One cold, dreary, rainy fall day when I was picking my kids up from school I rescued an injured pigeon from a group of kids who had surrounded it and were yelling and kicking water in its face. I wrapped him in my coat and took him home. I put him in my dog crate in the garage with a blanket on the floor of it so he would stay warm. He was thin for a pigeon. His chest and under his wing was scraped up. He was freaked out too. I had never seen a pigeon’s eyes that big before! I named him Walter. All winter he recuperated in the garage. I fed him, put Neosporin on his wounds and made sure he had plenty of water.
At the same time my second marriage was falling apart. My husband at the time had been in Narcotics Anonymous for twelve years and relapsed. He started using drugs again, they were prescription drugs but he was playing every doctor in Tulsa and abusing them. He turned into a monster and I was trying so hard to hold our marriage together because I loved the man he used to be. I was going to counseling to try to cope with it all. When I would get overwhelmed with everything, usually late at night, I would go sit on the steps inside the garage next to Walter and pet his head and talk to him about everything that was going wrong. He listened intently, probably because he had no choice, but I like to tell myself that he really cared about me since I had rescued him from the throng of kids.
Anyway, over the months, Walter ate good and got nice and fat and happy. We became good friends. The counseling sessions had started to pay off for me and I was gaining confidence in myself. I took my focus off the passed out elephant in the bedroom that would rather sleep his life away than be a part of his family and put it on my kids and me. We had a life without him. I knew that if he did not get clean again it was over but I tried to hang on and give him a chance.
Eventually, my kids and I decided that we would release Walter on the first day of spring. We were all excited. We took his cage to the porch and said our goodbyes. Then I opened the cage thinking Walter would come running out and fly away. To my amazement, he didn’t. He just sat there looking at me. I kept saying, “Your free Walter, you’re free, you can fly away now!!” He didn’t move. I sat there looking at him for a minute wondering why he didn’t want to leave. I finally reached in, picked him up and put him on the porch outside of his cage. He sat there for a minute and looked at the cage and then the sky as if he was trying to decide what to do. Finally, he took off! Wow! What a beautiful sight!! He flew around and around, swooping and diving. He came and landed on the eave of my house and looked at me as if to say thank you. Then he flew away. I never saw him again.
That night I sat out on the porch and watched the stars. I thought about my whole experience with Walter Pigeon. I believed then and still do today that God comes to me in many ways to get my attention especially through animals. I suspect He came to me through Walter. Here was this pigeon, the one bird that is considered the nastiest, and most unwanted and outcast bird in our society. Much like me he was hurt and alone in the rain. I came along and rescued him, fed him, gave him a warm place to live and heal from the hard knocks of life just like God has done that for me countless times in many different ways. Then when he was well and could fly free he was afraid and did not move until the one person he trusted the most reached in and helped him out. Like Walter I have been in my own cage or prison, a self imposed one many times despite the fact that God has already opened the door. I still let fear consume me at times and stay in the cage because it is familiar and safe even if I am locked up. Yet, God loves me enough that He will always reach in and ever so gently coax me out of my cage and into the beautiful flight of freedom.
I realized that night that God had been trying to tell me all this time that no matter what I chose to do He loved me and would take care of me and my kids. I could stay married and in this sick crazy world with my husband who had no intention of getting clean again or I could fly free, it was my choice. It was as if the weight of the world fell off my shoulders that night. I felt free. It was another year before my marriage ended but I knew that I was not alone. Since then my ex-husband eventually killed himself by overdosing. It’s sad and there are days I miss him. Yet, I am still free and flying!
Many years have passed since then. My kids are grown and I have beautiful grandchildren. Yet, every time I see a pigeon I still think of one very special pigeon named Walter who taught me how to be free. Fly high and free Walter!