Sharing Our Last Moments With Fiji

Photo by Mishelle Stafford Location: Bethlehem, PA In the show: Swainson Toucan "Fiji" 

It's really weird to me to have photos of Fiji from her very last show with us. Just to look at them and know, it was her last one... but at the time not. It's just a strange thing. 

I just wanted this entry to be about some of the things I've been going through from my loss, and how I've dealt. I think people deal with loss in different ways, but somehow they all end up being the same in the end.

Photo by Mishelle Stafford Location: Bethlehem, PA In the show: Swainson Toucan "Fiji" 

I can't believe these photos are really from her last show. It's unreal to see her so alive, so healthy, and the next thing... she's gone. How? Why? The questions never stop coming in your head.

Because out of the two of us, Dave lost it at the very moment we found her the most. I had to pull myself together enough to call the vet and get things done so we knew what happened in order to protect ourselves (mental frame of mind) and the rest of our birds. This was hard, but somehow because it needed to be done, I was able to do it.

The days that followed her death I threw myself in projects. I took over training Bondi, and I took care of the birds and did the majority of everything surrounding them. I dealt with anything relating to Fiji; including getting her body from clinic to clinic and checking on results. I asked our production manager to tell Dave he needed time, and that we could skip over the toucan card trick spot in the show until he was ready. Because I felt he wasn't listening to me about Bondi not being ready (which was really just him not being ready) and I felt it would be a bad thing to force it all into the show right away without a healing period.

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Bethlehem, PA Rosie holding Fiji for the very first time: Swainson Toucan "Fiji" 

When you lose something or someone so special in your life, you HAVE to cry. I cried immediately but it was cut short by the grown up responsibilities I had to take care of right away. Dave mourned for days on end, I swear the first day he never stopped crying. I didn't cry again until he was done. Pep talk after pep talk, telling him to be strong for the other birds, not to neglect them or turn away from them. I learned right away that the other birds can help you through it. They make you laugh, they keep you company, they're adorable to look at... they remind you why you have them in your life in the first place.

Just the way Cressi, our African Grey, walks makes me smile.

Once Dave was done crying over Fiji, that's when I seemed to fall apart. It was days later, and it seemed weird that it had just gotten worse for me... but the truth was it had built up. I was strong while Dave was weak, now it was my turn. 

I'd been remembering the good times, and my mom reminded me that Fiji was our bird "baby". She was the very first "pet" Dave and I ever got together, even before our cat Ninja.

The reminders of her death are the hardest parts... Dave went to go shooting with friends and found one of her feathers in his shooting case. Those types of reminders. The habits you don't know you have.

I broke down one night after shows with friends in the audience waiting to hang out with me. People had been there for me all day, and it took all my strength not to cry in front of them but I was just feeling weak. And that night, I felt guilty for all the times I got mad at her, or made her get mad at me. I thought of the things I could have done better, should have done, etc... just tore myself apart. The guilt killed me from the inside and Dave helped me overcome it. By telling me to only recall the good times and he began telling some of his favorite Fiji stories; like on cruise ships when she'd pull the covers off me or turn out the light, as her way of telling me I needed to go to sleep so she could.

Everyone is the master at making themselves feel like crap, and there must be a guilty phase for us all.

But I had my breakdown, I cried, I felt guilty, I remembered, and now everytime I recall her I'm finally at the point where I can smile in remembrance.

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

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