I’d bet everything I own that you read this post and thought I was going to actually tell you about some actual Victory that I , or a loved one, has recently had, right?
Well, you are wrong.
Long story short?
My father was driving me to my millionth doctor appointment when he stopped on a small road by his house.
“Loralee! That black cat in the road is about to eat that baby bird!”
“STOP THE CAR, DAD!”
I got out of the car as fast as I was able and hobbled over, chased the cat away and cautiously approached the TINY grey bird huddled by the curb.
She didn’t move.
I gently cupped her in my hands and ran back to the car. (And by run, I mean once again, hobbled.)
“DRIVE TO THE VET! NOW!”
The whole way over my mind was racing.
Mainly with memories of loss.
And this may seem bizarre to you, but it absolutely made me think of the worst loss of all...my little son, Matthew.
Tears silently ran down my face.
And I was scared. U was scared that I would open my heart up and I would lose something I cared about.
I ran into my vet , totally ignored the ton of people in the waiting room and begged them to please look at her immediately.
They took her from me and looked at her immediately.
As I waited nervously at the counter, people could tell I was upset and they started talking to me, asking what happened.
They were ALL pulling for this tiny little bird.
They called me back and my vet, Dr. Miller, who is THE KINDEST PERSON IN THE WORLD, talked bluntly to me.
“Her wings are not fractured. I suspect a concussion. IF you choose to care for this bird she will need to be fed and hydrated by a dropper hourly but honestly….cases like this have about a 60% chance of making it if she immediately eats and drinks. It goes down to about 30% if she doesn’t.”
He was Pinky’s vet. He knew how hard that loss was on me. He knew what I was feeling. (Not only could you see it on his face, but the box of tissues he pulled out for me was a pretty good back up signal as well.)
I tried to let this sink in. I knew what it would mean to me. I was already so fond of her and it scared me to death of, well….death. I am SO tenderhearted about animals. When I was 14, my mother bought a flock of eggs to hatch into chicks for her 1st class to study. I watched over them day and night and was there when all of them hatched.
All but one.
She TRIED to get out of the egg. I could see her little face in the egg.
And while I delighted at nursing the thriving little chickens, I kept waiting for the bird I named Peep to hatch.
But she was alive.
I too young and inexperienced. I didn’t know that helping a baby chick out of their egg would lead to almost certain death.
I stayed up for almost 3 days straight, begged my mom to let me miss school, and tried so hard to save her.
She died in my hands at lunchtime.
I sobbed as I wrapped her in the softest cloth I could find and buried her under my favorite tree in our yard.
I stumbled into the house and was so tired I fell asleep crying on my parent’s bed.
I woke up to my mom screaming, “WHO LEFT THE DOOR TO THE CHICKEN’S ROOM OPEN??!!! THE CAT GOT IN!!!”
We lost half of the flock.
The tiny little lives that I named, loved, KNEW on sight, were gone.
And it was my fault.
It haunts me to this day. Alongside the memories of the hamster I accidentally killed as a child, the tiny runt kitten of Wilbur’s that I battled to feed and keep warm and who I found dead after the HOUR I was gone to speak at church with my family.
You can think I am the most immature, over sentimental person on earth, but these losses affect me deeply.
The fate of this little bird and what it could do to my heart scared me. Big time.
So, I asked a cowardly question.
“And if we were to let her go in the wild?”
“It would be absolute and certain death.”
And the choice was made.
I have been increasingly afraid of opening my heart up to anything I could lose. It just seems so much easier to just make my heart hard and not let anything in that would leave or die on me. But I know, somewhere deep inside me, that that is NO kind of life. My heart is SO big and I love SO much that if I cut that up, *I*would be the one that, even though I am breathing and walking around, would be the dead one.
So, even thought there are many times I have to FIGHT to keep my heart open, I know it is the only road where I can truly be happy.
I knew if this bird didn’t make it, it would hurt. But there was no way in the world I could abandon her to certain death.
I would care for her until she could fly, or it was the end.
Dr. Miller gave me instructions for her best chance of survival and then supplied me with everything I would need. My dad took me to PetSmart and we bought meal worms in case she was able to eat something other than soft cat food.
We took her home. I fed her and gave her water in a dropper every hour.
And stupid as it is, I remembered the many times I read about how many nurses in NICUS give struggling and sick babies STRONG nicknames to help them fight. I am NOT comparing a wild bird to a baby, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.
I wanted her to fight.
So,I named her Victory.
I figured out if I stroked the back of her head it made her open her mouth so it made it easier to get her to drink drops of water out of the dropper and eat cat food off the end of a toothpick.
And I talked to her. I talked and talked and talked.
“GO, VICTORY! LOOK AT HOW MUCH WATER YOU JUST DRANK! GOOD JOB! KEEP GOING, GIRL! DON’T GIVE UP! FIGHT!”
I feel stupid but if it gave her any kind of advantage or chance, I was willing to do it.
I just wanted her to live.
And it all seemed to be working. By the night time she was picking up and eating meal worms BY HERSELF! She was taking drops of water from a plate and drinking by herself! I was so relieved.
The vet was very clear that, despite all my instincts, I should NOT stay up all night to care for her. And while I still had misgivings, she was doing so much better that I felt fairly ok going to bed.
I realized I was wrong when I woke up in the morning and hurried down the stairs to feed her.
Victory was dead.
I ran upstairs and just sobbed and sobbed on my husband.
We told James and Christopher the truth but Aaron was so upset when Pinky died, and he was SO involved with Victory and her care and I simply couldn’t do it.
“Aaron, guess what?! Victory doesn’t hurt anymore! She can soar again! So she is being sent to a special place where she will be surrounded by thousands and thousands of her birdie friends and family again! The only thing is that we cannot EVER look at the bird in the box again until she gets there or she won’t be able to be with her bird friends again…we took such good care of her that she will want to be with you all the time so you have to promise not to look in the box or she’ll want to stay with with you, ok?”
He lit up like a Christmas tree and was so excited for the bird.
We buried her next to Pinky.
I cried for the whole day and then I decided that I just had to look at it like my mom and dad told me to…Yes, Victory died, but when she died, she wasn’t hungry or scared and she didn’t die a slow death at the hands of a cat.
I failed, but I tried my best.
She was loved.
You may think I am the most overly sentimental person in the world, but honestly…I don’t care if you do.
Maybe the world would be a better place if more people put their hearts on the line to save a tiny creature of God, huddled up against a curb.
Because even though I lost?
I’ll think of you Victory. Thank you for all the lessons you taught me.
It was worth the risk.