Stories

The Stuffed Birds of Paradise by Marta Knudson

Heidi Lindberg passed away in a pond on Thursday, August 16th. She was a day short of turning seventy-nine. Heidi’s husband, George, preceded her in death. She has left us with her dog, Dot, and hearts heavier than stone. Heidi was best known for her warm smile and Japanese garden.
As sad as it is, the nature of her death possesses a teaching lesson. I shall quote one of my favorite quotes: “A society should never become like a pond with stagnant water, without movement.” Mikhail Gorbachev. Heidi brought movement to life like she brought movement to the pond. The world of taxidermy would not be the same without her contributions.
I first met Heidi at the Spring 1998 Lindberg Collection Show: the most diverse and unusual collection of its type. They had extraordinary displays, didn’t they? I kept forgetting that I wasn’t exploring a rainforest. I contacted the Lindbergs immediately following my tour. Heidi was delighted at my idea to create a book about the birds. George was not, but she persuaded him with her ladylike charm. I think that says so much about her character; she was always concerned with the public’s well being. She was a rare bird, so to speak. Well, the Lindbergs and I became great friends while I worked away on my book, and I got to know Heidi as a mother, almost.
Of course it was utterly heart-wrenching to watch Heidi gradually deteriorate after George’s death, as I’m sure it was for the rest of you. As I said, I cared for her interests deeply. She became forgetful, nonsensical, and simply confused. We hear about this happening all the time in old age, but that can’t prepare you for when someone you love is affected. Heidi remained the generous woman she always was, but sometimes she was too generous. I’m not so sure she fully realized what was happening outside her Japanese garden. She no longer considered her birds “precious” like she used to. How can I put this? The Lindberg Collection is my entire life’s work—my child—I cannot describe dreadful pain I felt as she tried to rip it from me. At least she died never knowing the hurt she’d caused. I hope you can forgive her like I did. Although our relationship took a bitter turn toward the end, Heidi was one of my closest friends and I’ll remember her fondly. All is well. We are unbelievably fortunate that the collection is still available to the public and I will ensure that it stays that way.
Now, back to Heidi, a lady of honest wit. Like a rock thrown into a pond, her laugh rippled onto anyone around her. I recall a luncheon with her a few weeks following George’s death, actually on George’s eighty-first birthday. I asked her how they would’ve celebrated. Heidi started giggling, saying she couldn’t imagine George blowing out all eighty-one candles and that he would’ve died trying! She teased about how his red face would huff and puff and huff and at some point, he’d just fall face first into his cake, dead! The way she could laugh during such a sad time…what a good, happy person she was. I will miss her like my mother. Won’t we all? We will all miss you Heidi. Thank you for gracing us with your presence—your humor, your humanity, and all those colorful feathers.
It is with great honor, but a broken heart, that I dedicate my entire collection to George and Heidi Lindberg. Thank you, and I leave you all with this quote by Robert Lynd: “In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.” Heidi, I wish you many birds to wonder at in your eternal silence.


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