Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Sad Story

Subdued and quiet, we glance at each other—“Is he. . .? “ A quick shake of the head, “I don’t think so. It won’t be long.” I gently ask the red-eyed child the necessary questions. “If it dies, do you want to have a funeral or shall we just take it outside and take care of it?” “Just take care of it,” she says bravely. The child goes upstairs and cries, then comes down. “Can you go see. . .?” she squeaks. Yes, it's time. I pull on plastic gloves and go to the back hallway. I palpitate the black bundle. It is stiff and unyielding. “He’s gone,” I tell the child. She runs out for a last brave glance and then dashes upstairs, blinking tears, needing to be alone. Later she says, with a deep breath, “Knowing it might die was the worst. Not knowing if it would or wouldn’t. That was the worst.”


First of all, Homer is fine, he of the boisterous baaing and hungry bottle-sucking and happy galloping out into the chickens’ yard.

So since he has worked out so well, maybe we should get some more bummer lambs, reasoned He Who Likes to Take On Ambitious Projects.

He purused Craigslist. Hey, an ad for bummer lambs! He called. $15 each, or two for 20. “How many shall we get,” he asked, “Seven?”

“We. Are. Not. Getting. Seven. More. Lambs,” announced She Who Dumps Cold Water on His Ambitious Ideas.

How about five? Two total per child? Ok, fine I guess. We’ll get them after school

I brought Jenny, She Who Feels Everything Deeply, home from school today. But first we had to stop at Ketchams, where I had to talk to Elona, a long and delightful conversation filled with mutual empathy, and oh, the torture for the poor impatient child, who had to wait through laborious paragraphs about chronic illness and all the challenges thereof, while she yearned to go home and get those lambs.

Oh, but we were not finished. Then we had to stop at the post office and have a conversation with Hope, whom I never see, again filled with empathy and understanding, about mold allergies and having one’s big daughters out of the house and far away, tsk tsk, it is hard. Oh, the torture of waiting, surely far worse than anything these talkative moms suffer.

Finally, finally, we got home, and gathered the supplies and Paul and Jenny and Steven, He Who Loves All Animals But Gets Lazy About Feeding Them, went off to fetch the lambs.

It turned out that the lamb people were the same ones who have sheep out here by our house, and from whom we got Homer, and who have flocks and herds like Abraham must have had. Well! They offered the lambs for free since they use our water all summer. How generous of them. But only four lambs, because Sarah didn’t think the fifth one would last the night. "The others should be ok," she said. "We have never lost a lamb," said Paul. "You’re very lucky," said Sarah.

So soon I had four lambs in my kitchen in plastic totes. Three white and one black. Four lambs who were the most pathetic-looking specimens I had ever seen in all our years of raising lambs. Limp, sad, quiet; two of them runny with diarrhea. No baaing, no scrambling to get out of the totes, no nosing around for milk.

Jenny, oblivious to their state, decided the black one was hers and fell in love with it as only Jenny can fall instantly in love. [She is not going to EBI until she's 25] She went around in a happy daze, making a list of possible names when she was supposed to be setting the table. “Pierre, Elli, Nibbles, Mistrey, Midnight, Frosty…”

We moved the lambs to the bathroom, turned on a heater, and began to give each other looks like What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into? Jenny decided her lamb was Nibbles.

After supper Jenny went to give her lamb some love and attention, and wept horrified tears when it didn’t respond.

They ate only a few sips of milk at 7:00.

We moved them close to the back door. It all got worse and worse. The stillness, the smells, the hopeless despair, the daughter’s tears, the dark thoughts about the people who gave them to us.

And then I checked Nibbles, and he was gone.

Another one is unlikely to make it till morning.

But the other two ate a little bit and are commencing a weak baaing, just enough to keep us awake half the night.


  1. Oh,what a sad story. Reminds me of sweet little Gussie, my runt pig whom I nursed all night and then she died while I slept for JUST an hour. And I was 24 and newly married! I hope the other two make it. My daughter would LOVE to see your lambs!

  2. As I read your story I had the thought, how wonderful it must have been for that little lamb to spend its final hours with someone who loved it and cared for it. You are so good to take these little ones in and care for them, even knowing that they may not survive.

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  4. I am so blessed by "fiorinda's" positive and loving. I won't even comment cause I couldn't even come close....

  5. Amen, Karen. Fiorinda, none of us had thought of things from your perspective and it made us all feel better.

  6. Sis Rebecca says: Oh my, it is all so sad but the way you put it is so funny I had to laugh and laugh but felt guilty for laughing! I can just see Jenny falling so in love with the lamb. When she reaches 16 you better keep all Eligible Males far away.

  7. I really like your writing style and enjoy reading your blog and your books. Usually I just read your latest entry then quietly leave again but after reading about Nibbles I feel compelled to extend to Jenny my deepest and most heartfelt sympathies.