She put out her arms to me as I walked past her cot. Two big eyes in a shrunken bone-filled face. How can there be a decision to make at a moment like this? I pick her up and a thin little arm snakes around my neck. We walk around while I point out things to her. She clutches a little soft animal I hold up for her. All the while not a sound from her; just big liquid eyes following my every move.
I take her back to her cot and try to put her down. She has a voice! She clearly lets me know this will not do. We continue our little walkabout.
The staff say I can feed her if I wish to help. I put her sitting on the table in front of me, and am warned that it will not be an easy task “she eats very slowly.
I put a small bit of porridge and gravy on the spoon “she barely opens her mouth and some crumbs fall down. Immediately her attention is focussed “until she has carefully picked up each crumb and put it into her mouth she refuses a further spoonful. I ponder on this as I continue spooning a little bit at a time. The same clear focus is on each crumb that is dropped. I decide to try something new. I put the little lump of pap onto the table “immediately she grasps it and pops it into her mouth. And so we empty the plate much faster “from the spoon to the table into the mouth.
When I drive home I reflect on this process. Is it that this little dying sparrow only ever fed from the crumbs idle adults dropped carelessly? Is the spoonful of food as foreign to her as a response when she puts her arms out for love? How do we bear the suffering of these little ones?
"Then there is a loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive, on its own. A dry spreading thing that makes the sound of one’s own feet going seem to come from a far-off place." “Toni Morrison, Beloved
This feature: Jeannie Karth (2004) An Abandoned Sparrow. Child and Youth Care, Vol. 22 No.10 October 2004. p. 7