When people tell me things, I tend not to believe. Not because I don’t want to believe it is just that a lifetime of experiential learning has often taught me something different…
And now Louise is teaching me. Louise is the other half of Thelma. They were my first two sheep and if you know me you surely have heard the story. Nearly 15 years ago I put the four-month olds into the back of my SUV and said, “You must be Thelma and Louise, because this is your last ride.”
About three weeks ago Louise went down and could not get up without help. And if you know my sheep they are a hefty lot, so as she weakened, so did I. Cold setting in and knowing I would be gone for a week, I started to accept the words I had always been told, “When a sheep goes down, that’s it.”
While that may be true for some, it does not seem to be the case for Louise – at least not until she teaches me more about living.
I took these pictures of Thelma and Louise in the summer, grateful that they had given me one more chance to photograph them together. You can see Thelma there saying to Louise, “There she goes again taking our pictures, enough already!” (They came to me with tails removed and when I realized how necessary their tails are I promised them that all of their children would keep their tails – and they do!)
I have laughed with them, cried and prayed with them. I have allowed them to teach their children and great, great grandchildren how to live with human beings, how to not be afraid and how to wrap us around their beautiful hoofs in order to get treats.
So when I realized a few weeks back that our time together was nearing it’s end. I cried bitterly while remembering what Annie had told me about death, “We cry for ourselves, not for them.” Once again I had to admit she was right.
Louise was teaching me what so many of my animals have taught me as they passed into that good night. She was teaching me about will, about how to flourish to the end, and how to draw upon each breath with the gusto of a newborn.
I doubted I would see her alive when I left one week ago for holiday time with family and friends and knowing I could not let them down by saying, “You see, Louise is dying and I need to be there with her…” I said my farewell to her, still hearing the words, “When a sheep goes down…” and I was determined to be joyful as I ventured on.
This morning brought the extreme cold of the past week in full force. It “felt like” – 28 degrees or so the weatherperson told us, and with some trepidation I returned to the barn. The animals were happy to see me, well cared for by my friend, and then I went to see Louise. She was still in the cubicle where my young Amish friends and I had placed her, surrounded by the bales of straw to keep her warm. Once again she raised her head to my call, eyes bright with wonder, and yes, I believe it is love that I saw there.
Still capable of raising herself on her front haunches, she let me know she was glad to see me and questioned me silently – where was her treat? Louise defiantly teaching me: it isn’t over just because a sheep goes down.
Now I am not for a moment suggesting that she will be up and at ‘em again, but her joie de vive is still infectious. Two of us struggled to move her and ensure her continued comfort. Briefly she stood after one week of being down. No, she did not stand without our help, yet in those sweet moments with her today she helped reaffirm the preciousness of life and rekindled in me the thrill of living.
This evening I whispered my promises to her and thanked her again and told her I would be back in the morning, whether she is here or not. It is her call. I left her with her dignity and she with mine. Grateful for all of our moments, certain my perception of life has once again been altered toward the Good, and knowing I will walk into this New Year ready to give my all.
It has been a year of loss as some of my best animal friends have passed on. Each has taught me a bit more about love and loving. Each I carry in my heart.
So to you dear friends and family, I wish for you a life of loving, tender hearts to carry joy amid the hardships, and a desire to flourish, not merely survive. Peace is possible in our hearts and in the world. We can do this. We can.
Much love to all from all of us here at Echo Valley.
The picture of the blooming orchid was taken today. It was my Mother’s plant and lives on, reminding me again…about love.