A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Songbird on the roof

It was somewhere between 1 and 2 a.m. Though dark outside, a streetlight shed some light 30 metres away. 

On the roof, not the ridge, but above the centre of the house, above the heart of the house, was a songbird, a thrush maybe? As Keats would say, “singing of summer in full-throated ease...in an ecstasy.” 

Dusk was a long time past,
dawn was a long time away. 

It was the wrong time for a bird to be awake, let alone singing; 

But there it was,- singing! In an ecstasy
- watched by a man who was on sentry duty (as it were).

Inside the house, almost directly under the tuneful bird, a woman lay dying, breathing regularly.

At her bedside, her children took turns to be there, keeping vigil.

Then came a change of personnel, the sentinel from outside; - her son, a priest, came in to sit, praying the rosary, her favourite prayer.

The other siblings, wandered listlessly through the house, seemingly aimless in their talk. 

Echoes of Saint Paul kept coming; “I want to be gone and be with Christ, which would be very much better, but for me to stay alive is more urgent for your sake...   

I don’t know what I should choose. I am caught in this dilemma...”

A change in the breathing pattern.

A stifled appeal, “Mum”. Stifled, but still loud enough for others in the next room to hear. 

Then, quickly, they gathered, each with their private thoughts and prayers. 

The time had come. 

The songbird had flown; 

The soul was winging its way to God. 

She died on the feast of the Archangels.

We buried her, we farewelled her on the feast of the Guardian Angels. (Anon)

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