A reader once told me that the veil between life and death was so sheer thin, it almost made it impossible to breathe. Last night, as I held our dead lamb in my arms, I knew exactly what she meant.
My initial response was anger. Anger at the situation, anger that there was nothing I could do to bring him back to life, anger that I was in that position of sadness and loss. Anger at myself that I could have… should have… done something more.
As a homesteader, I always feel like there was something more I could have done.
My faith in a sovereign and omnipresent God comforted me amongst the anger, like a beacon of light in an otherwise dark existence: somehow, for some reason, the Lord had ordained Pocket's death. He allowed Pocket to die. To teach me? To challenge me? To stretch me? To sharpen me? To teach me of loss and sorrow so that I could better identify and pray for others? I don't know. I won't ever know.
But I do know that He promises to work for my good. And somehow, Pocket's death served in that purpose.
It's not hard for me to recognize the mystery in God's sovereignty. It's just hard for me to accept it, at times.
As I type this, I can hear an orchestra of peeps coming from the bathroom. I've been housing and tending to two dozen heritage chicken eggs over the past 21 days. The night that I found our dead lamb, Pocket, as I came to the bathroom to weep in peace where no one could see that incredibly ugly crying face that I make when I'm really upset, the very first chick made its appearance.
At first it was just a teeny tiny little crack in the egg that has been sitting stoically over the past weeks. I stared at the crack from behind tear filled eyes and said a prayer of thanks.
Here I was, weeping for my lamb, and new life was springing forward right in front of me. I deemed the lamb more important than a chicken. After all, he had a name. And I'd been waiting for him for over five months! He was to be our meat. A provision.
But all life is important in our Lord's eyes. The wet and helpless chicks peeking from their thick shells were every bit as important as our lamb. And so, with a thankful heart, I was able to celebrate that the circle of life continued.
There are moments when I question my sanity. Who would choose to feel this loss? This attachment to animals, just to see them die? At the end of the day, my body is sore from bending over in the garden or milking the cow. My hands are mud-stained and usually smell of barnyard. My cheeks have been tear stained more times than I care to count from hardship and heartache of the farm.
As I carried Pocket's body from his pen, I shouted up at the heavens with rage “I hate this job! I hate farming! It's too hard!” and I meant it. This lifestyle is hard. And as we all tend to do, I will continue to blame myself. There's a continual symbiotic relationship between a shepherdess and her sheep that seems to slip so far out of balance with death.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm not yet over Pocket's death. He was our first lamb. And for aspiring sheep farmers, that's a pretty significant marker.
But doesn't it seem all the more significant in death? It's a grizzling reminder that while we can practice dominion over this earth, we are far from being in control. It's a reminder of a fallen world that has shifted from it's once balanced axis. It's a reminder of sin and just how far that reaches into our earthly lives. It's a reminder of the reality of death and of that thin veil that just barely separates this existence from another.
Homesteaders are tough. We have to be. With each loss, with each lesson, with each death, we learn, mark it up to experience, pull our collars up towards the wind, and press on.
And so we will.