Love, Grief & Luminosity: Teachings left behind by a small bird

My intention this month was to present Part Two of the Swiss Army Knife as a metaphor for accessing your body’s wisdom. But Life—and death–has swept in and upended my plans. A week ago, my beloved bird companion of almost 10 years passed away. His name was Tigger Meringue.

The day after he died, I wrote:

“He was the softest, most gentle being I have ever known:

extra soft downy feathers,
gentle light grip on my finger,
always tender with Snow Lion
even when he got cross with me, his “bite” wouldn’t hurt a flea. he was a pacifist–softly standing his ground, refusing to move or fight when he disagreed. he died with a delighted smile on his face, after hours of weary pain. I am so lucky to have shared life with him for 9.5 years.”

Here is what Tigger’s life and death is teaching me about love, grief, interdependence and Emptiness/Luminosity:

Love

Animals can teach us, simply and directly, how to love and trust. Like many of you, my love for animals runs deep. I am a woman who especially loves and belongs to birds, like sunlight belongs on water.

The songs and chatter and flight of my bird-friends shapes my being. I give my heart to birds with an abandon that I rarely offer to humans. Those of you who love your dogs or cats or rabbits or birds know what I mean.

Grief

Whether they are animal or human, losing someone we have shared our daily lives with is momentous. Devastating. Transformative.

Because Tigger intimately mixed his life with mine, and because he is gone, I will never be the same. This is terrible, terrifying, and such a blessing.

Each day for almost 10 years I extended my love and care to Tigger. I sang silly songs to him and Snow Lion throughout the day, and lullabies at night. I still sing to Snow Lion, and she responds, vigorously, earnestly. She is a treasure. But. Tigger’s subtle, soft, amused voice is absent.

Interdependence

Call and response whistles are a constant with birds: “Are you there? I am here. Are you there?” A couple of days after Tigger died, Snow Lion called and called and flew and searched all day. “Are you there? Where are you?” No answer. No Tigger. Tigger left a Tigger-shaped hole in our home. In our hearts.

Grief Questions

Tigger left us both with the questions Grief asks:

How do we go on loving when the beloved is gone?

How do we go on?

Who are we without the beloved? So much of what I am is the one who loves you. What is left of me when you are gone? Anything? Nothing?

Grief questions can tear you apart. Especially if you grab or resist them. And you must.

[Well, it seems I must.]

But Tigger also left me the gift of immense softness and yielding:
I cannot grieve him violently for very long—he didn’t have a violent bone in his sweet airy body.

Emptiness/Luminosity

My love for Tigger and his love for me shaped me into a being who loved Tigger. Now that Tigger–the object of my love, the daily focus of my loving energy—is gone, what happens to me? My identity? My love? The me I used to be is gone. My caring reaches out, then collapses with no Tigger to receive it.

So Love with no physical object is released, liberated. This is terrible and beautiful:

When my love grasps, gropes for the body or voice of my love and he is gone, the pain is blinding. Heart struck by lightning.

And then there are those blessed moments when I love him without grasping, remember him without reaching or trying to locate him.

Then there is only love, unbounded, and vast joy. I feel him flying in my heart and everywhere, luminous, free. In those moments there is no me, no Tigger, no lack of Tigger. There is melting. There is soft radiance. Peace.

And at some point, of course, I grope, grasp, gasp with pain again. Contract, cry, soften again. On it goes.

I have no regrets.

I thank the universe, and Tigger, for this amazing opportunity.

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