Gratitude for Life

Fear not that thy life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning. —Cardinal John Henry Newman

by Rachael Dupree

Fear not that thy life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning. —Cardinal John Henry Newman ( 

I don’t know if there’s any place on Earth where the circle of life is more vibrant than on the farm. It seems to me that there’s always something here that’s blooming, hatching, growing or withering—an endless motion of life that, if you pause even a second to blink, is likely to morph into something new.

In the spring, it’s always exciting to stroll the barnyard and see pullets with their combs starting to emerge or a calf suckling its mother’s teat, or to dig through the garden and happen upon the season’s first volunteers that offered themselves without your diligent planting. But this time of year, as Mother Nature covers us with her autumn blanket, the bustle of new life has quieted, and we move into a more reverent phase of the circle.
As we watch leaves fall off the trees and pull tomato plants from the ground, we begin to lament the end of the growing season. This time of year, an elderly animal friend might decide to pass, and sadness will accompany the loss. We’re apt to see death on the farm as something to be mourned. After all, we’ll no longer have that companion, whether it be a fruitful bean bush or a sheep that was a longtime provider of wooly fleece, to which we’ve grown a strong bond. Yes, death brings with it grief, but its during this time of mourning that we should remember the positive ways our lives have been impacted by that living being’s short time on Earth.

I was reminded of this lesson this past weekend when visiting a friend’s farm. Her land, as usual, was particularly “alive,” and during my stay, the farm family was blessed with not one, but two, sets of triplet kids. Have you ever witnessed the spunk of a baby Nigerian Dwarf? Those kids sure know how to celebrate their first days in the barnyard, romping around the dirt and throwing their still-wobbly legs into the air in four different directions. It’s not difficult to appreciate the presence of new life with foot-tall baby goats doing pseudo hurdle kicks at your feet.

But one of the kids—the runt—quickly took a turn for the worse, and when I met up with the family the following morning, they had brought in the baby indoors, warming it with a blanket and heating pad. The children of the house, ages 2 and 4, watched on tenderly as the newborn goat struggled for its life.

Despite hanging on for several hours, the baby goat took its last breath surrounded by its loving caretakers, who softly stroked its head and whispered kind words in its ear until it peacefully passed. For the young children, such a circle-of-life event was difficult to comprehend. The tiny goat, which graced the farm with his presence less than day before, would no longer be there to kick and bleat alongside its brothers and sisters.

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It was sweet to watch my friend explain to her son and daughter that even though the goat’s life was short, it was precious, and we all benefitted from the time it spent on the farm. Her reverence for such a tiny, fleeting life humbled me. Despite the wistful event, she could find beauty in a life that once was.

Keep this in mind when you feel that dark tinge that accompanies a season of loss. It’s because we had we had the opportunity to experience the joy of life in the first place that this moment mourning and grieving happens upon us. So feel free to shed a tear for things in your life that have come to an end, but don’t forget give thanks for the blessings they have brought on your life.

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