Fowl Play

“Is that a dead duck?” My mumbled words escaped before I could lasso them back in. Like satellite dishes, four ears tuned in.

“Dead duck? Where?” Cole and Chase asked in unison, two pairs of blue eyes scanning the grassy area around the large pond where my gaze was directed.

We were spending an hour feeding ducks, turtles, fish and any other winged or web-footed creature that came by our favorite pond area on the University of South Florida’s campus, and were about to walk a loop around the ponds before heading home.

In dozens of visits to campus, we’d never seen a deceased duck. Competing thoughts wrestled through my mind.

It’s life. They can handle it. And it’s just a duck.

They’ll be traumatized seeing a dead duck after just feeding its still-living friends. They may not want to come back.

A memory from childhood clouded my mind like a dark summer storm. My friend Veronica and I traipsing through the grey, craggy Connecticut woods, hoping to confirm a rumor carried by the crisp fall breeze about a neighborhood dog someone found dead near Great Ring Farm.

When we finally found Rover – a much-beloved canine friend – he lay lifeless, pink tongue draped across his open bottom jaw and dark chocolate eyes staring straight ahead. I couldn’t look away from the tiny bullet hole in his stomach that had taken his life. Suddenly the trees, those childhood friends who kept secrets and played along obligingly in my make-believe world, closed in around me as I stared at his still form on the leave-strewn ground.

The painful memory stalled me for a few moments, but still my feet moved toward the dead duck, driven by curiosity and that blustery human need to see and understand. To solve.

Fowl play?

The boys followed closely, curious hesitation sealing their lips. Across the field, near the water’s edge, dozens of Muscovy Ducks quarreled and quacked with the bickering contentment of the well-fed. Chase’s hand slipped into mine as we approached the large, shiny lump of dark brown and white feathers.

“He’s dead.”

Cole was matter-of-fact, and I nodded. The duck’s neck was stretched out awkwardly like the handle of an umbrella in front of its body, his beak covered by dirt. I wondered out loud if it was an old duck or if he’d been roosting in the large oak tree above our heads and fallen out.

“He’s just sleeping.” Chase’s voice was firm.

He kicked at the ground with his flip-flops, watching the dirt cover a toenail, before flicking his eyes back at the deceased duck.

“I don’t know, honey. I don’t think…”

“See, his eyes are closed. He’s asleep.”

I was silent. Both our boys are sensitive children, but in different ways. Mommy instinct warned me this would affect Chase more, and from his adamant denials and fidgeting, I could tell it had.

“He’s just alive. Can we go walk now?” Chase turned away, and we followed. I rubbed his back briefly, but he wobbled then took off like a wedged dart shot from a Nerf gun, chasing after his brother and leaving behind death’s uncomfortable glare.

“Remember how short my time is; For what futility have You created all the children of men? What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?” ~ Psalm 89:47 & 48

Death and life. They’re undeniable halves to a coin so priceless its gain could only come from the owner’s loss. No person has been able to bypass the eventual blue-sky toss, flip, and reality of our soul’s end on earth. Death.

No one except Jesus.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Roman 6:23

I grew up on God’s promises. His word was fed into me, loved and proclaimed around me, and ultimately tested by me. I challenged what I’d hidden in my heart from His truths with the blaring, bloated promises of the world, and I found the world lacking in every possible way while God’s word stood firm and unchanging.

He has never broken His promises or gone against His word.

The Bible says that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2) Death’s undeniable glare is overshadowed by the Son’s perfect light and God’s perfect promise. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Roman 8:38 & 39) 

“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:55