I’D NEVER HELD HIM until this morning. Twelve years of living under the same roof but I’d never even touched him. Unlike me, Matthew didn’t do touchy-feely – except in a mildly irritated sort of a way with his sometime blue partner, and in more recent years, since the latter’s demise, with his own reflection in a red mirror. Every other budgie I’ve lived alongside has been tame to an index finger. Some have talked. But Matthew, perhaps the prettiest of them all, youthful looking to the end, could fly straighter and faster than an arrow until he, literally, lost his legs to what appears to have been a stroke this week. This morning, after a long night, we visited the local vet and the little chap has been buried alongside Peter, pictured above, in 2003. Matthew was 12 years old.
And I learned a bit more about St Francis last evening, about his connection with all created things. Francis talked to animals, and I believe that they, in their turn, “talked” to him. The Church Council meeting happened around me, across the way at the church, but throughout, part of me was sitting beside a little yellow friend, lying quietly on his side, breathing softly, waiting. I want to record here that when I returned to the vicarage I prayed with Matthew. And I told him that he was precious to me. I thanked him for the joy he’d brought to many. Matthew loved company and could shout down the loudest church meeting, or hoovering (!), with a one-bird version of the dawn chorus. His name and his beauty are known by many.
Throughout the night Matthew the little yellow budgie didn’t takes his eyes off mine. Bright, until the light in him was finally extinguished, I quietly whispered, over and over again, “Close your eyes little one. All will be well.” And time and time again he closed his eyes as I breathed the words. Time and time again I felt that we connected. Then came the dawn, and the visit to the vet, and the preparation for his return to the earth. And for the first time in twelve years I held the little chap in the palm of my hand and felt connected with St Francis, and with all I have ever loved, love now, and will love in the future. “Sprinkled” with the “holy water” of my tears a tiny, tiny lightweight, “asleep” in the palm of my hand, explained to me why it is that there’s an ache in the centre of every living thing that will never go away – until the day when we’re finally home in the palm of God’s hand, until the final “letting go”, until the ultimate, joyful, healed and tearful reunions, and the longed for connected-communions. Until with huge relief – and with a steady eye – we’re HOME.
Only connect. That’s the drive and the impulse I’ve recognised in probably each and every human person I’ve ever encountered. The perpetual ache is because we’re afraid of our need to be held, afraid of our need for “communion”. But we learn. We turn away. We push away. We silently cry out into the dark nights of our souls. We hurt, we ache, we keep trying, and we keep learning, “until the kingdom come” … until the “wonder, love and praise”, until the great AMEN.