Reub's journey

07 November 2010

Flying into glass

In the 12 years that I have worked in my current school system there have been only a very few times when that certain email has popped into all of our in boxes, the one entitled "sad news." This is the message informing us that somewhere in our system of 7,000 students there has been a death: a grand mal seizure in one instance, a case of leukemia in another, then a car wreck. Arriving just this past Thursday was news of a suicide. When I read these messages, whether or not I know the child, it's like having the breath sucked right out of me.

Back at home I have been dabbling with a couple of drawings, a pensive activity especially considering my subject matter: a thrush that John found beneath a window, its neck broken.

I photographed her so that I could have a record of the little details.

I consider what happened. One minute she was scratching around for something to eat; the next minute she flew up... and there was the sudden disaster of the unyielding pane of glass. The danger was there all the time, but it was transparent. Clear as air, it was impossible to see it coming.

I look at the perfect details of her lifeless body.

And I think that's what it must be like for a family that loses a child. It's like flying into glass. You can't possibly see it coming, can you, no matter how hard you try. The damage is irreversible, the finality of the situation unalterable. A life is gone, but the glass persists.

I buried the thrush gently under a bush in the front yard. I will re-work the drawings, fixing the curve of the beak, thickening the neck, darkening the black. That's the good thing about art. There are multiple chances.


  1. A very thoughtful and moving post.
    Yes, flying into glass is a good metaphor for the instant transition of life into death.

    Particularly in spring, we frequently have young birds fly into the glass walls of the conservatory, usually, they pick themselves up and fly off again, but I have also gone out, picked them up and propped them up somewhere safe to recover. And then there are the ones who don't make it, who need to be buried.

    It is the hardest task of all to bury the dead body of a young creature.

  2. I also 'enjoyed' this metaphor. It made me pause and be thankful and also appreciate the artists that can take death like this and transform it in educational and beautiful work. The death of a child the most fearful of my fears...the most dangerous of my thoughts.

  3. Kerry, what a profound post. Bravo!

  4. Wow.

    Everything about this post is exquisite - the images, your thoughts, and the way you have expressed them. I'm going to have to re-read this a few times to really take it in.

    I'm very sorry to hear the sad news about the student who took his/her own life.

    Thank you so much for this. Thank you.

  5. Kerry, this was a lovely, thoughtful post that was very moving.

    Actually, I can tell you with how much sincerity I mean that. As it happens the only fear I have that is close to being a phobia is...and you probably guessed this as soon as I started typing...a fear of dead birds. It's not bad, it isn't as if I scream my lungs out...but it's still pretty strong.

    And I still found this to be a lovely post.

    I'm so sorry for that student. Wherever he is, I hope all is beautiful, and peaceful. His poor family must be reeling.

    I don't know what it's like to lose a child, and may I never. I knew a woman, only very slightly she worked with my husband, whose three children died in a fire. She and her husband were out at dinner, there was electrical fire, and the three children as well as the babysitter died.

    I knew another man, a doctor, who backed over his little girl in their driveway, never realizing that she followed him outside.

    I'm still pretty darned afraid of dead birds, if you get right down to it...but I'm far, far, far and away more frightened of the concept of ever knowing what it is like to lose a child.

  6. It got harder and harder reading this, as the tears were distorting my vision. It must be advancing age. This was a beautiful treatment of a profound and difficult topic.

  7. It happened again. Another thrush, one week after writing this. Another young man, just last night. I am listening to Chopin and sadly pondering the nature of glass.


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