The Fight for Life

I was returning from a Women’s Conference, driving the scenic country highway, worship music blaring, feeling so filled up with the joy of the presence of God. Jason called and I answered.

“Rosemary died two hours ago,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for you to come see her before we bury her.”

Talk about an emotional crash. I was halfway home, and told him so, but I knew they would still wait the thirty minutes more. He knows I need the closure with our animals.

Rosemary was our eight month-old heifer calf, born on Pentecost Sunday night. She was the exact image of her mother with her white face and orange body. She was always very scared of us and would never let anyone near her, let alone touch her. We would admire her from a distance. When we dewormed our cows this past summer, Rosemary was still too little to get a wormer, so we opted out for her, thinking she would get some of it through her mother’s milk. The summer was so dry and then the fall and winter was hit with so much rain, that it created a breeding ground for parasites. We knew we needed to get our cows dewormed again this winter, but we got busy and just did not get around to it in time. And by the time we noticed that Rosemary was not well, it was too late.

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Getting to love on Rosemary for the first time, as she never would let us touch her.

Jason and I brought her into our stall in the barn and the very fact that she was not running away from us made us realize how sick she really was. Just the walk one hundred yards from the pasture to the barn exhausted her and she collapsed as soon as she got inside. And she never stood again.

We immediately gave her a dewormer and started a process of feeding her raw milk every three hours and giving her B12 injections every day and Vitamin C. The first two nights Jason and I got up around the clock to feed her and the next day he tried to start an IV, thinking she was severely dehydrated. Our neighbor kept checking in on Rosemary and offering advice and we continued to dialogue with the vet, who basically said to keep her warm and continue feeding her.

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Jason trying to start an IV on Rosemary.

When I was finishing up at the Conference, Jason fed Rosemary a little bit of milk. She sighed deeply, and then was quiet. After a while, she sighed deeply one last time. And then she was gone.

I arrived home that evening as rain began to spritz in the twilight. I put on my boots and then hurried out to the far side of our top pasture. Jason and the kids were there with the tractor and there was a deep muddy hole in which had been placed the small body of our calf, Rosemary. All at once, in a spontaneous manner that reminded me of my mother, I began to sing “It Is Well With My Soul.” Hoping someone would join me, I sang the first verse, and then the second, and then the third. No one joined in and I could tell Jason was getting anxious to bury her before there was no more light to see. As I started the last verse, he jumped in the tractor and then, as I finished, he immediately started it and began to cover her up. All the while, the rain spit down on us.

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Looking at her grave the next day.

The very next day, Jason was on shift and made a call with the fire department to a young patient.  I don’t know the details, but in the course of the fight for life, the fight was lost.  I’m really not sure how my husband does it. He daily enters the battle of life and death and some times he is able to stabilize the patient and bring them back. But many times, he isn’t. But the fight for life must be made. It is too sacred of a thing not to fight for. For animals. But especially for people.

Rescue those being led away to death, and restrain those stumbling toward slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know about this,” will not He who weighs hearts consider it? Does not the One who guards your life know? Will He not repay a man according to his deeds? Proverbs 24:11-12

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Lament for a Dog

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Thursday afternoon our family gathered around the weak and failing body of our Great Pyrenees, Maximus. All of us weeping, we hugged his neck one last time, whispered our love for him, telling him what a wonderful dog he was, and we said goodbye.

I don’t think there is anything that can prepare you for the sudden loss of a dog. Max wasn’t old. He was just three weeks shy of his second birthday. He was in the prime of his life. No longer an immature and undisciplined puppy, he had grown to become a magnificent guard dog. He and his sister, Mira, took great care of our farm animals. They were up all night patrolling the land and keeping predators like skunks and raccoons away from our sleeping chickens. They kept an eye on our pigs and cattle and would chase away stray dogs or coyotes. And perhaps best of all, they were my children’s faithful guardians. After being up all night, they would collapse under the porch to sleep, as is the livestock guard dog’s rhythm. But the moment our screen door squeaked open and any one of my children wandered off down to their fort or to the creek, first Max and then Mira would crawl out from under the porch and be right by their side. Trusted. True. Faithful. They were the epitome of the definition of man’s best friend.

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Thaddaeus with Maximus. This happened every day. We came to regard them both as “Thaddaeus Maximus”.

I won’t go into all the details because I really don’t want to relive them, but Max went downhill fast. We noticed that he was sick on Wednesday morning, took him in to the vet, where he stayed overnight, then we took him to the emergency clinic at A&M Thursday morning and were told that his kidneys were failing. In a moment that you are never prepared for, we had to make an impossible decision. We decided that the most gracious thing to do was to put Max down.

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In the car on the way to the emergency clinic.

We came back home and found Mira, faithfully holding down the fort, wagging her tail as we arrived. But inevitably confused as to where in the world her brother went. Death is an unnatural thing. It’s not how it was supposed to be. The separation and the absence confounds us. Truly, we are looking forward to a better country. One without sickness and death.

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to this present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.

Romans 8:22-24

All of creation is longing for the return of Christ, whereby he will put to death the final enemy, death itself. How I long for that day.

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My daughter was up last night journaling about Max. Here are a few of her words:

Maximus, you have won a special place in my heart. Even though you’re gone, I will not stop loving you. I hope you will be in heaven when I die. I hope we will meet again. I will take care of your sister. I love you my sweet, big/little bear!

Love, Addie