She climbed-up the hay bale with little difficulty and perched on top of it. She looked-out over the farm and realized that she loved this place with every fiber of her being. The farm had been an anchor to her tumultuous life and had provided stability and safety to her from the moment she had arrived.
Let us also not forget about adventure.
Since arriving on the farm she had lived a wondrous life full of new experiences, challenges, growth and adventure.
She conducted her first funeral on this farm when she found an old, male, cat dead in a field and determined that he deserved a more fitting departure than just rotting alone in a field.
It was a gloomy spring day and the ground was still partially frozen. She had been out wandering around, listening to the “Counting Crows” and reflecting on how perfectly the music suited the colours in the sky when she had come-upon the cat carcass.
It seemed sad to her that something that once had life in it, that moved, hunted, ate, played, slept and felt, was now just lying there lifeless and, if she hadn’t found it, forgotten.
Upon deciding that she would give the cat a proper burial, she trudged back to the house to fetch a shovel, a Bible and a hymn book. Having collected these items, she bundled herself up, gathered a couple of dogs to sit with her to pay homage and headed back to the spot where the cat carcass lay.
As she dug a hole in the frozen ground, she had to teach the dogs that the carcass wasn’t a play-toy. Once she had convinced them all to just sit still beside her quietly, she commenced the memorial service.
She opened: “Friends, we have gathered here today to say goodbye to…” and she realized that she didn’t know the cat’s name.
“Tom.” The name suited him nicely, she thought.
“Life is short and for poor, ‘Tom’, it was too short. I will miss him.” She stopped here and cried a little bit. It’s not that she was particularly close to ‘Tom’ or knew him well, death itself was sad and she couldn’t help but be touched by its presence.
“We think about all those who knew him and loved him most”, she continued. “We pray that they will find comfort at this time.”
And, looking at the dogs who were known to, sometimes, terrorize the cats, she added “And you must all do your part to help them at this time. Be nice to the cats, it’s a tough day for them.”
Sammy, the dominant male Samoyed looked up at her with, what seemed to be, a guilty but resigned look of agreement.
“Now, I will read Psalm 23…”
As she read, she paused dramatically to give all those in attendance time to reflect on the words and how they pertained to the life of dear, old, ‘Tom’.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…” She stopped reading again to observe all that existed around her. Taking a deep breath of the farm fresh air her eyes settled on the cattle which were slowly moving around the field to the right of her.
It is grey and dreary right now, life seems to be moving in slow motion, but soon these fields will be green and teeming with life.
She realized she had wandered-off to her own thoughts and that the dogs were sitting there, patiently, waiting for the Psalm to continue.
She went on.
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” and now she was sobbing.
The shadow of death. It sounds so cold and lonely. I hate to think that ‘Tom’ was afraid and alone, passing through the shadows. What a terrible way to be. I hope that I never have to experience that kind of fear. People do every day. Lord, how horribly sad.
And now, she came to notice that a couple of the more compassionate dogs had snuggled in closer to her, aware that she had been crying. Belle, the most gentle Old English Sheepdog that you could ever meet, had come up and rested her head in the young girl’s lap.
“I’m sorry, everyone” she stated. And giving them each a hug she added: “I will never let you die alone.”
She finished reading the song and then declared: “Now, as I lower the body into the ground, join with me in singing ‘Amazing Grace’.”
When she had finished the song she picked up a handful of dust and scattered it over the cat carcass proclaiming: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Enjoy your final resting place, ‘Tom’. We love you.” And with that, she covered him up with the earth.
She took several steps backwards and sat down. She was exhausted.
Death is tiring.
She turned her Walkman on again and exhausted, she lay back onto the frozen ground, staring into the sky and felt her body became heavy as she drifted into dreamland.
“When I think of heaven
Deliver me in a black-winged bird
I think of dying
Lay me down in a field of flame and heather
Render up my body into the burning heart of God
In the belly of a black-winged bird” (“Rain King”-Counting Crows)