A month or so ago I witnessed the mother ibis, who had built a nest in a tree in our yard, successfully defend her eggs from an onslaught of monkeys. She raised a racket, extended her wings, hissed and jabbed with her beak, and the dozens of monkeys who were scampering through the branches finally gave up and went on to scavenge easier prey. It was impressive, this glossy squawky ungainly bird holding off much larger and more agile mammals. I've been rooting for her ever since. Three eggs hatched, and one of the small birds died when he fell out of the nest early on (or after he fell out, not sure, but found the carcass). The other two have been making noise, venturing out a bit, over the past weeks. Saturday morning I was awakened by a ruckus of the dogs going crazy. That can mean that our neighbors are on a walk, or the world is ending, hard to tell. By the time I walked out I found that the monkey troupe was chasing through the trees and over the roof, and another baby ibis was injured but alive in the yard, and the mama ibis was flapping and screaming and berserk. I let the dogs off to chase the monkeys, and kept an eye on the young bird. Our dogs obediently left it alone. The mother circled for a while. But the hours went by and it didn't get up. Mid day I moved it into the tree, but it couldn't hold on. So I placed it carefully in the flowerbed beneath its nest, and brought water which I poured gently into its beak. It swallowed, rapidly, gulping. I could feel the fluttering heart, the warmth under the feathers. It opened its eyes, then closed them, wearily.
Just before we piled in the car to go the the airport, I checked it again. It was dead. This morning the parent ibis pair perched on a branch above the body of the infant bird, crying out. I later moved the carcass to the compost pit.
And if all that drama had not occurred the day I was putting Luke on the airplane back to the US, I might not have been so emotionally involved.
|Last day bitter lemons after a picki ride|
But the truth is that motherhood requires a spirit of battle. No matter how strong and great these kids get, there is always a troupe of evil ready to swoop down and wreak havoc. Applications rejected, ligaments torn, fevers escalating, hearts bruised, homes lost. One got back to school last week and spent this weekend in bed with a fever and sore throat, coughing, and alone. Vacation days are times of sweet vulnerability and connection, which makes the partings harder. The future is blatantly uncertain.
Yes, mothering is not for the faint of heart. I identify with the ungainly ibis, relatively powerless, but ready to squawk. Mourning loss. I went for the first long walk I've had in ages on Friday, and I was not ten steps down the path before I started sobbing. Scott is in America for WHM meetings, gone two weeks. Son 2 had left and son 1 was about to, and South Sudan is falling apart and changes are ahead. Sometimes it is just all too much.
Yet when I feel the pain of another goodbye, I also feel the thanks that I'm here to say those goodbyes. This month we're helping host two different families where the missionary mom died of breast cancer. One is a fantastic young mom herself now, with her mother's poise and practicality. I'm hoping she and her husband come back long term.
Betty and Denise were courageous women, who struggled for their kids and for the Kingdom. It is a holy honor to see their families thriving in the midst of grief.
So I will battle for my kids, and battle my own heart's self-pity, with a dose of thankfulness.