It being Samhain or Halloween, I figured I should write about life and death and moving on. (That’s where snouts come in.) As for life, I was happy to see a turtle head pop up in the new pond. It’s good to see it getting to support life again.
There is much new life behind us, as more calves show up. This is one of the fuzzy twins. They look like stuffed animals!
There’s death, too, as I discovered when I checked the mail. I found just the tail of a rabbit. Hmmm. I could choose to believe it got away with just a tail-ectomy.
This is also the time of year in my culture and many others, where you think of the dead and welcome memories. While I’m thinking of way too many friends who’ve recently lost spouses or parents, I’m also comforted by my own memories. My stepsister sent me these fun pictures of my dad, so I’ll put them here as an electronic ofrenda.
Much of the day today I thought about transition. The butterflies started it. The snout butterflies are still migrating, and I enjoyed watching them today as they visited flowers and grasses and did mating dances. They’ll lay eggs and make more little snouts as they head north. (I’m also throwing in a Gulf fritillary and sleepy orange — what a great name.)
Like the butterflies, we all move on and do as much as we can while we live. That’s my goal. Keep moving and enjoy my life.
I feel sorta silly for being sad about a rooster. But it’s sort of on top of three people I know losing beloved horses recently, too. Livestock? Friends? Fellow beings who enrich our lives? Sure.
I went out to remind myself of how we are all part of something bigger. Tiny mushrooms said, “Look at us!” I spent about ten minutes just looking at the first one there. So detailed.
I went in and tried to work. I’m glad I’m doing something that requires concentrating. It makes time pass quickly. But it’s not terribly cheerful. So, I decided to do something that would please Lee and make the house look better, too. I put actual china in the old china cabinet that one day I’m gonna spiff up. It looks better with Lee’s family china and my green and purple stuff in it. Some day I’ll find the rest of the china.
That made me feel a little better. It still needs some color. I sure was fond of tan and wood when I built this house.
And now it’s raining again so that feels better. I just needed to remind myself of what is good. Life is good, even when it’s hard and we lose our companions. That’s just how it goes.
The morning didn’t start out as well as I’d hoped, though I had an inkling I might make a sad discovery this morning. And yes, I was correct that my buddy Bruce, the best rooster ever to crow, had passed away overnight. He was only 2.5 years old, so I’d hoped we’d have many more years with him.
Bruce was an “Easter egger,” who I’d gotten for free when I got a bunch of other hens from Bird and Bee Farm that I named after Bruce Springsteen’s family and band. I’d hoped he’d father some babies that laid olive green eggs. That was a great plan, but my luck with baby chicks has been very bad. One (Peeper) made it to adulthood, but Bruce did him in. He was a one rooster per flock kinda guy. He was mean to poor Peeper and was a bit rough with some of the hens when he was doing his duty, but good to humans. He was very gentle and quite funny.
Bruce did crow a lot, but no one around here minded. It was really loud, though, if he happened to do it right next to you! There was much flapping and jumping onto high branches involved as well. In fact, that’s how I realized he was sick a few days ago. There was no crowing, and he was not on his branch.
I guess I’m just bummed that I couldn’t help him and that I won’t get to enjoy those beautiful green tail feathers anymore. I did save some from when he lost them in a fight recently, which is probably what led to his decline. He was a good protector.
When I first had him, he was not an attractive young man, in the middle of a gangly adolescence. I’m glad he grew out of that!
Soon after he got big enough to be a dude, we took on a second rooster, but that did not go well. Clarence was not like Bruce at all. He was mean to humans, tried to kill my sister, and gave me huge bruises. So, he didn’t get to stay all that long. That made Bruce happy. Like I said, he preferred to be the solo chick daddy.
I had to do write an ode to a rooster once before, in 2019, when the late, great Buckbeak passed away. He was the previous greatest rooster ever. That didn’t make things any easier. Buckbeak was even nice to other roosters, and took care of a huge flock that I got put in charge of when their owners had a disagreement and no one wanted to take care of all the dead ones (there was an owl and an insecure hen house). Now you know why we take so much time and effort trying to protect the chickens here!
I’ve gotten a bit weepy here, even though I still don’t cry very much these days. I was enjoying a period of fewer chicken deaths, to be honest. I think dealing with poultry has helped me be a bit more of a rancher now, and I’ve tried hard to not get attached to my current hens. One, Buttercup, is from my early bunch (only Bertie Lee is older), and she has stopped laying eggs. I swear she thinks she’s the rooster now.
Bruce and I had a good couple of years together, and he sure went through a lot. I think the cold weather this winter wasn’t good for him at all. He lots much of his comb to the cold, which had to be hard. And he had to fight off a lot of skunks and snakes and so on. It’s hard being the biggest of the bunch.
I’ll try to buck up and think about adding to the flock again. At least I still have dear striped Bertie Lee, who’s over three years old and refuses to lay eggs in the new nest boxes, but she’s as bright and perky as ever.
I started work extra early today, so I got to stop before the pre-solstice sunset caught up with me. It had rained and misted much of the day, but the late-afternoon sun was shyly peeking out from the clouds. It turned the ranch into a jewel box of shining droplets hanging from every fence, blade of grass, and plant.
I walked along just wishing I had someone to share this with. Lee was up working. Kathleen isn’t here. Mandi was at work, sigh. I know the little things I was enjoying so much weren’t the kind of things a lot of people would even notice. I mean, there was also a lot of holes from hogs or something, animal poop, and normal ranchy things.
It came to me that these were the kinds of things my friend Christi often posted as she looked out on her own ranch. Trees, sunsets, random cactuses, weird mushrooms, corn in the middle of the field. Tears came to my eyes, because I’d just been reading about when her memorial service would be held, fittingly enough, right in the middle of Sara’s and my lessons with her trainer friend. She’d probably get a chuckle out of that.
Well, then, I said, as my heart literally began to ache, I should share the shiny and quirky things I see around the Hermits’ Rest today, in honor of her memory and her love of this part of Texas.
I hope you enjoy how even the lowliest blades of grass became shimmering waves of diamonds in the sun today. It’s a real tribute to a shining soul. Be sure to look at the pictures up close, so you can see all the droplets.
When you live in a small town, things affect the whole community. We lost a friend yesterday. I’ll skip the gory details and just say it was a real shock to lose Christi.
I have Christi to thank for Fiona. If she hadn’t remembered I wanted a little donkey, Fiona might not have gotten rescued from the sale barn. Thanks to this kindness, I’ve had five years of donkey love.
We had many horse adventures and shared an interest in essential oils. In fact, it’s thanks to Christi and oils the I became a Master Naturalist. I went to a class she held at our beloved Dutch Towne Deli. Dorothy (not normal dot in the comments) was there and told me about the next class. Thank goodness for that bit of fortune!
Sigh. Our political differences split up our friendship, and I really miss lunches with her and her mom. But I still cared about Christi. She had a kind heart. She did not deserve to be taken from her friends and family this way.
I’m sending much sympathy to her grieving family, friends, and community. It’s hard to believe.
First, thanks to all of you who sent me kind words yesterday as I talked about how my friend Terry’s passing made me feel. She was one of the people I talked about in my post Welcoming Death and Treasuring Lives, which I also published in our Friends of La Leche League newsletter, Continuum, in the most recent edition (that issue is just for subscribers, but back issues are available at the link, if you want to see what the newsletter is like).
I know Terry’s legacy will live on, through her art, books she wrote and illustrated, the students she helped educate, and the many memories all of her friends have of her, like when her surrogate, Flat Terry, went all around the world visiting friends and giving them paper hugs. She was so creative, so very human, and a great friend. Was she perfect? No. Who is? We are all glad to have known her. I’m honestly not up to writing a long tribute, because I’m just so sad. But, here’s a nice tribute my friend Nancy Sherwood wrote.
Sadly, my online friend Stephanie Jordan, who was the other person I talked about living her life to the fullest, passed away yesterday. I’m just so impressed with how well she continued to enjoy every day, no matter how sick she got, and how wonderfully she prepared her children for life after she was gone. I’m so glad they got a lot of time to spend together and make memories. Again, rather than summarize her journey, I’ll let you read what Nancy S. said in her blog. I’m glad she was able to keep herself together and share these memories!
While people were commenting on my post from yesterday, another friend let me know of an LLL Leader’s passing, a woman named Beth O’Donnell. I didn’t know Beth (though I may have met her at one of those conferences where I met so many women), but when I read her lovely obituary, I realized how much in common I had with her and what great contributions she’d made to the world. She was a teacher of the Our Whole Lives curriculum that my children studied at our Unitarian Universalist church, so I know Beth helped babies, mothers, children and future children. Wow. But it was also just nice to read about her interests and travels. It’s like I got to know her a little.
I feel privileged that one of my volunteer “jobs” is to maintain the web pages for We Remember, which honors La Leche League Leaders (and others who have contributed to that organization) who have passed away. Their names are also inscribed in a book, which is taken to ceremonies – this year there will be a virtual ceremony at an online conference. I read every one of the obituaries that are shared, and I’m really happy how many of them include little tidbits that make the person I’m paying tribute to come alive again in my mind. I’m really grateful to the family members who pause in their grief to share the lives of the people they loved, so others can carry their memories as well.
I’m not sure why, but reading about these wonderful volunteers always inspires me. Go ahead, take a look! You can even post a memorial to someone who mentored you, share news of an LLL Leader’s passing, or make a contribution to Friends of LLL’s work in their name (you will see that I’ve done it a few times lately).
And speaking of people who volunteer their time…yesterday, I also found out that one of our Master Naturalist mentors, an amazing human being named Alston Thoms had passed away in June, and we hadn’t heard about it (I did touch on this yesterday, but I want to say more). If you read his memorial page, you’ll see what a real treasure the world lost when his life ended. I learned so much about the Native Americans who lived in this part of Texas from him, and I always hungered to learn more. His teachings will live on through the work of his graduate students and the many Master Naturalists he generously taught through the years.
Here’s what I said about him in my blog from early in my Master Naturalist career:
We also had a very interesting speaker, Prof. Alston Thoms, an anthropologist from Texas A&M. He is an expert on Native American history, and focused the talk for us on what people ate in past centuries in this area. It was lots of roots and berries, cooked in earth ovens (which he does yearly for his grad students). The most “duh” moment came when he asked what the most common food source would have been. It took a while to realize that of course, it was the white-tailed deer. It’s been in the area as long as humans have, and always on the list for what’s for dinner!
So, please. If someone you care about is no longer with us, share your memories. They can mean a lot, even to people who didn’t know them, and the little things, their quirks, their stories, their adventures…they can mean more than you know to someone else.
I’m not able to write much, due to not only work and figuring out all this moving stuff, but also because I’m sad. A good friend from my volunteer past, Terry Stafford, died a few days ago from a stomach cancer that came on fast and hard. That’s the one that seems to hit people I particularly love.
Sadness is to be expected, but I’m actually pretty overcome with fear. You see, some of her children stopped speaking to her years ago, saying some things about her that she didn’t understand, and didn’t want to try to work things out. It broke her heart and caused so much pain, but nothing she tried helped. She died unable to reconcile with them.
What a sad thing. I don’t know the whole story, so I’m not blaming any party, just sad that they couldn’t work it out. And I’m now coming to realize that could happen to me. After 2.5 years, will my older son every decide to let me know what his issue is? I sure hope so. When they said parenthood is hard, I thought they meant the early part. This grief is always there, even as I learn to live with it.
Meanwhile, I learned today that one of my favorite speakers in our Master Naturalist program, Dr. Alston Thoms, passed away in June. He was supposed to be our speaker last month, and that explains why we hadn’t heard from him. Read his obituary to learn about a life well led and a person who truly loved all of humanity, all living things, and the land.
Well, hope your day is going well. Hug people you love.
It’s an interesting time for me, when it comes to life passages. While I’m fine and not going through a life change, I am privileged to know people who are heading toward the end of their time on this earth, as well as people who are honoring lives of loved ones whose spirits left before their bodies did. I’ve never been one of those people who feared death or worried about it much, but I have always been intrigued about the legacies our loved ones leave behind. So, I’m going to share some stories that have been causing me to think. Some readers who are mutual friends may be familiar with some of these, but I’m not naming names.
The Strong Spirits
My colleagues at La Leche League tend to be people of great fortitude and spiritual depth. My very first role model in living a good life while facing death was my mentor, Roberta Bishop Johnson, who shared many insights and nuggets while she dealt with breast cancer in the 1990s. She made sure she was participating in the lives of her friends, offering up ideas, and sharing her love for her family right up until when she passed. That stuck with me.
Two of my other long-time LLL friends are nearing the ends of their journeys here with us, and both have been incredibly open about sharing their ups and downs, feelings about their bodies and what’s happening to them, and coming to terms with the fact that things are winding down. I really appreciate their openness and willingness to share.
Not everyone is up to doing this; I’ve known people who didn’t share what was going on with them at all, which is a completely understandable option, but takes away their friends and families’ ability to share life with them as fully as possible while they are here. But I get it; people don’t want to appear to whine, to bring others down, or to share the painful details.
For me, learning about how these two women have made sure to do things they’ve always wanted to do, while they can (one married the love of her life, and one made sure to get in travel with her children, especially to the beach), how they carefully planned for things after they are gone, and how they enjoyed their friends and family to the fullest all contributed to making me much more comfortable with dying on your own terms. I’m not saying they are lucky, but they do have the luxury of knowing what is happening and being able to plan accordingly. I know my dad would have liked that chance, so much.
One thing that comforts me greatly about knowing I won’t have these friends around much longer is that I know their spirits and legacies will remain. After Roberta passed away, I could still hear her tell me what she thought about what I was doing in my life. And I also still hear my dad (and tell him stuff; I can’t help it). We will feel these generous friends with us for years.
The Ones Whose Losses Happened before Death
Another set of friends I’ve learned a lot from in the past few weeks are two dear local friends whose mothers passed away recently, but had been gone in spirit since an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. These women felt like they’d lost their parents long before they actually passed away.
One just had the memorial get-together with her extended family, and it was more of a nice gathering to share good memories and enjoy each other. The mourning had happened years ago, when they lost her personality, or essence, or something. The other friend seems to have gone more into business mode, of taking care of details. She had been so kind to her mother, though, even with the difficulties of COVID. Who could blame her for feeling some relief and just wanting to move on to the next phase?
I feel a lot of sympathy for these people and their families. They’re sad, yet relieved that their parents aren’t dealing with confusion now (though, I know some people with dementia who are happy just as they are…it varies so much).
Watching all these events as a third party, not intimately involved like families are, has taught me some lessons, maybe not consciously. I think the reason I’ve gotten a second horse and plan to start lessons again is that I want to do these things while I still can. And getting a swimming pool installed and making the ranch house look better, too, were things I’d been putting off or giving up on. But, if I can’t have fun now, when am I supposed to?
AND, as I’ve been telling myself for the last couple of years, I need to recommit to being with people who bring me joy and make my life pleasant, go places and do things that expand my mind, and take the time to find the fun in whatever I’m doing. I think that’s the key to enjoying whatever time we have here in this life–enjoying where you are and who you are with NOW.
With love in my heart for my friends heading toward big transitions or recovering from them, I invite you all to do something fun with someone you care about.
Two woman I admired very much passed away within 24 hours of each other. Both from breast cancer complications, to simplify things. I’m glad they each had so many friends who treasured them. We have so many shared memories.
I can’t tell you to go out and hug your friends. That’s because COVID is also hurting people I care about right now. It’s way too close for comfort.
So…reach out to people you care about. Maybe a couple a day. We never know how long we will have with people we care about. Or how long we have in this life.
Thanks to all of you for being one of my connections.
Brody was lying by the gate. He didn’t get up when I honked the horn at him. My poor boy had decided to chase one last car. The dogs were out with Lee, because he was mowing and keeping an eye on them. My heart broke.
It hadn’t happened long before I found him. Thank goodness I didn’t see someone hit him and drive off.
He was a very loving, perhaps a bit too protective at times, strong, intelligent dog. He brought us much joy, and sometimes worry.