About six months ago, my mother made a nice decision: she decided she would buy the family a pet. Having grown up in a big house with an even bigger yard that was full of animals had made her a pet-lover. However, given how she has lived in an apartment since she married my father, she could never really have one after she reached adulthood.
She, then, struck gold when she discovered cockatiels: caged domestic birds that do not require a lot of space to be raised. I have always hated the notion of caged birds, but when she told me those birds could be kept out of the cage walking around the house I thought it would be a great idea.
My father brought in the bird one day, and my sister was supposed to give her a name. Since she could not choose among all the names that she thought of (most of which were homages to famous pop-culture birds) my mother started calling out cockatiel Little Flower, and the name did stick.
At first she was a little shy around us, but with time – like most pets – she became a full-time member of the family. If we left her alone in a room, she would start chirping loudly until somebody showed up. Whenever someone woke up in the morning, or arrived after work and school, she would excitedly move around and flap her wings. She was constantly trying to stay close to everybody as she ran around the house after us and climbed on chairs, beds, couches and various objects to find a way to be closer.
She took a special liking for me, as when the whole family was home I was usually the target of her wild pursuits and crazy climbs, and she would occasionally shout when I slid the key into the door. When I was home alone with her and went to the bathroom to take a shower, I would always find her right by the door when I was done; she would just stand there waiting for as long as it took me to be finished.
She quickly became the darling of the house. Everybody loved whistling to her. My mother had her as her greatest companion when she cooked on weekends or woke up early in the morning to make breakfast. She chased my father around the house as he organized everything. And my aunt, who used to spend lonely afternoons on the apartment, now had a friend to keep her company. It all lasted until a few weeks ago.
When I was younger, my grandmother used to say that – sometimes – God would come to us through a beautiful white dove. As a wise Portuguese woman who loved to give advice, she turned out to be right about a whole bunch of things she said to our family. However, on that specific case, I think she was wrong about the species of the heavenly bird, for – in our case – God interceded in our lives in the shape of a little white cockatiel.
I have heard many people say that one of the main ways to get through the loss of someone special is to understand the lessons that they left behind. By doing so, it is possible to learn a valuable lesson from their passing and honor their memory by applying it on our day-to-day life. In the case of Little Flower, I already have that quite figured out.
The last time I saw her, I was sitting on the couch getting ready to play something after a tiring day at work. I looked to the side and saw her standing by the living room door taking a peak towards where I was sitting. She probably did not see me, otherwise she would have come running to me while making noises and finding a way to climb up so she could stand closer to where I was.
I thought about calling her with a whistle like I always did, but I chose not to. I had the selfish thought that if I did whistle she would come, like she always did, and try to climb all over me, which would disturb and interrupt my playing given the fact I would have to pay attention to what she was doing. I decided it would be best to leave her in the kitchen with my father and my mother while they had dinner like she often did.
Five minutes later, all I heard was her last desperate shout, as my father and my mother started the most heartbreaking sequence of screaming and crying I have ever witnessed. My father, after all the confusion, calmly said “She is resting now”, and my mother broke down crying for having lost her greatest companion and friend around the house.
I stayed there sitting and paralyzed, looking towards the floor. I was unable to tell whether or not I was in some sort of terrible nightmare. I could not bring myself to crying, as my father and my mother were already desperate enough for having witnessed the whole thing. And I could not muster the courage to go to the kitchen and see what had happened in fear of what I might end up seeing.
In hindsight, especially when compared to the invariably naïve and good-hearted behavior displayed by pretty much all animals, my decision was completely heartless. All she had to give us were chirps of happiness and excited wing flaps whenever she saw a member of the family. She gave us the joy of her presence without asking for much in return. All she wanted to do was stand beside us as constantly as possible.
She wanted it so badly and innocently that it ended up costing her life. I know I am not to blame, and neither are my father and mother. It was all a silly domestic accident that ended up taking a happy and delicate life away in the split of a second. However, as my grandmother had accurately predicted, God did intervene through a white bird, and he taught me a lesson in a hard and tragic way.
I don't consider myself to be an overly selfish person. I am not as generous as a whole lot of giving friends I have, but I often think about the well-being of those around me – even if I do not know them. However, the fact that I was so completely selfish on the very last time I saw Little Flower makes my heart sink. She would have been delighted if I had called her, but I did not.
It made me rethink every single, generally unintentional, selfish act that I have ever had, and it made me want to try to be a better person. We are all aware that it is impossible to tell when we will see a special someone for the last time, but when life shows us the sad reality of that fact in such a strong way, the point is driven home very effectively.
I wish I could have said goodbye, but I could not as my father held her in the kitchen when she gave her last breath. I wish I had let her happily climb all over me more frequently. I wish I had cuddled her more often every morning instead of rushing out the door to work.
Therefore, I promised her and myself that I would try my best not to repeat the same mistakes I made with such a pure creature in my relationships with other people I care for. And I also promised that whenever an instinctive selfish action came to my mind, I would try to avoid letting it materialize. I cannot promise I will succeed in those goals, after all humans are way more flawed than animals and birds, but in her memory I will try my best.
And hopefully, when she is watching from up there alongside other loved ones that have also gone, she will know that her life was not in vain. Thank you, Little Flower.