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Crime Scene on a Sunday

It was a crime scene. Full of horror.

It had been a beautiful day. A Sunday. We had worshipped joyfully in the midst of societal emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our first grandchild had been born just three days earlier, and my wife and I and two youngest daughters, both college students, made the two-hour drive to see the newest member of the family. My wife’s ninety-one year-old father also went with us to see his eleventh great-grandchild. It was a sweet day and we arrived back home around 9pm, tired but satisfied.

My daughters went upstairs to their room while my wife and I unloaded the car. That’s when I heard her cry out.

It was one of those emotion-filled exclamations of deep anguish that you instinctively knew meant she had just encountered something overwhelmingly awful. Something like “Oh God, no, no!” came to my ears. It was the raw emotion rather than the words that hit me like a gut punch. It was something akin to a muffled scream and a heartbroken cry all in one.

I ran upstairs and found that my daughters had retreated in tears to the hall bathroom. I went into their bedroom.

The room was trashed. The stacks of folded laundry that had been left on the beds from the morning were knocked everywhere. Everything was a-kilter. Then I began to see the pain. The sweet little bird cage that held my daughter’s two parakeets was in the middle of the floor, smashed violently to the floor, birdseed everywhere, water spread here and there. Then I lifted my eyes from the birdcage to the far side of the room and saw Azul, her beautiful blue bird, the friendly one, mangled and lifeless against the wall. I started seeing feathers everywhere. On the floor, on the beds, on the desk. I could almost see what had happened in my mind’s eye.

Our cat, who had been waiting for his moment to get at the birds, finally found it. The door had not been pulled fully closed. One of the dogs perhaps pushed it open. The cat went in and jumped on the table with the birdcage, swatting at the enclosed birds until the cage fell on the floor. The birds escaping. The cat chasing the terrified creatures around the room, knocking feathers off them, overturning the stacks of laundry…. Finally catching Azul. Our hope is that he had a heart attack in his terror and died painlessly. But not likely.

We found the other bird, the yellow one, hiding under a cushioned chair as still and silent as a statue. Terrified but alive. And still alive today, but alone. The cat still around. The door more cautiously closed each time.

That night I felt my daughter’s pain and felt helpless to comfort her. I wanted to destroy the cat, but that was just my emotions looking for a place to land. The cat was only doing what cats do. Although, our neighbor commented several months ago that “Other than humans, cats are the only animal that kill for sport.” Probably not true, but sobering words nonetheless – for humankind, that is.

It was a moment of insight for me. I have previously had some days of severe back and knee pain that kept me awake at night but that gave me some sympathy and compassion for those that suffer with chronic and acute pain. Until that point, I hadn’t really known how bad it could be.

Now, with the traumatic and seemingly senseless destruction of my daughter’s pet, and the pain I felt coming from her, I had a hint (just a very small glimpse) of the devastation that is repeated over and over and over again in this sin-sick world. A cat taking out a bird is one thing. A human destroying another human life is quite another. The violation of senseless violence that invades families and communities and nations and leaves people devastated is horrifying. To walk in on a crime scene in your own home and find that your loved one has been terrorized and killed with unthinkable brutality is a nightmare I wish I could spare everyone from ever experiencing.

Who will deliver us, who will save us from the cold calculating madness in the human heart? Rise up, O Lord! Rise up and defend us, for our hope is in you. And in you alone.

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