Saturday, September 13, 2008

on death

Having a farm is not an easy life. I am in awe of people who do it as their primary occupation, as it is hard and relentless and challenging. Our little enterprise is a walk in the park compared to the lot of a full-time farmer.

Despite all this, I am profoundly grateful that my kids are growing up on a farm, as small as it is. They have a better understanding than many about where food comes from. They have a pretty good work ethic for their ages. They are developing a decent sense of responsibility.

And they are learning all about the circle of life. How life starts, the wonder and joy of birth, the difficulty of sustaining life through illness and injury, the reward of having animals recognize and seemingly appreciate your efforts... and much as we would like not to think about it, the fact that every life ends eventually.

Today we were forced to think about it.

When Primo went out to feed this morning, he found his ram lamb dead in the pasture. The lamb was fine yesterday morning. For whatever reason, his digestive system went haywire at some point during the day and he died before we realized he was in trouble. This had been Primo's project lamb since it was born. He named it, took care of it, trained it to walk on a halter and stand still for the judge, and worked to make sure that it stayed healthy and well fed.

Mind you, he knew all along about the lamb's eventual end. Without meaning to shock those with more delicate sensibilities, we are a working farm. Ram lambs are not nearly as desired or valuable as ewes, and most of our rams are sold for meat. One of the hard lessons my boys are learning is not to get too attached or sentimental.

It's a fine line to tread, and I found myself thinking about it all day. I want them to have a practical understanding about the world they live in, but I also want them to be caring and compassionate individuals. I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. I do think too much emphasis in either direction is not desirable, and finding that balance is certainly tricky.

There were no tears this morning, although there was upset and melancholy. Secondo decided he would help with the burial. Once he got over the shock, Primo was detached, and we let him be. We kept Terzo in the house and occupied, but he was very upset that he didn't get a chance to see the body. It seems that even pre-schoolers need closure.

Rest in peace, Houdini.



  1. oh no! So sorry to hear this. Living through this in this summer - I know how difficult it is. God has destined a life-span for us all and so there is nothing we can do. As our religious teaching goes - there is cure for every disease but death. I am sorry for your loss. It is difficult for the heart to come to terms with it.

  2. BIG HUG for Primo. And so he learns again about the bridge of life. On the other side is my Ben to welcome Houdini over.