A.B. Merrill

A. B. Merrill received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Central Oklahoma, majoring in 20th American Literature. She uses her writing to examine the ways in which Biblical language and faith infiltrate the American literary landscape. Along with her husband, A. B. serves in a local church where she is able to connect her love of creativity with community outreach. By day, she is a technical writer for a community bank based in Oklahoma City.


A few months ago my husband, Zack, and I received a canary. My husband’s grandmother could no longer care for the bird, so my beloved, like the country boy that he is, decided to bring another animal into our house. Initially, I was very skeptical. I enjoy antique bird decor, but the thought of having a real bird in the house was somewhat unnerving. Don’t they make noise? Shed feathers? Sling birdseed? I’m content with my hipster bird silhouettes, thank you.

The bird, and his sizable cage, resides in our bedroom. Bubba, named for the mutton-chop like tufts on the sides of his head, was very quiet – dramatically silent. Canaries have a reputation for conjuring lovely birdsongs, but our canary did not express himself this way. One evening we visited Zack’s grandparents, and during the conversation Zack mentioned the canary’s reluctance to sing, or make any noise for that matter. There was a concern, on our part, that we were not appropriately caring for the bird, and that as a result, Bubba was not physically able to sing. Zack’s grandfather, Kent, assured us that birds are often sensitive to changes in their environment, and then gave us hope by saying, “When he gets used to you he’ll find a peace, then he’ll sing.”  When he made that statement, I knew that it was something I was supposed to hear, that it was special. It was the kind of statement that, in spite of its ordinary context, would be meaningful in the days to come.

Within six months, my husband and I lost three of our grandfathers, including Kent– the men who were the most influential in our lives. It seemed a cloud had settled over our families, producing the gnawing ache of grief. Our grandfathers were the strong ones, the consistent ones. The loss of familiarity was devastating, and we entered into a new phase of life for which we were completely unprepared. I consider myself fortunate to have grown closer to my grandfathers as an adult. I was able to see them as human – broken, yet gracious. The struggles and heartbreaks they endured were the source of strength that allowed them to comfort and provide for their families.

Soon after Grandpa Kent passed away, our canary began to sing. It was a truly lovely experience; the creativity and nuance that came from this small creature was amazing. The bird that occupies such a little space in our home continues to fill every nook and cranny with warmth and hope. Grandpa was right; Bubba embraced the rhythm of our household and found peace.

This unseasonably warm winter has brought its share of harshness. Death envelopes us every year in the changing of the seasons, but human life seems outside of the natural cycle, and thus, it is so much harder to grasp when these kinds of events occur.  The mundane of life, and the minutia of daily schedules cloud our ability to recognize the temporal. But utilizing the mundane can create something very special. The canary within his birdcage, his controlled environment, was able to use the creativity of his voice to bring comfort, and even a little joy. When the morning light enters our bedroom, he does what he was created to do. The sun’s rays compel him to use his voice for good. It is a humbling thought to realize that I am in the same natural cycle as our canary – I am not entirely in control of my environment. Grief is a natural part of life; but in these moments of grief, meaningful creativity can thrive. I am bound to the rhythms of life just as our canary is, and like our canary I have a voice. I was created to flourish and extend grace, recognizing that every season serves a purpose.

Spring is here, and with it the hope of renewal. As I remember the hope of this season, I will be thankful that grief does not last a lifetime, and that love and joy do.