I’ve always admired robins as they whir through the garden – with their clever eyes and russet coloured breast, they are the most beautiful of birds. Maybe I’m biased, but they seem a little braver, a little friendlier, than all the other garden birds, but it wasn’t until we lost our beautiful golden Labrador, Ben, that I saw them in a new way.
Ben was the best dog; he was a typical lab; he loved his food, a gentle slob, he would walk along beside you, holding his lead in his mouth, smiling at everyone he met. One day he became ill and tests revealed that he had advanced cancer. He was stoic to the last and died within a few days of being diagnosed, leaving us heartbroken. We took Ben home from the vet in our car to bury him in the garden. Later that day when we returned to the car, I went to close the door, which we had left open and saw a robin had flown inside and was sitting on the seat where Ben had lain. The bird flew out past me, up into the sky. Maybe it was a coincidence but at that moment it felt symbolic.
In The Last Days of Us, the little bird features heavily in the story. The character of Robyn is named after the bird and her parents tell her about the day she was born when a robin appeared on the window ledge of the maternity hospital. If you read the book, you see it becomes a recurrent part of the story. I really felt robins helped me to write this book. Like all authors, I had so many doubts along the way: Where is the plot going? Does the storyline work? Will I be able to finish it? And every time I doubted myself, a robin would show up outside my window and I always took it as a sign that things would work out as they should.
I know I am not alone in my love for the little bird and there are many people who have stories of a robin appearing after a loved one has passed on. Whether you choose to believe in the symbolism of robins or not, I think anything that helps you to feel solace in times of doubt or the presence of a loved one close by, can only be a good thing. There is a saying ‘Robins appear when loved ones are near’ and those of us who have experienced it, believe.
The Last Days of Us Caroline Finnerty is out now!