How to Grieve
Last month, my friend Jamie posted a photo of a deceased bunny on her social feeds.
Was it awful? No:
When I saw this roll across my feed, I had to stop. I was alone in my office, but I still said, out loud, feeling dismayed, “Ohhhhhh.” The rabbit looks so defenseless. The beauty of the staging, its last resting place, is arresting. It seems so useless to say that such a thing is “sad,” but I did feel sadness, looking at this picture.
The aesthetic appeal of this photo is obvious, as is the care and tenderness in it. I could picture Jamie kneeling over the rabbit, tucking blooms between its legs; choosing how to best evoke the running, jumping life it had led.
I could imagine my own fingers, brushing up against soft bunny fur. I could imagine wanting to stroke its feet; its delicate, but powerful, ears.
And, just beneath all the sentiment of tenderness, I could sense the frisson that the idea of decay always brings. The knowledge that, even as Jamie worked to honor this life, the forest floor was working; insects helping the body to decompose. In a week, Jamie’s rabbit will be not much more than bones and fur, if that.
Since Jamie first posted that photo, I’ve come back to it time and again in my memory.
And then yesterday, walking to the dentist, I passed a dead bird on the verge of the sidewalk.
I don’t know what kind of bird it is. (I think it is either a female goldfinch or a California Towhee.)
I do know that I was struck by pathos and bathos at the same time: I couldn’t quite get over the awkward juxtaposition of the busy, busy street, so mundane, people going by in their cars; and this loss of life. I know that, much the same way Jamie’s photograph had evoked an exhalation from me at my desk, this bird also made me want to say something. “Ohhhh,” I said, out loud, there on the sidewalk. “You poor thing. Poor, poor, bird.”