“O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.” Psalm 84:12
We first spotted the nest when a robin flew up so close to our window that it was startling. Up high off the ground, that nest was in no danger from neighborhood cats, it seemed, securely constructed in the crotch of a substantial branch of an ornamental crab just off our deck. When I pointed it out, my wife had the same thought I did—how great it would be to show our grandchildren.
Soon enough there were babies. Before Memorial Day already you couldn’t miss them, rustling around whenever mom would alight, thrusting up those thin yellow beaks as if their only job was to eat—which it was. Soon enough, you could hear them, their chirp slightly higher, more unrestrained than their mother’s, often frantic.
On Memorial Day one fell. A gray-brown smudge of feathers simply dropped out of the nest, bounced off a smaller branch on an untoward descent, then plopped to the ground. There she was—or he—the kid anyway or one of them, speckled and unkempt and quite unready for the terrors beneath, crying like a baby, which, of course, he was—or she. That song wasn’t lament, but sheer terror. She’d lost her place.
It must be horrifying, traumatizing, for the rest of the whole bunch. With as many robins as there are in the neighborhood, some red-breasted shrink has to have set out a shingle, I thought. Calls for grief counseling for sure.
I wasn’t about to put her back. We were sitting on the deck, reading, and occasionally watching her helicopter mom, who wouldn’t let her alone.
Then, suddenly, a melee of frantic chirping. Had to be a cat around. I got out of my chair, stepped off the porch and into the evergreens, and sure enough, a mangy tailless tabby took off towards the garage. That baby robin was safe.
Tuesday, on my bike, right in front of the neighbor’s house, on my way to school, I had to swerve to avoid hitting a baby robin on the pavement, flat as a paper doll. Car got him—or her. No cat.
I shrugged my shoulders. I’d watched that mother nurture her child for weeks just off our deck. That child had been her life, and now the cause of her life was no more.
But even now, as I type these words, a baby robin’s high-pitched trill is starting the morning just outside my window because although some mother’s baby didn’t make it, someone else’s has. Maybe it’s the one we watched grow.
Most of that story escaped my grandchildren, and that's fine because because they’re far too young for sadness. That flattened baby robin would have done my granddaughter in, I’m sure. She remembered last Memorial Day only because, on a bike trip, we saw a dead squirrel—“with blood on it”—on the road, she said. I’d forgotten completely until she mentioned it again because she hadn't.
Such is life. Our maples dump several hundred thousand whirlybird seeds every spring. If I and my mower have anything to say about it, not one of them will make it.
Such is life. There are great stories, inside and outside the nest—how a tabby high-tailed it out of the neighborhood, how a hungry stomach got a meal, how a robin’s song delights the dawn. Such is life
But some dreams never become anything but and eventually fade. Of course, finally all babies die.
The heart of this beauty-of-a-psalm, Psalm 84, is this last verse--"blessed is the man who trusts in you." Through all the perils, all the dangers, all the grief, in those moments when we’re so blasted far from the nest that we nearly despair ever finding our way back or escaping danger sufficient to end it all, those who continue to trust, those who won’t forget God or let him forget them, those trusting, fallen children, even if they fall silent, can and will somehow keep on singing.