an ungentle reminder

Posted: June 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

Tonight I am writing from my son’s house in Ames, Iowa.  I am here for a weekend visit.

The drive across Iowa on Interstate 80 is pretty monotonous.  It’s like the view almost never changes.  It’s hard not to get sleepy while driving.  I used my usual strategy:  book on CD. 

Somewhere along the drive, suddenly all of the traffic slowed way down to almost a stop.  I had been trying to pass a line of semi trucks and was confused – why was the fast lane slowing down?

And then I saw:  staggering in the left lane was a little deer that had been hit.  It stumbled over to the side and I looked away, my heart hurting. I have seen so many dead deer on the roadsides in the last two weeks, and that’s bad enough.  To see one dying seemed so much worse.  It sort of disappeared, but then when I was right beside it, its head flopped and waved up out of the tall grass.  Death throes, I imagine. 

I was somber and near tears for quite awhile after that.  I am surprised at how I don’t get “used to” death.  After all, I grew up on a farm.  I remember when distemper killed off most of the barn cats, and one of the daily chores was picking up their little bodies around the barnyard.  I remember the wave of whatever it was that swept through and killed off a huge portion of our hogs, and how my dad had to pile them up out by the road for the rendering works guy.  I remember the days of butchering chickens – that’s a “death all day” kind of day.  I remember going coon-hunting with my boyfriend, holding the (highly illegal) spotlight while he shot them out of the trees). 

It was relatively easy to harden myself to those things.  I mostly didn’t see them dying.  And once the life has left an animal’s body, it’s kind of not the animal anymore, you know?

More traumatic was when Julia’s cat Alice got hit by a car and we held him as he died in the street.  When I ran over the neighbor’s black lab and he died before I could get help.  I was 14 when I hit the dog and must have been in my late 20s when Alice got hit…and all these years later, it’s still a bit of a sucker punch for me, revisiting those moments.

Life is precious.  We forget that when we are watching my favorite kind of movies, where everyone is shooting at each other and blowing stuff up.  We forget it when we are playing videogames, and the target can die over and over again and keep coming back.  Life is precious.  We cannot create it out of nothing, no matter how amazing we are with all of our massive scientific knowledge. 

Though it is painful, I’m grateful for the reminder.  Life is a precious and fragile thing, to be handled with great care, appreciated with great depth, and celebrated with great joy. 

As for me, tonight I remember to hold it with the reverence it deserves.

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