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Love Bird

Squirt was always there to lift her spirits.

An artist's rendering of a baby bird bathing in a small ceramic dish

Animals were always welcome in my house. So when a little girl in my son Eric's kindergarten class found a cracked bird's egg on the ground, she brought it right to our front door.

"Can you take care of it, Mrs. Wagner?" she asked, offering up the challenge in her palms.

The egg was hatching right before my eyes. A tiny beak pecked out through the shell. "I'll do my best," I promised, and took the lost little creature in. I found a plastic dish and put the egg inside. Peck by peck a wet brown chick fought its way out. She was no bigger than a nickel.

My husband, Dan, watched over my shoulder. "Tiny little squirt, isn't she?" he said.

"She sure is. I think that's what I'll call her. Squirt."

I hunted down an eyedropper just small enough to fit in her beak. The pet shop didn't carry baby bird food, but the salesman thought kitten formula might do the trick. Squirt seemed to like it.

We set her up in a cage with newspaper lining. Every day I drove home from work on my lunch hour to feed her.

One afternoon my son Jason watched me give Squirt her daily bath. Her happy chirps made me believe this was the high point of her day. I splashed water with my fingers in a saucer. Squirt fluttered her wings beside them.

"I hope she stays right here with us forever," said Jason.

"Squirt's going back to the wild as soon as she's ready," I explained. "That's where she belongs. God wants us to love all his animals just the way he made them."

I didn't tell Jason that I wasn't looking forward to losing her either. Squirt was like no wild bird I'd ever seen. She rode around on my shoulder, sang duets with me as I did laundry. At dawn she hopped onto my pillow and sang when I opened my eyes.

In the evening Squirt flew into a wicker basket hanging on the living room wall. She'd made a nest inside it and didn't ever come out after sundown. Nobody had to teach Squirt that flying around the house in the dark was dangerous. Instinct took care of that.

Dan chuckled one night watching me give her a gentle good-night kiss on her beak, even though Squirt didn't know what it meant. "Now the baby's all tucked in," he said.

I laughed. "Don't worry. I'm not getting any ideas about putting any babies to bed. Our family of four is enough."

But not long after Dan and I got a big surprise: I was pregnant! Planned or not, I was overjoyed by the news. Squirt watched with great interest as I sorted through old infant clothes and furniture, preparing for the exciting new arrival.

Six weeks into my pregnancy, I started spotting. We took the boys to a neighbor's and Dan drove me to the emergency room. "There's really nothing we can do this early," the doctor told us. "Just go home and try to get some rest."

It was late when we got home. I checked on Squirt. She was sound asleep in her nest. I climbed into bed. The bleeding only got worse.

Dan called the doctor. I wasn't going to have a baby after all.

"Ask him if we can see him in the morning," I said. "I can't face another hospital trip."

The doctor told Dan to try and keep me comfortable. He hovered around me, wanting so much to help. But Dan could not do any more than the doctor could.

A part of me had died. I lay in bed with a cold, empty place inside me. A place meant for my baby. Not even my husband's love could reach it. God, please let me feel your love.

Something rustled on my pillow. Squirt? Not at this hour. No way could she fly to me through the dark house. But when I looked there she was, right on my pillow. She leaned forward and touched her beak to my lips.

"Dan," I whispered, "Squirt just gave me the sweetest kiss."

Warmth flooded all through me, straight to that cold place I'd thought was chilled forever. God had found a way to reach me: with an impossible kiss that only his love could make possible.

It took a while, but eventually Dan and the boys and I got used to our little family of four again. And Squirt was always there to lift my spirits on the bad days.

After five years with us, something must have told Squirt she was ready. A flock of birds flew overhead one day and Squirt joined them.

I waved good-bye from the front porch as Squirt soared across the blue sky like a promise. Where she flies, God's love goes with her. There's no place on earth it can't reach.


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