December 27th, and it’s gray. The Midwest has a way of graying out during the month of November and staying gray until February. Days like today, it looks mostly the same outside at 8:00 am that it does at 4:00 in the afternoon.
I’ve been feeling as gray as today’s sky. I think we all have times like this, times when each day is just a push from morning to night, an effort to get from the start of your day to the finish in one piece. If I’m being completely honest, 2015 has been one of the most difficult years on record for me. I’ve felt in chaos more than I’ve felt safe, and more days have proved a struggle than I care to admit. It’s easy to get lost in that, forget that everything with a beginning eventually has an end.
But, right now, I’m just in the middle of my chaos, and I’m feeling a little lost.
Yesterday, I made the call to have one of our older llamas euthanized. Hokatika had taken a turn on Christmas Eve, laying down and being unable to stand back up again. Our vet made the thirty-five minute trek to our farm without a second thought. Such is the life of a country vet I suppose, being called into work on your day off only to act as the angel of death. He asked her weight, and I guessed; I couldn’t weigh her, but it didn’t matter. The euthanasia drug is an overdosed sedative. We couldn’t hurt her with too little (we would only give more) or too much.
Jeremiah held her head while doc administered the shot. She flinched against the needle, but only a bit. I stood outside the stall hoping she knew she was loved, knew that we were sorry for the needle, a last small discomfort I couldn’t spare her. Once the shot was administered, it wasn’t long before she was gone. Doc checked her heartbeat, murmured a few words about our camelid nursing home, and stood up to wash his hands and pack up his things.
I knew I made the right call, that I gave her a measure of grace in the end, and I didn’t cry this time, though I felt the tears well up more than once.
We finished up chores and went about our day. She passed quietly, and I mourned her quietly as I finished cleaning stalls. She’s the fifth large animal we lost this year, the third euthanasia. It’s a kindness, I know, but every time I make that call, I feel a deep sense of sorrow. It’s no small thing to take a life, even when it’s done to prevent further suffering.
Hokatika was remarkable in her quiet way. She was one of the best mothers on the farm, even adopting orphan babies when the occasion arose. She was curious, always the first to investigate new animals or happenings. She like apples and loved grain. I called her hokey-poke, and I will miss her. Hers is a bittersweet absence, and my heartache is lessened by knowing that I made it as easy as possible and that I didn’t wait too long.
For the first time I am looking forward more to the New Year than I did to Christmas. I’ve been thinking about the symbolic clean slate that the new year brings with it, and I’ve been feeling desperate for it. Four days, and the year is over; four days, and we start something entirely new. I’m ready for something new.
But, even in the middle of the chaos, even at the end of my worst year, there is so much to be thankful for. Today I’m thankful for Hokey’s quiet end and remarkable self. Even in the bad, there is good.
We watched movies and drank wine last night. When I finished my first glass, Jeremiah asked if I wanted more.
“Hokatika is dead,” I responded, passing my glass to be refilled.
Salut to my girl, I thought, lifting the dry red wine to my lips and taking another sip.