dog bed, his favorite spot in the world. He was surrounded by Tal, Redman (his brother from the same litter), and me. We said our goodbyes, and then covered him one last time with the rainbow-patterned blanket that had kept him warm on many a cold night.

Later that day, Tal and I took Redman out for a walk. Eyes swollen and hearts broken, we seemed to move in slow motion down the same path we shared with Toby only a few hours earlier. Redman also seemed to be in a haze of grief, completely disinterested in the multitude of scents hiding in the grass below.

Suddenly, a little sparrow with a brindle pattern appeared on a tree branch only a few feet away. Jumping wildly, he bounced and spun around exactly like Toby did when he was excited. Once the sparrow realized he had our attention, he hopped even closer. He sang directly to us with great intensity, leaning forward in our direction while making eye contact as if trying to communicate something.

Tal and I just stood there taking in what was happening. It was magic. The little bird’s joyful song reverberated through my being, and a strange feeling of warmth washed over me. After a few precious moments when time stood still, the sparrow flew up past the barren trees. As he ascended, the bright sun obscured him from sight. His birdsong grew more and more distant until the sound faded completely. We stood there for several moments, looking upward toward the sky. Even though I could no longer hear the sparrow’s beautiful voice, somehow I knew he was still singing. It was only after he was gone that I remembered the legend of sparrows carrying souls to heaven.

Was this last visit by a sparrow just a coincidence? Perhaps. But when I think about the miracle of life that shined in Toby’s eyes — eyes that gazed at Tal and me with boundless affection — well, frankly, our devoted dog visiting us one last time before his soul flew to heaven just makes more sense. I say that not only because of the extraordinary timing of our encounter, but because of what I felt deep inside my being when that sparrow sang his beautiful song.

~L. Bower

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