For the past couple of years we have had a doe and her two twins hanging around the ol’ homestead feeding off of the flowers in the garden and the bird feeders in the yard. About a year ago the doe had another set of twins . . . now there were four children running around with Mom . . . same pattern of wiping out the flowers and eating up the seed in the bird feeders . . . and, occasional chopped apples secretly thrown into the yard by the wife. Consistently they were entertainment for the wife and I . . . the wife more so than I as she had developed an emotional attachment to the little Cervidae family of critters . . . thus the illicit chopped apples because “they need to eat, too.”
This evening, about 5:30PM, the mamma deer was hit by a car just down the street from the homestead as she was attempting to cross the highway. Apparently the driver caught her in the rear, severing her spine from her legs, and leaving her on the side of the road as her four spawn watched from the other side of the road. The wife did not see the encounter . . . she just happened to come across it on her way home from the town grocery store. And, yes, it upset her . . . upset her quite a bit.
To make a long story short, the local yokel police came and shot it to put it out of its misery. The four babies stood off to the side watching . . . watching and waiting . . . come on, Mom, get up! The officer left it on the side of the road and went off to call the wildlife authorities to come and pick up the body . . . and, the babies waited.
Any critter hit by a car breaks the wife’s heart. This was a special critter. This was one she had grown attached to over the years and to see it laying there suffering . . . and, then later dead . . . shattered the heart. I must admit though, she has hung in there and not started to cry despite the waver in her voice as she spoke about the whole thing. The death of the does was hard, but watching the baby deer waiting was even more difficult.
Several weeks ago I hit a deer with my car . . . over $6,000 worth of damage of the car . . . needless to say that I am not a fan of deer running across the highway in the dusk of the evening as they have a tendency to run into motor vehicles like mine. I have a few choice words for them, but in all honesty, I really lament whenever I have hit a deer. Like some wimpy liberal I think about what is left behind . . . did I leave a bunch of orphans . . . cut a life short? Of course, my logical side tells me it is just a deer . . . dime a dozen here in Montana (which is probably why we rank in the top ten in hitting deer every year). Yet, I cannot help but to think . . .
. . . think about those four orphans left behind after the doe was hit by a car.
I think that is what got to anyone who watched Walt Disney’s classic 1942 movie, Bambi, when his mother gets shot by a hunter while she is teaching Bambi how to find food in the winter. There was nothing sadder than seeing Bambi lying next to his dead mother in the snow . . . our hearts were broken for the little fawn. How was he to ever survive? Isn’t that what ran through all of our minds . . . how was Bambi ever to survive the death of his mother? As much as I liked that movie, I am not sure I am ready for my granddaughters to ever watch it . . . it has a lot of sadness in it. They do not need such sadness in their lives at their age. But, the bleeding heart liberal I have been accused of being thinks about that sort of stuff even if the darn deer ran into my car!
There is a sort of there is a sort of melancholy to this whole thing. I feel bad for my wife because she really cared about that little family of deer that kept popping up into our lives. I feel bad about the fact that the deer got killed . . . she really was a beautiful creature and a great mother to those four fawns. I feel bad that there are now four orphans left behind to fend for themselves. I wonder, will they survive? To say the least, it is a sort of gloom that seeps into the mind . . . and, those gloomy thoughts go beyond just deer, it goes into one’s own life.
Who among us hasn’t thought of “what if?” You know what I am talking about . . . what if I have an accident, die, and leave behind a family . . . what if I my spouse was to suddenly die or disappear or want a divorce . . . what if something happened to one of my children or grandchildren . . . what if . . . what if . . . what if! We have all done it in our minds and hearts leaving behind nothing but melancholy thoughts and feelings. It is amazing that a little doe being hit by a car can flip the switch and make us think, “What if?”
Unlike my wife, I did not go and look at the carnage of the deer/car collision. Unlike the wife, I did not go and witness the somberness of the orphans left behind . . . waiting . . . and, waiting . . . come on, Mom, get up! Unlike my wife, I did not go down to witness the doe lying dead beside the road . . . shot through the head. No, I chose not to go because in my mind’s eye . . . within my heart . . . I already knew. I already knew what would be running thorough my heart and mind. The sadness had sunk in without even witnessing the scene of death. The “what ifs” were zooming through my mind . . . it was a scene I had already played through my mind a hundred times . . .what if?
There are no promises in life. Poop happens as our friends at Alcoholics Anonymous say. Death does not make appointments. We are often caught off guard despite our best preparations . . . and, we think . . . what if? I have a deeply seeded need to protect those whom I love . . . a deeply seeded need to know that they are taken care of . . . a deeply seeded need to know that they are not hurting or suffering . . . a deep need to know that I am taking care of my loved ones. The thing that frustrates me over and over again is the fact that there are no guarantees that I can protect even one hair on their heads . . . or that I can provide for them in their times of need. That reality . . . that fact . . . breaks my heart. It breaks my heart over and over again because I can see four orphan fawns, standing off to the side, waiting . . . waiting for Mom to get up and everything to be okay. It just does not happen that way.
No, a cop comes by and puts a bullet through the brain and the orphans are left to fend for themselves. Such is life.
In my mind the situation for the orphan fawns goes in both directions. On the one hand I would hope that there is a Prince of the Forest (Bambi’s father) who steps up to take care of and provide for the four; but, I know better. Theirs will be a hard life as they strive to survive on their own. Which is the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
It is so easy to slip from deer to one’s own life and family. Like many others, I pray that I have done what I can to do if such tragedy ever happens in my life . . . that my family will be taken care of in their time of need. Yet, there are no promises written anywhere . . . there is only hope.
I know that in the days to come that the wife will wander out into the street and look . . . she will look for those four orphans. I know that in the days and weeks to come—as winter breaks through the fragile shell of autumn—that the wife will sneak out extra bird feed and illicit apples . . . after all, they all need to eat. I know that those four orphans will not be forgotten . . . that they are not just critters. I know that both the wife and I will keep ourselves abreast of the continuing story of the four orphans. I know because both of us, in our own ways, has been touched by the death of this doe.
Because . . . “Death ends a life, not a relationship.” (Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie) Life hurts because of relationships. We care when it comes to relationships whether it is a little doe getting hit by a car or those who are closest to us . . . we care. Caring hurts. Even death has a heart (Markus Zusak, The Book Thief).