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  • Tracy N. Coley

Song of the Sparrows

This morning as I kept pace with Honey’s brisk Jack Russell gait on the one-mile loop around my neighborhood, I noticed some new neighbors moving in. Sparrows whistled happy songs as they flitted about gathering twigs and pine straw for construction of their family-sized nests. The songs of the sparrows are usually the second sign of spring in Northeast Georgia, following the resurgence of yellow daffodils and purple crocus blooms—signature colors of Mardi Gras. While these signs of the coming spring should make me happy, the birds’ woodland orchestra is a melancholy score to my April dread.

Fourteen years ago on April 10, I lost my brother Chris to a long battle with depression. His death came with deep regrets and lost moments, none of which I can change. We buried him on a warm spring day with the bees buzzing about the funeral tent and birds singing through the grove of tall pines. The lightness of the day seemed almost cruel. He would never know this again.

Seven years later, my daughter Bekkah slipped away from us, without warning. I distinctly remember the tender dogwood leaves dancing across the hospital parking lot in the cool spring breeze as her lifeless body lay on the gurney.

I’ve known people who are depressed in the spring, which I could never fully understand until I experienced loss in April. In years past, spring has been marked by the flourish of soft pastel-lined Easter baskets and bright green tender wisps of grass tickling tiny toes through white sandals. But Bekkah’s death changed my spring and Easter forever. She was born the Tuesday before Easter in 1998 and died the Friday after Easter in 2013. I take an odd solace in her full circle of the Easter season. Time has managed to soften the pain of spring, but the looming anniversaries are like scabs that never seem to fully heal.

So while I brace for the dark cloud that will certainly overshadow the newness and rebirth of spring, I try to remember that every ending marks a new beginning. I am not the same person I was 14 years ago or even 7 years ago. And I’m thankful for that small blessing. For if I had not experienced the pain of loss, I couldn’t appreciate the relationships I have today. I take great joy in meeting new people, listening to their stories and absorbing their positive energy, and I’ve learned to turn away from the negative. I value the words of my elders so much more, because I realize that they have lived a far more sage life than I. As time passes, I hope that my experiences can be used for the greater good of others. Like the annual bloom of daffodils and crocus flowers, each year is a new opportunity for adaptive growth in a renewed soil. This is my focus to prevent the slip back into the dark dredges of depression.

I read a quote this week from Jennifer Worth, author of “Call the Midwife,” that inspires hope through renewal:

Every birth begins as a mystery, an enterprise whose outcome cannot be foretold. We think, "may all be well." And all is well—almost always. But joy is only the beginning of the journey. And we must move forward, fueled by faith. We can decide to be happy, make much out of little, embrace the warmth of our ordinary days. Life unfolds as a mystery. An enterprise whose outcome cannot be foretold. We do not get what we expect. We stumble on cracks, are faced with imperfection, bonds tested and tightened. And our landscapes shift in sunshine and in shade. There is light. There is. Look for it. Look for it shining over your shoulder on the past. It was light where you went once. It was light where you are now. It will be light where you will go again.

Like Jennifer Worth, I choose to look at the light, at the flowers, and to be happy for the sweet sparrows who are preparing for the birth of their young and singing their spring song. Life goes on. And so will I.

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