For the past couple of days, I've been heartbroken about the death of a mother eagle who was nesting with her partner and eaglets at Norfolk Botanical Garden in Virginia. She was struck by a plane while bringing a fish--food for her five-week-old babies--back to the nest. A Web cam has been documenting these birds for some time, and although I am a very recent follower of the cam, I cry every time I think about what happened. My heart hurts for the mother, who was just trying to feed and take care of her babies; for the eaglets, who are left without a mother; and for the father, who must wonder what became of his mate.
Thoughts of the father in particular bring me to tears because yesterday, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, concerned that he might not be able to provide enough food for the growing eaglets, took the babies out of the nest and transported them to the Wildlife Center of Virgina to be raised until they are old enough and strong enough to be released. My heart lightened a tiny bit when I read this news, happy that the eaglets would have a good chance of survival, but then my thoughts turned to the father and how he would react to the absence of his babies. In a discussion forum on the Web cam page, I learned that soon after the eaglets were taken, the father bird flew to the empty nest with a fish for them and seemed confused that they were no longer there. My heart broke for him when I read that, and I sobbed. I still cry for him.
I'm upset by this story not only because I have a heart for animals but also because I can identify with these birds. That poor mother bird--she was doing her job, bringing food to her babies. She was taking care of them, and then suddenly her life was extinguished. She was there, and then she was gone, and her babies were left motherless. And the father: the heartbreak he must have felt--and I believe deeply and sincerely that animals have emotions. He must have been so confused, wondering where his mate was, then wondering where his babies went, as he stood there with the fish in his beak, looking for the ones who were depending solely on him for their lives. He's alone now--no mate, no babies. When I put myself in his place, I can't even fathom what pain and loneliness he must feel. And those babies: a mother gone, and now left to face these early weeks of life without their father as well. My heart breaks for all of them, and it breaks for me because these birds are me; I am these birds. I, too, love my babies with a fierce love; I also do everything I can to keep them fed and safe and warm.
But that all could change in an instant.
Every time I see the memorial picture of that proud momma eagle, the tears come again, and I am reminded about how fragile life is and how we should be grateful for every moment we have with those we love.
And though I can see and understand the lesson, knowing doesn't make the news any easier to bear.
Rest in peace.