The Little Deaths

I when I lost my dear Miss Roo, this short poem/paragraph poured straight from my heart. I put in on Facebook a few years ago and it touched many people’s hearts. It rings even more true with the loss of Henrietta. Here is is again for you.

Henrietta and I are holding hands. There is nothing like the feeling of closeness when one holds hands with a chicken.

Little Deaths

So what do we do about the little deaths?  The ones very few notice?  The mole dragged from its tunnel by a voracious cat?  Blue eggs tossed to crack on the sidewalk, the cicada interrupted in her mating quest by a too full watering can, a butterfly dragging her tattered wings to the acceptable host plant where she can deposit eggs with the last of her strength? 

The little deaths: one lone cat run down on a country road, one sleeping owner whose side is suddenly cold and empty, one golden hen sporting a jester’s cap comb and a musical trill realizing she cannot make it one day to the feed bowl, or trill, or flap her wings, and stands surprised and stunned.  One master’s joy and lifelong companion who one day cannot rise from her bed. 

These small ones, the ones whose lives do not seem to matter, are yet an integral part of life’s majestic dance until the final curtain falls.

Why should we mourn these small ones?  The spark that is too soon extinguished is the selfsame spark that powers us, who seem beyond, exempt, as if we are the lucky winners of a divine lottery — until we realize that in noticing these little ones, these sweet interludes and endings which wrench our hearts open, we are participating in Love’s creation of itself and the indwelling of the Divine in all creation.

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My Lovely Henrietta

Henrietta

I lost my dearest hen and the leader of my flock Sunday night. My lovely Henrietta passed away quite suddenly. She was her usual cheery self all day Sunday until I saw her standing to the side when I served my flock a pan of frozen blueberries and water early Sunday evening. She looked a little stunned, and did not come over to eat. However when I offered her the blueberries, she took a couple. I watched her for a while and decided she might be a bit dehydrated because it was rather hot. Sometimes she forgets to go inside the coop for drinks of cool water. So I put her in a crate in the basement with water and electrolytes. I checked on her around dusk and she was just standing in the crate. I got her to drink some water, and gave her a small bit of Meloxicam because my hubby thought she might have been stung by a bee. He found one crawling in the yard. She was also having watery diarrhea. Her comb was still bright red, and she did not seem very sick, just off a bit. So I decided to leave her for the night and take her to the vet in the morning if she was presenting the same symptoms. My husband got up at 6:30 to check on her, and found her dead in the crate. She had laid a soft shell egg, and had vomited. I fear she suffered, however briefly. I had always imagined that I would hold Henrietta in my arms when her time came, and be able to say a proper goodbye. Instead I was sleeping and she was alone in the dark. I have wept for days and have had terrible feelings of guilt that I was not there for her. I know that I was a good chicken momma to Henrietta, and that she had a good life, but it does not take away the feelings of grief and loss in suddenly losing a hen who was loving every minute of her life, and seemingly in very good health. Henrietta has been my teacher. She has taught me a lot of lessons. Perhaps this last lesson is that I too should treasure every moment, enjoy the sunlight and good food with gusto, and accept the final moment when it comes.

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Croakin’ Joe

Croakin’ Joe on the left at about 5 weeks

Last week I lost one of my dear little chicks. Croakin’ Joe was just ten weeks old. Croakin’ Joe died suddenly while he was out with the others in their little chicken yard. Words cannot convey the grief I feel over losing that little spunky guy. My husband and I both witnessed his death. He was fine one moment and gone the next. Literally. I picked him up and rocked him in my arms, begging him to come back, but to no avail. I have no idea what happened to him. My heart is broken. Yes, in a way this solves the problem I would face in integrating a rooster into my flock of older hens. But I had decided I liked the little rooster so much that I would attempt it. He was such a gentle roo, and very attached to me. He loved sitting in my lap and snuggling. He was enthusiastic when I scattered treats. He had just learned to crow, and every morning when he heard my voice on the porch, he would begin to crow. It is like he was calling me to come on over and visit. This all happened about 30 minutes before my ride came to take me over the mountains to a women’s retreat. I had a lovely weekend with a group of caring sisters who gently comforted me. I also spent time in silence and in communion with nature in an old growth forest. It seemed the recurring theme which came up for sharing and discussion over the weekend was how death is a part of life, and it is the nature of everything to die and transform.

Once home, I still had to care for the remaining little pullets, and silently note the spot where Joe died, clean out the broody crate where they spent eight weeks transforming from balls of fluff to small dinosaurs. I still had to live with the fact that I will never know what happened to him. It will forever remain a mystery. I had buried Croakin’ Joe next to a flowering rose bush and scattered petals over his grave. I walk past it every morning and scatter a few more petals, whispering “I will always carry you in my heart, and remember you.” I feel sad that Croakin’ Joe never got to experience his transformation into roosterhood, but I have to let that go and realize that I gave him the best life, even though it was a short one.

One thought that came to me during my weekend retreat was that when I cry over my attachment to my feathered ladies, and fur babies I need to remember that they chose me to be their caring friend, not the other way around. They came into my life to be teachers. They can teach us so much if we respect them and pay attention. Thanks for the lesson, Croakin’ Joe. I bow to you.