“Today we gather to say good bye to Winn Dixie,” I pause. What do you say about a bird you’ve only known two weeks? “He was a good bird.”
“She,” F. corrects.
The boys and I gather around a freshly dug, shallow hole in the side butterfly garden. We pick it thinking Winn Dixie will want to be surrounded by colorful wings when the weather turns warmer.
We’ve lost pets before: frogs, lizards, hermit crabs, fish. The loss of Winn Dixie hits harder. I.’s been inconsolable all morning and the mention of buying another bird sends him into another fit of sobs.
“You can’t just replace her,” he cries, stretching out the words so even they sound like they’re crying.
“No, no,” I backtrack. “We could never replace her.” I drop the subject.
I.’s been the one to dig the hole and fashion a gravestone out of a flat rock from the garden. He arranges dried twigs from the summer flowers in a half circle around the stone, an embrace of a spring promise of blooms.
“She loved when you’d play your recorder to her in the morning before school. I’ll always remember her bobbing her head to the music,” I say. I. smiles sadly.
I hope our small ceremony starts to heal I.’s broken heart. I want him to grieve. I want him to understand that death is a part a life.
“Any last words?” I ask.
“She was a really pretty blue,” A. says.
“And, she really liked Taylor Swift,” F. adds.
Tears wet I.’s face. “I really, really loved her,” he whispers.