And A Deer Dies

August 30th, 2007

It just so happens that Rebecca and I often run into animals in distress. They’ve ranged from hawks to humans to groundhogs to domestic dogs, and in most cases we’ve been able to help the creature so that it can be released back into the wild, get proper medical attention, or find its way home.

But sometimes, we come upon a situation where there’s not much we can do to help.

Today, for the second time in our lives, we came across a deer who had been hit by a car, but not killed. She was curled on the pavement, moving her head back and forth. The car that had hit her was nowhere in sight.

We stopped and pulled her to the side. It didn’t take long to discover that her wounds were fatal, so we took her down the hillside into the tall grasses and shade. I went to get my knife, but Rebecca shook her head. So we sat with her, and in a few moments her breathing stopped.

Rebecca reflected as we drove away on how it’s a sort of honor to be there for someone’s death. We can be so removed from actual death, and so barraged with the stylized death we constantly see in movies and television, that many of us have never been present for someone’s dying.

My first reaction, to ‘end her pain’ by killing her quickly, suggests that I felt I might make a judgment regarding whether she should have the right to experience the moment she was in. Perhaps there is a time to kill in such a way, but in this case Rebecca was completely right – the deer was peaceful and quiet, her eyes soft, right up until the moment she died. The steel of a knife might have given her a very different experience.

We can get tangled in moments like this. Wondering what is the ‘right’ thing to do. But careful attention to the circumstance at hand always shows us what is ‘right’, and if we’re present in any given moment, we will never feel regret for what we have done (or haven’t done).

Unlike the first deer that we encountered many years past, we had no tears or sadness for the beautiful doe that died today. No anger at the driver who had hit her and left her there. And reflecting on the experience, anger or sadness might have altered how we reacted to the situation. Our minds would have been elsewhere, and we wouldn’t have found ourselves able to be there for the moment at hand.

All of us are experiencing this marvelous thing called life, and the only true tragedy in the world is when we ignore the life we’re living. I can only imagine what that deer experienced, but from her eyes, she seemed right there, feeling the intake of each breath, the trembling shock throughout her body.

As human beings, we too are perfectly able to experience this very moment, and when we do, we find it marvelous, even if it is the experience of something we might call ‘painful’. Even our own tears can be marvelous! It is our desire to be elsewhere, our belief that there is something better waiting tomorrow, that robs us of our ability to experience the wonders of life. We can be swift to judge whether a situation is worth experiencing. When we think that things will be better later on, we do our best to escape this moment – to ignore it as best we can.

It might take us until our own death to discover what we missed during all the decades that we walked about on this earth, always wishing we were somewhere else. In that moment, we can hopefully forgive ourselves for all that we’ve missed, and experience our own last breaths, our own emotions and sensations.

If it takes us until then, so be it. But may we all, in that final moment of life, finally discover this remarkable reality which has been waiting so patiently for us all along.

12 Responses to “And A Deer Dies”

  1. sof theo says:

    Beautiful. Thanks for this post, Kenton.

  2. What a beatiful way to see our own existence! I have also had this particular experience with animals. It is amazing to see how utterly and completely they surrender themselves to their life. Yes, even the last breath is still an act of pure life…

  3. Kenton, thank you for sharing this special moment with me.

  4. Greetings sof theo,
    My pleasure.

    Vitor,
    It is interesting to hear that you have had similar experiences! I tend to wonder if animals are all perfectly enlightened and the only creature the ‘joke’ is being played on is we humans ;) By the way, your website is very exciting — not just for its content, but also because Rebecca and I are trying to learn Spanish, and your site has provided a wonderful new resource where we can practice our reading and also be excited by the content! We’re staring with the fractals . . .

    Sweetwater,
    Kenton

  5. Hello Patricia,
    Wonderful to hear from you! I must say that I simply loved the way you expressed that. Amazing that you can sense the one-on-one relationship in a medium that is usually interpreted as ‘one speaking to many’.

    Sweetwater,
    Kenton

  6. Kenton,

    Curoius that you refer to all of this as a joke… that’s the exact same feeling I have sometimes.

    Glad you liked my blog!

  7. A really beautiful post, man. Thanks. And a fantastic reminder for us to stay present.

  8. Rahul says:

    Another brilliant post Rev.

    Such a sad incident and yet you managed to make it spiritual. I’ve always had rage against people who do cruelty towards animals, whether intentionally or otherwise.
    You’ve showed how to turn that into a peaceful moment, and accepting whatever that happens.
    Thanks a lot for that.

  9. Greetings Rahul!

    I know it’s easy to feel angry at people for their treatment of other creatures. In my other life, I was going to be a radical environmentalist =) Boy did I have some plans to protect the trees and squirrels and caterpillars! I guess at some point I thought that maybe if people weren’t inflicting self-harm, that might encourage them to be a bit more considerate of the rest of the world. A little bit of that flavor of energy probably aided in the development of this site.

    Thanks for the wonderful comment, and your thoughtful words.

    Sweetwater,
    Kenton

  10. Carol-2 says:

    It took me a minute to understand what you were feeling, I felt emotion just reading this story. I know that I could not have experienced this without crying, not in anger but in loss. Such a sad and usless loss of beauty. But I applaude your connection with the deer and I think it must have helped to feel you near. Nice blog.

  11. kay says:

    Oh my goodness…your story moved me and I cried but it was not only from sadness but you touched me with your experience and your wisdom. I’m bookmarking this so that I can read it again. Thanks so very much. It was profound.
    Kay

  12. Thank you Carol-2 and kay for your kind comments. It’s wonderful that this deer’s story is touching so many people. =)

    Sweetwater,
    Kenton

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