At four years, when she asked, “Why do birds sing?” I realized how old I’d become. I mean, really, when was the last time I conceived a question so fundamental?
At seven, when she asked, “Why do people hurt each other?” I realized how I had long-ago come to accept a reality that was more Theatre of the Absurd than a tragedy.
At ten, when she asked, “Why don’t you love mommy anymore?” I was as equally perplexed by the question as I was numb to what might be the true answer.
At thirteen, she said, “You don’t have to take me to your place on the weekends anymore, I know it’s a hassle.” Tears welled and I angled my gaze out the driver-side window.
At twenty, when she said, “Dad, thanks for helping me buy the car,” I was moved by the heartfelt sincerity of her gratitude.
At twenty-eight right before I walked her down the wedding aisle, she said “Thanks for that conversation on why birds sing.” I experienced a mixture of pride, joy and wonderment while the tears welled again.
At thirty-four, the evening before she passed away from cancer, she whispered, “I love you, Dad. Please don’t be sad. Think of me when the birds are singing.” This time, there was no way I could hold back the emotion.
Even years later, while listening to the birds, I still contemplate that conversation with my four-year-old: “Well, Sarah, why do you think they sing?” She answered instantly with profound certainty, “They’re making the world smiley!”