I sit at the dining room table and write, occasionally looking up at the window where there’s an attached bird feeder. It’s the first one I’ve ever had so close for my viewing and since the word’s gotten out, we’re attracting lots of small birds and an occasional cardinal. Now that I’m home a lot more, retired from my full-time work, I have time to watch birds –which seems sort of cliché. But today I need these little birds, the sparrows that remind me of a message from an earlier time.
At noon I visited Mama at the nursing home to feed her lunch. It was a hard visit. She kept her mouth clamped shut and it was difficult-to-impossible to get her to take even her sweet iced tea—which she usually likes. Eventually, she took a sip of liquid and then I tried feeding her vegetables but she’d take a few bites then stop, holding the food in her mouth and looking at me with concern. I would remind her to chew, to swallow, trying to give her body the commands that her brain wasn’t firing due to her dementia. My last visit, just three days ago, she was smiling some, and would say a few words, and eating well. But not today.
I checked with the aide assigned to Mama and learned she’d eaten fine at breakfast. When I described how difficult it was getting her to take her lunch, the aide reminded me, “She does that sometimes.” I know that’s true but it’s still hard when you can’t make it better no matter what you do. Finally, I just sat beside Mama and watched an old Gunsmoke episode, telling her how Daddy loved that show, and probably liked Miss Kitty because of her red hair– that was like Mama’s.
I left feeling disheartened but telling myself that the next time I visited she’d probably be better. When I leave with a sad image of Mama, it helps to replace it with one from childhood when we thought we’d always stay the same. I remember Mama insisting that we all watch the Billy Graham Crusade after supper. Sometimes on summer nights, we’d sit there with a pan of butterbeans to shell. We’d hear Ethel Waters sing “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.” As much as I wanted to be outside playing until dark, I paid attention to that song. Years later, when I was going through a tough semester in college, I remember taking a walk and out of the blue, I started singing the chorus: “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me.”
I was comforted by the scripture referenced by the song found in Matthew 10:29-31, that said that even when sparrows fall to earth that God notices, and so then how much more God notices us, His children. Thinking about how even those little sparrows at my feeder are noticed by God, reminded me of the crusade song. Leaving the nursing home with a heavy heart, I knew that God saw my sorrow, that He watches me. I called my friend who immediately asked, “What’s wrong?” and then we talked my entire fifty-minute trip home, God applying a balm to my heart through the care of my friend.
When we moved Mama to the nursing home, we cleaned out her house for it to be rented. One of her things that I chose as a keepsake was a small dish with a bird. I remember seeing it on the shelf when I was a child. I don’t know how Mama acquired it, but I liked the color and form.
It reminds me of the sparrow that meant something to Mama and means something to me.
How about you?
What times in your life have you needed the reminder of God’s care like that for the sparrow?
How have you felt God’s care?