On a Sunday morning, my niece Dulce and I found a dead crow in the middle of the street near her apartment. Dulce wasn’t surprised, she knew the crow was sick. Dulce and her mother Andrea are acquainted with some of the critters foraging on their block.

Our first reaction was to get the raven off of the street. Dulce put some gloves on and the deceased in a cardboard box. “We can throw it in the trash,” I said. As soon as I uttered “trash,” I regretted it. Dulce objected: “No, let’s bury him in the back. We buried a bird there before.” It was almost 80 degrees that Sunday and the thought of digging dirt in the hot sun didn’t appeal to me at all. In the back of the apartment complex where they live, Dulce found a place for the bird to rest. She didn’t hesitate to grab a pan and excavate. I helped by opening the water faucet when Dulce needed to wet the dirt to dig deeper. When I saw Dulce sweating I offered to bring her water or take the next hauling shift but she declined. So I grabbed my camera.

I’ve thrown dead birds in the black bin at my house countless times. They’re my cat’s gifts. Sometimes I save the little ones from Bambi’s claws. I hold them in my hands for as long as it takes for their hearts to slow down. If they’re so wounded that they can’t fly anymore, it’s agony to me because no place will take them and I don’t have it in me to bash their heads or suffocate them to spare them from slowly starving or being found and finished by the cats. Once I held a dead hummingbird in my hand for the longest time because he looked like he was sleeping and he was so diminutive and beautiful.

I’m a vegetarian. I don’t want any animal slaughtered, tortured or confined in my name. But, unlike Dulce, I was unwilling to take the time and effort to bury the crow. The soul was gone so why treat it with reverence? Once a friend died next to me of a heart attack on a dirt road and, while going through the motion of CPR, it was clear to me life was gone from her body.

Is the body comparable to the value we attached to cardboard when the soul passes away? I must say Dulce laboring in the sun so diligently made me feel different. And the picture of this crow resting in peace by the bed of flowers changed my mind. His shiny black eye strangely resembled the eye of the mouse whose neck was broken by Bambi recently.

Is there life after death after all? Definitely in our hearts when they beat for these little creatures lives and passings and maybe somewhere I’ve never visited.

Dulce and I said a prayer and put a stone on the crow’s grave. “Amen,” said Dulce. “Namaste,” I replied.

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