Thursday, March 10, 2016

SOL #11 Hummingbirds and Grief

I am challenging myself a tiny bit with this slice, because I am taking an experience I had two years ago and writing it in third person.  Feedback welcome!

It snowed the week after her father died.  Snow in February tended to cover up the crocuses, but she didn't mind.  Snow days came as something of a relief right then, as it meant she could stay home a few more days without even having to write sub plans, much less use up sick leave, now that the three days allotted for bereavement had passed.

Three days.  Never mind that in her experience--admittedly limited, since she only had two parents to start with--death only arrived long after one had started grieving.  Never mind that death of illness and age was preceded by a rash of emergencies and alarms that ate steadily into one's sick leave for weeks or months before the official bereavement occurred.  Three days were what she got, and she could consider herself lucky.  One of her sisters had gotten a day and a half by swapping shifts.

The previous time, when her mom died, she'd taken even more time off work, because her father was so felled by the absence of the woman who'd been by his side for over 50 years.  He had needed someone to cook for him, to remind him to take his medicine.  But his passing two years later left very little to do, the house already sold and possessions distributed when he'd moved into an adult foster home.  It wasn't that she couldn't be at work.  It was just that it was a relief to not have to go back quite yet.

The children were content to be outside from dawn until dusk, or even later, if she'd let them.  Her husband helped keep them in dry mittens and warm soup, so all she really had to do was lie on the couch and mourn, and remember.

The snow stayed longer than it usually does in the northwest, but four days later, on a Sunday, it had melted off.  Everyone would be back at school tomorrow.  She stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes, looking out the window at the bare branches of the apple tree.  Movement near the tree caught her eye, and she paused to watch a bird.  It was a hummingbird, which surprised her.  Surely you didn't usually see hummingbirds in winter?  There were no blossoms to attract it, and the only feeder was a suet cage for the seed eaters.  But it was definitely a hummingbird, hovering and darting amongst the grey thicket of branches.

Another bird flew in.  Another hummingbird?  How odd!  The two birds danced companionably together.  Baby hummingbirds come from somewhere, she supposed, but she'd never actually seen two hummingbirds share air space.  In the summer, they were fiercely territorial.  There two flitted outside the window for a few minutes, then took off together, up and out of sight.

She didn't believe for a minute that her parents, united again, had sent two hummingbirds to let her know they were happy and together once again,  and to wish her farewell.

She didn't believe it, but as she stood there, hands still in the rapidly cooling dishwater, she said out loud, "Thank you.  I love you.  Goodbye."

Written as part of the Slice of Life March writing challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers


  1. Oh my, Wendy, this is beautifully done, loving and tender. I like it in third person, certainly am no editor, but it feels right, your leading us into a profound story of grief and then comfort. Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life.

  2. Well worth the time to write this, which fit my somber mood today staying home with my 87 year old mother who is ill.
    Your three days to mourn intensified the sadness. I think it is wrong to not allow people some time to cope.
    Of course the hummingbird sighting as a message from your parents (the only two you'll ever have) puts a twist into the grieving tone. Tears.

  3. I'll resist the urge to get personal here and stick to your request for feedback instead, although that is difficult. This is extremely personal and it reads like a novel. I like how it reflects the grieving process in that it zooms in and out of details that matter in regards to death. Like snow and bereavement tie and death and time off; it flip flops very nicely like that throughout. Sentences like, "her father was so felled by the absence of the woman who'd been by his side for over 50 years. He had needed someone to cook for him, to remind him to take his medicine." are stunning.

    This piece is one part of a bigger story maybe to come. Hope that's helpful :)

  4. I'm glad you took the risk to write and share this! It is beautiful!

  5. Thank you! Diving a little deeper on this one for sure!


Please share your thoughts. Comments are almost as sweet as chocolate!