This morning as I was in the kitchen cleaning fishbowls, I heard a thud and went outside to discover two birds sitting on the hedge beneath the window, one upended and the other at his side.
Upon seeing me, the other bird flew away.
This all happened in the space of three seconds, an eyeblink.
I have seen this once before, as a child: two birds in flight, dipping and swooping in glorious formation, interrupted by one's failure to navigate the path of an oncoming car.
It went down and the other bird flew on.
I was on my way to a violin lesson in the car behind the one which hit the bird, and I played through my pieces that day with blinding anguish in a small, sunlit studio thickened by the use of incense and pot.
I picked up the bird and set it in my palm. He seemed alert and bore the brilliant markings of a lemon yellow breast, but the noise against the window had been significant and my heart was already sober.
Caroline was in the house, getting ready for school. I called her to come downstairs and join me.
Was that a cruel thing to do? Should I have hidden the bird without her, on a soft piece of moss by the statue of an old, wise frog?
Instead, we did it together, and I listened to her express the sadness and concern I would have expressed in her place, only now it was my turn to come up with the answers.
Was it going to die?
I didn't know, but I thought it might.
Caroline crouched over the bird, exclaiming that it looked perfectly fine.
Could God make it live?
She searched my face, anxious for the miracle.
"He could, but I don't think he will, Caroline. Still, He will feel the sorrow of such a bright little loss."
It was time to leave for school. She asked me to come back and check on the bird. When I did, he had tucked himself against the statue and was dead.
According to Caroline's wishes, I buried him beneath a rosebush as I have buried many other tiny, limp bodies in the farmyard of my past: the runts of rabbit litters, a duckling lost and found too late, an unlucky kitten, a fledgling eager but not ready to leave the nest.
It is all these many years later and I still feel the way time stopped as I watched that bird go down without warning, a seamless interruption of that mesmerizing, tandem flight.
To me is not a question of how could God keep track of so much loss?
It is more a feeling of how could He not?