Grief: A Strange Bird

Grief is a strange bird. Beyond the obvious, heartwrenching ways you are affected by your undeniable companion, grief's presence shapes you in funny, unexpected, ways too. Baseball season is once again in full swing. The Kirbys love baseball. Jeremy loved baseball. So, beginning this season was another "first" in the Kirby home. Due to the timing of Jeremy's untimely death we were forced to hit some of the big "Firsts" on the front end: Halloween (Lord help us), Thanksgiving, Jeremy's 13th birthday (the hallmark moment in the Kirby home when one is allowed to have a cell phone), Christmas, Eddie's birthday, our anniversary, New Year's, Valentine's, and now with the advent of spring--baseball season has arrived.

Biloxi Little League dedicated the
2011 season in memory of
our son, Jeremy Kirby.
One of the first times I was out at the field for pre-season practice, the brutal reality of the great loss hit me hard. Everywhere I looked I could see Jeremy. Standing at home plate making circles with his bat like he always did waiting to crank the ball, sliding into home, scooping up a ball at second and beaming it into home plate, peeking through the dug out motioning for me to get him a Gatorade, sitting in the stands cheering his brothers on, engaged in an intense game of wall ball...Jeremy was everywhere, and yet, he was nowhere to be found. In those spaces it is all I can do to continue breathing without hyperventilating.

In these torturous spaces,  grief clutches me so hard it feels like the earth is about to open up and suck me in. My heart starts racing, my body goes numb, a hole a million miles deep digs into my soul, and then the tears come. It was all I could do to round up the Kirby kids and secure us in the refuge of our car. I melted.The tear fountain had been turned on and there would be nothing anyone could do to turn it off until the tears ran dry. Of course the kids were concerned. They always are when they have to witness this. Sweetly, they start encouraging me, and telling me they miss Jeremy, too.  And that it's "OK to cry." I love those kids.

And then there's the flip side, the strangeness of the bird. During the first week of ball season, I was chatting with a good friend, Angie, and I happened to notice what appeared to be a bird jumping on a lady's shoulder in the distance. At first I didn't want to mention the bird because I had just got done explaining to Angie why we missed our game. To say my faculties don't work as well as they used to post Oct. 23rd is the understatement of the year.  I mean no disrespect, but seriously, I feel like a stroke victim sometimes. It felt so dumb explaining to her that I had misread the schedule and instead of having Duke at his game at 5:30 pm we arrived at 6:50 pm thinking we were "early" for the late game.  He was there in time to run out on the field with the Tigers to celebrate their smashing victory.

"I think that's a bird on someone's shoulder," I finally announced, pointing way across the complex to what appeared to be a bird in the distance. Angie turned to look, and said "I'm not sure. Is it?" In the moment I was sincerely hoping it was a bird, instead of a mirage, evidencing that I am in fact completely losing my mind. I repeated that I thought I'm pretty sure it IS a bird. Thankfully, a few parents standing around overheard our conversation and affirmed that they, too, saw the bird.

Just then, as fate would have it, who walks up but my sis, Cherry. Here is the part where grief is strange, indeed. The first words out of my mouth to her were, "Let's go see the bird!" Now this is strange because anyone that knows me well understands that I wrestle with some social anxiety. I know this comes to a surprise to most, because, yes I know, I "appear" comfortable in crowds. But the truth is I am not. And I don't normally approach perfect strangers, especially those with birds perched on their shoulders. Cherry bit with a laugh and a "shake my head" look, and we were off to see the bird.

As soon as we approached our new found feathered friend,  I noticed how beautiful this tropical creature was and my first inclination was to take a picture. I asked the bird lady if it was ok if we took a picture of her and her beautiful bird. She said, and how she knew this I am still not sure, "Romeo wants to get on your shoulder. Is that ok?" So, now not only am I approaching perfect strangers, I have a bird clawing into my shoulder.
Romeo & I along with
my "Can of Arsenic." 
Not only do I not function well in crowds, I must admit I am not an "animal person." I was laughing so hard I couldn't stand it. Cherry snapped a few pictures of Romeo and I. And as I began to get comfortable with Romeo wiggling all around on my shoulder, I noticed the crowd of kids and teens that had gathered around. They, too, were interested in Romeo, but perhaps it took someone else making the first step.

 I, too, am taking some first steps. I'm coming to an awareness that If I have to travel with Grief, which I do, I might as well accept the transformative side she brings, along with the soul twisting side.  There is no way to get away from her, so maybe I should try and  grab hold of her hand and look deeply into her eyes, and see if there is something there beyond the torturous exterior.  On this day, Grief introduced me to two of God's beautiful creations: A free spirited, beautiful soul and her darling companion, Romeo.  Both of which I would have never approached on my own. Maybe, just maybe, my fine feathered friend, Romeo, is just the beginning of  many interesting introductions coming my way...


  1. That has got to be the funniest picture with Romeo on your shoulder!!!!!!! You know what You will be getting for Christmas this year.....Ms. Finch!!!!:) Love you sis and thanks for being such an inspiration!!!


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