Last Saturday morning we got up early to get the girls ready to run a 5K benefit race being organized by our middle school. It was being held to raise funds for a beloved teacher who had contracted a life-threatening infection a few months ago and had accumulated soaring medical expenses as a result of his long stay in the hospital. It was a drizzly, chilly morning but our spirits were high as we got ready to celebrate the miraculous recovery of the teacher who had just gotten home from the hospital the day before.
Brian went out to feed the animals as usual, but when he came back in he looked pale and shocked. Turns out some kind of predator, probably a raccoon, had gotten into our chicken pen and there was carnage everywhere. We couldn’t believe it as the pen, where the mature hens and bantam rooster were being temporarily housed while our new spring chicks had taken over their normal coop, was surrounded by a very high wire fence with only about a 1 foot gap between the top of the fence and the roof of the barn. But apparently that had been space enough for the marauder to climb over and take out 7 of our hens and the little rooster.
Upon hearing the news, the girls cried and I tried lovingly to console them and to make sense of what had happened. Brian was faced with the painful task of rounding up the dead birds and placing their broken bodies into a large garbage bag to be dealt with later. He was moved to tears, too, in compassion for the birds as well as empathy for the sadness his daughters were feeling. We’d lost hens before to predators and thought we had all grown a little more detached from the inevitable occasional occurrence, but this loss felt worse. For one thing, many of these hens had been shown at the County Fair last season and had won lots of ribbons and prizes, and apparently we were more attached to them than we had realized. And then there was just the feeling of being violated that comes when a predator enters what you had regarded as a safe space.
I really didn’t think the girls would be able to pull themselves together quickly enough to finish getting ready and out the door for the race within the time we had allotted. But they really wanted to show their support for their teacher and got it together in time to make it to the race. While it was chilly and gloomy, they were determined to carry on in honor and celebration of the occasion.
At the start of the race, they were greeted by a wonderful and warming sight. The beloved teacher whom they’d worried about for so long and who had been given only a 7% chance of survival months earlier, was there with his wife, also a teacher at the school, and he was beaming from ear to ear at the sight of all these supporters. Another teacher was with him and was crying for joy at the fact that her friend and colleague had made it and was on the road to recovery.
Although we were all still gloomy and sad about our losses for the rest of the weekend, which was not helped by the cool, cloudy and damp weather, we found moments of happiness and celebration every time we considered the bigger picture. Imagining what our teacher and his family had been going through for months, and the jubilation all that knew and loved them were feeling as a result of his courage and perseverance through this ordeal, sure helped to put things into perspective.
Life Lesson: Life has its ups and downs; focus on the ups whenever you can