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Mourning Dove, by Krystal Koop

I spend a lot of time staring out the window at my bird feeders which are a flurry of activity. I have my “Birds of California” book handy, although I know the regulars –  finches, towhees, chickadees, and lots and lots of squirrels, which might as well be in the “Birds of California” book.

One bird stands out every time. She is a Mourning Dove and she is alone. It’s unusual to see a lone Mourning Dove, as these birds mate for life. But there she is, wandering through the flowers and picking at seeds on the ground. Oftentimes, I’ll find her sitting up on the hill under the acacia tree, only inches away from the urn with my cat Noodle’s ashes in it. The urn is in his favorite spot in the yard, near a bench where I sit in remembrance.

At first I thought and hoped that the dove was somehow my cat incarnated, coming back to join me. But as I got to know her and understand why she was here, I realized that we are engaging in the mutual comfort of a safe and quiet place to mourn our beloveds. She is a widow, although I doubt she uses that word for her circumstances. I feel like a widow but am not seen as a widow in the traditional sense. She and I are bound in our grief and our understanding that walking with that grief is the only way we know how to walk now.

This isn’t a resignation to a state of sadness or pity but instead an understanding that grief is something we live with. You can’t live without grief – how would you know which things were real?

Lately, my “sweet lovey dovey”, as I’ve started calling her, has been bringing some friends with her at different parts of the day. This flock weaves in and out of the backyard – sometimes there are “double dates”, sometimes it’s the whole family, and sometimes it’s just her. She’ll often join the rest of the clan but even so, she only spends a short time with them before she sits under the acacia tree with Noodle’s ashes.

In a way I have started to follow her lead. Sometimes I meet with friends again. Sometimes I go out into the world. But I always return to sit under the acacia tree with the ashes of my soulmate, the love of my life. My sweetest boy, Noodle.

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