On this one year anniversary since Asterix passed, something poignant happened.

In the early morning of September 24, 2018, it will be one year since I lost my beloved parrot, Asterix.

Recall:

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Losing him was deeply painful.  I lost my companion.  I lost our family history keeper.  I lost my parents’ voices.  Taking care of his little body, saying our goodbyes, wrapping him in a little shroud– all felt deeply ritualistic and tender.

Recall:

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I have been thinking a lot about how I might mark this day, an especially powerful anniversary with the Autumn Equinox and the Harvest Moon.

This morning my daughter and I were in the living room, and I said to her, “Isn’t it amazing that not before or since the day Asterix died has a bird landed and looked in our window?”  (I was remembering the crow that landed on the windowsill the day Asterix died and sat there looking in, acknowledging.)

Our cat, Reina, was playing with my china markers and my daughter said, “Reina is channeling Asterix’s spirit!”  (Asterix LOVED playing with my china markers.)

We carried on Sunday morning lounging, me drawing and Squeak, our other cat, snuggling with my daughter.  After only a minute or two we heard a sound, like a knock on the window.  A poignant thing happened.  Our cat, Reina, came into the living room and made a strange and unusual meow.  My daughter checked and she was very surprised to see a dead bird on the rug.

We have not had a cat bring us a dead bird since Riley brought them in when we lived on the Sunshine Coast when he was an outdoor cat.  (We moved from there 15 years ago and Riley retired to become and indoor cat in 2003.)

Reina was shooed away from the bird and we took the cats into my bedroom.  My breath was taken away when I saw my pillow and bedding sprinkled with little feathers, in the sunshine under our window.  A bird had obviously hit the window and Reina had grabbed it.  But this was more that that.  The timing, profound.  This seemed nothing less than magical.  Especially considering my deep connection with birds.

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I went back to the living room and picked up the bird carefully and placed it in a container and placed it in the freezer.  (We have not had a dead bird in the freezer since we wrapped Asterix, a year ago, and gently placed him in there for safe keeping until his cremation.)

Before taking the bird to the park to bury it, I took some photographs.  Thanking this sweet heartbreaking creature for its life and message.

I went alone and walked into the park to find a special place.  A little squirrel guided me to this spot.  I dug a deep hole, gave my thanks and left.

 

“A bird is symbolic of perspective and freedom.  When a bird hits your window the spiritual meaning of the bird is something you need to take notice of.  Due to the fact that birds swoop up high up in the sky, it is believed that birds are God’s messengers – providing a bridge between the spiritual life and the mundane.  They can be a positive sign of great luck.  Since time immemorial, birds are in folklore symbols to many cultures.  Now, to see one single bird that approaches your window peacefully or just sits and looks inside your home – in ancient times was thought to be a sign of the spirit of your dead loved ones.  In some folklore books, a bird hitting the window can mean an angel wants you to take notice. I t could be that your angel is trying to communicate that they are around helping you, and watching over you or spiritually.  Make sure you are aware of the day – it could be an anniversary when the bird appears.  Look up the date, does this day or month mean something?  It is a lovely sign and you can use your intuition to get the right message from the bird.  The message is of a loving nature.  sparrow hitting your window represent emotions, heart healing, socializing, generosity, romance, and the power of spirit.” – auntyflo.com

I love you, Asterix.

Until we meet again… dropping off Asterix 

Letting go

In order to hold on

I gradually understand

How poems are made…

– Alice Walker

 

Recall September 24, 2017:

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Well, I did it.   Finally.  It was time for Asterix’s cremation.

I pulled my parrot out of the freezer this morning and placed his wrapped body (decorated with a drawing by my nephew) inside an IKEA freezer bag(!) and then placed him in a tote.  In all honesty, I have found it comforting to have his body in that freezer, but it was definitely time.

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I wanted to do the trip alone, so I didn’t remind the family and headed out to the bus stop, grateful that the weather was below zero.

A gorgeous Fall day.

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I carried my buddy, my companion, my secret onto the bus and headed across the bridge.

The herons usually don’t return to the rooftops till February in the West End, but when I stepped outside my apartment with Asterix- I saw three were sitting on the roofs on Chilco Street.

 

And little birds and seagulls and crows everywhere.

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Oh my goodness!  Until We Meet Again.  Such a sweet place and two cats greeted me! Their cremation services are on site.

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Asterix will get a lovely cedar box with a latch.  He loved chewing on wood, so I found it appropriate.

I pulled out the angel cards he had chosen to chew on a while back:

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Forgiveness popped out as well.

His shrine gives me comfort.

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My sweet sweet boy.

 

Related:

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Good night, Asterix.

I have been very aware of late that my parrot is aging.  The lifespan for domestic African Greys is about 28-32 years, whereas in the wild they live to about 60.

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I have always thought Asterix was born May 19, 1989.  That has always been my story, but it may have been earlier?  My memory is that my baby brother brought home a baby parrot that he purchased with some high school graduation scholarship money.  But that would have been 1985.  So, is Asterix 28 or 32?

No matter- Asterix has aged nonetheless.  And I have found myself acutely aware of the fact.  My daughter is 32, my son almost 30- they have almost always known life as including Asterix.

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I inherited Asterix (along with our dog, Tobey) from my mother before she passed away of pancreatic cancer in 2008.  My father had a stroke in 2005 and was in care.  Once those two pets came on board, I lived with my daughter (she moved in and out), son, two cats- Riley and Violet, Tobey and Asterix and all our stuff in a very little apartment and somehow it worked.  Chaotic, joyous, creative, – a full and loving life.

Since then, my mom and dad have passed away.  So has Riley, Violet and Tobey.  Asterix has been with us through all the other big life markers.  My two brothers’ weddings, births of my nephew Henrik and niece Vivienne, my kids starting pre-school and becoming teenagers and adults, my divorce, crisis, breakdowns, breakthroughs, moves and jobs and the passing of all the other pets- Milton, Tina, Oliver, Martha, Larry, Carbella…

He has ruined furniture and books.  And remotes,  He has chewed my foam boards, china markers and kept a close eye as I crafted.  Always a creative director.

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My mom and dad have lived on through Asterix– as he belly-laughs like mom, answers the phone like Dad, joins in our conversations in Swedish and English.  Yelling Hejdå as we leave.

As I mentioned, I have had Asterix’s aging on my mind a lot.  Why?

I met Mike from Mike’s Critters last week at my nephew’s 6th birthday party and I asked him about parrot lifespans.  Mike said “maybe 60 years”— I felt some comfort, but knew that in reality Asterix has reached his twilight years.  Mike also told me that parrots usually live sad lives as they are hard to look after- and tend to be dropped off at shelters, move from family to family, be returned to pet stores etc.  I am so happy that Asterix has never experienced any of that.  He (and his soundtrack) has always been celebrated.  Well- his loudness, stalking, nips, demanding food, squawking, chewing furniture etc. has raised some blood pressure.

Oh, how I love his cuddles, sharing pizza, watching him snooze as he sits on the edge of the laundry basket while I read in the tub.

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I frickin’ love him so much.  He’s my pal, my old man, my confidante.  And so of late, yes– I have been very aware of his aging.  Savouring each moment with him.

I got worried last Sunday when Asterix seemed very tired.  Unusually so.  I obsessed, I admit.  Keeping my eye on him.  Kept checking in.  He was— just quiet.  Probably needed sleep.  The next day I started a new gig and texted my son.

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And indeed Asterix was fine.  And he has had a great week!  Eating, chirping, laughing, whistling, hanging out, walking around.  Playing with his beloved bell.  (A new one after the old one was so torn and bent and too sharp).  Oh his bell obsession- true true love.

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He did seem a little subdued sometimes- spending a lot of time just observing us.  Keeping an eye.  Staying close, but gently so.

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And so here we are.  It is September 24, 2017 as I write this.

Asterix and I went to bed at 12:35 AM (just this early early morning).  I made my bed on the pull out couch in the living room beside his cage as my studio-bedroom is in chaotic re-organization mode and I wanted some space.  I covered Asterix and he said his usual happy and friendly GOOD NIGHT!

I was smiling as I covered him, happy he had had such a good day- playing and eating and back to his old self.  Saying hi repeatedly.  Hanging out around the house.  Playing with his bell.  He had a bath earlier in the day- his usual Saturday habit.

But, I just couldn’t sleep- my heart was racing.  I hadn’t had my usual evening coffee- so could’t blame it on that.  Yes, rent is coming and it is time to hustle, but it was not that kind of feeling.  I lay with my hands on my chest trying to soothe my heart.

Stay neutral, stay present.  

I must have slipped into some kind of stupor.  At 3 AM, I shot out of bed as Asterix was making a strange repeated squeaking sound.  I lifted the blanket and he was in distress,  clutching the side of his cage with one claw, and holding on with his beak, one wing strangely draped over one of the cage perches.

I knew.  Just knew.

I ran to the bathroom and grabbed a little towel, gently pried his claw off the cage, pulled off the cage (which sits on a stand) with my adrenaline and gently wrapped Asterix in the towel and held him like a little swaddled baby as I sat on the edge of the bed.  I looked into his eyes, and talked to him gently- saying I love you.  I love you.  He continued to make the the repeated sound for a minute or so, then let out a little gasp and… he died.

Asterix died.

I held him warm, gently.  Look at his sweet face.  This little bird- with such a large presence.  Has died.  For 30 minutes I walked around holding him.  Thanking him for what he has given me.  I cried.  Cried for losing him.  My companion.  For losing my mother’s laugh.  My father’s hallå.  For the beauty of sharing my life with him.  I cried in relief that I was there for him.  That he didn’t die alone, hanging in the awkward position.  In relief he had lived a rich, happy, family life.  That he died in my arms- in his lady‘s arms, the way he loved to cuddle.  Cried in gratitude that he managed to live the full lifespan of the domestic African Grey with never any health issues.  A natural, beautiful, good death.

I called my daughter and woke up my son.  He and I chatted for hours about what it all meant.  How stunned and moved we are.

And me, the person who draws dead birds, drew my sweet Asterix as he peacefully laid on my couch bed.

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His cage has been cleaned.  And sits.

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The oven mitts that used to protect our hands.

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His last food dish and water.

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The tag on the stuffed animal bears his signature chew marks.

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The sock version of Asterix pulled out of the toy box.  He is now at rest in a basket that matches his colours.

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By a candle, and the angel card Asterix once picked out (and modified) for me.

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How appropriate and poignant that it reads: Birth.

Good night, Asterix.  Good night.

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I always left the TV on in the background if Asterix was home alone during the day.  Please press play on one of his favorite shows in his honor:

We had a sweet surprise ceremony late this afternoon.

November 4, 2017: Click on image below

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November 10, 2017: Picking Up Asterix

So beautiful- Asterix was cremated with his favourite bells and the staff at Until We Meet Again wrapped the bells up for me. I am crying! I so wanted them back and they intuitively did that. And his ashes amount is very very tiny. The cedar box smells beautiful.