My parakeet died. After 27 years of owning pet birds, my last one made her transition and went on to soar through bluer skies.
I know this may sound like the theme of a bad sitcom. To those who have never hosted a feathered friend in their home, this occasion may not seem like a big deal. But when you’ve experienced the morning songs of these amazing prehistoric-age creatures for nearly ten thousand days, it is, in fact, a great loss—one which will take a long time for me to fully accept, and one in which will undoubtedly take months to adjust. No more morning songs, no more weekly cage-cleaning, no more seed and feathers scattered on the floor around her home. Essentially, these are habits and memories, but the end of this era goes far beyond these simple tasks. It reaches through the closure of many other facets of life as well.
I received my first parakeet as a gift for my high school graduation, which means in some ways, that the legacy of that time is over. It marks yet another form of grieving for my father’s death, as I bought my first Cockatiel soon after his passing. It marks much of my education, as my feathered friends accompanied me on my many moves to complete my training. It marks my move to North Carolina to take my job at the medical school, as they adjusted to the new climate. It marks a shift in the energy of my sunroom, where they had long sung to the birds outside. It marks the end of a repeated conversation with friends as their sounds joined in the gatherings held in their space. And it also marks the end of owning a pet which few do—as most opt for the furry types, rather than feathered. I still haven’t filled the space which held Cheetah’s cage. Like other forms of grieving, it just doesn’t feel right to try to replace something that held so much meaning.
I talk a lot about evolution. In high school I was nearly obsessed with the topic, dedicating much of my time in biology classes learning about Darwin’s theory, the journey of man, the futuristic images of what creatures might be yet to come, and any other aspect of development that might explain who we are, how we’ve come to be, and where our lives might take us in the future. I also remember studying Egyptian mummification, having been equally preoccupied with the history of King Tutankhamun—more commonly known as King Tut. As I wrote in my high school Biology II term paper, mummies were prepared in such a way to allow the soul to travel to the afterlife in a protected and honored way. Yes, I still have this paper tucked away in an old file, along with the one on Darwinian theory that I wrote a year prior.
Some might say that I’m still obsessed, given that my work as a holistic psychologist has taken a turn toward evolving our soul as well. Brought up in a family that practiced Catholicism, I was taught that the next chapter involved only the choice between heaven or hell. But having taken many biology classes, this theory didn’t add up. However, unlike many individuals who study the hard sciences, I didn’t go down the path of nonbeliever; instead, I spent my time wondering why such an amazing brain and body would only get one chance at life. Although my family and friends occasionally joked about past lives, it wasn’t until I really delved into studying world religions that I came to understand that other options and ideas made more sense.
With further exploration, I then became even more convinced that a single shot at life made no sense. Why in the world would we travel through life only to find that the game was over? What was the point in traversing the trials and tribulations of the human condition if the final outcome was only fire and brimstone or airy clouds and harps? Cognitive dissonance led me to examine the possibilities—both through insatiable reading and through deep meditations and hypnosis sessions which led to my own excavation of past truths.
It now all adds up. My obsession with the fish to ape…. The soul’s journey to another dimension or lifetime…. And the importance of getting life “right”. In essence, my study of evolution helped me evolve as well. Now, I firmly believe that each lifetime is simply one stop in our “soul cycle” or one hop on a lily pad to get us to our next destination on the journey.
All of this to say that death no longer gets me down—it only makes me pause to consider what’s next. Having lost my dad at an early age, and all of my aunts, uncles, grandparents and a dog by the time I was in my early 30’s, I’m pretty well versed in the process of letting go. Two months ago I had to say goodbye to another furry friend, as I laid my 16 year old beagle/shepherd mix to rest. And now my last parakeet has essentially flown this earthbound coop. Instead of spending my time lamenting about the past, I now look toward the possibility of running into my human, furry, and feathered friends and family again—each time offering the possibility of expanding my awareness and evolving to yet another level of wherever this life spiral will lead. The end of each era is part of this evolution—part of the letting go in order to step into whatever comes next. Yes, there’s a pause. Yes, there’s a void. But not for long.
The end of Cheetah the bird is no more than the end of an era—and the beginning of another. Here’s to our souls soaring together again, sweet bird.