I saw two deer in my backyard yesterday evening.
I had gone out to take something off the line so that I could be finished with the laundry. Well, finished for the day at least.
Now, I have a very small backyard. There is a narrow yard that is mostly wood chips, a retaining wall that leads to a slope up and away from the house that is wooded and shaded. The trees and foliage provide a dense barrier from the world. It blocks out most everything … except for the sound of the four lane road that is a house and a ravine away from my house. Such is life, I guess, with the good, we have to take the bad as well. But to see deer is a treat. The slam of the storm door from the sunroom announced my presence and the first deer scrambled on down the hill, fleeing my human presence. Instinct to get away winning out over curiosity.
The second deer stopped. Looked. Its nose was big and black, its tail fluffy brown and white. Majestic and strong. God’s creatures for sure in an area where commerce and humanity are taking over. No wonder they were ambling through my backyard, there isn’t much left for them.
I have always associated deer, whatever one might say, as a sign from God that He is around. Not necessarily wanting me to do anything, but more as a reassuring presence. Knowing that I might need that reassurance before I even know I might. About ten years go, right around this time of year, perhaps even today because it was a week or so before Easter, I had a dear friend die. She was exactly my age, and had two children, her youngest being my Emma’s age. Her son and Emma and another boy were all best friends at the preschool and that naturally led to us moms being friends. She adored Emma and would take her places, took her trick or treating with her son in their neighborhood, and we in turn brought him with us swimming and on various outings. We did in home bible studies together and I remember her telling me a story about how she used to argue with God.
Argue with God? Really? Ballsy.
But you see, she’d had plenty to be emotional about. She’d lost a baby. She’d buried a husband. There was a divorce. And, in the end, was finally remarried, pregnant and happy when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Within a year, she and the baby were dead. I remember thinking how is this fair? What about her two sons? Her gentle new husband? Her mom and dad? I went to see her before she died. Her beautiful face was swollen and disfigured from the cancer and her mom was washing her hair because she couldn’t sit up on her own.
They were both optimistic.
Before she got sick, she told me she would walk in the woods and pray and swear and cuss and cry. She would challenge God to show her the way. Yell at Him for dealing her the deck He’d dealt her. Why, God? Why? … And this was all before the last year of her life.
But as she walked there would always be a deer, following her with its dark, dewy eyes, trepidation and strength wrapped up together. Its gentle presence a reminder of sorts, that we are not alone in this big, scary, unfair, wonderful world.
I think of her often and I always wondered why she was in my life for such a brief period of time. While I was happily having textbook pregnancies and perfect babies, she was suffering and buried hers. While my life was stable, hers was in upheaval. But she gave me something that I hadn’t had up until then. An unwavering faith that even though we may not ever understand why things happen, we are not alone. She touched so many and brought to them the same understanding.
I wish sometimes that we could learn what we need to learn without the pain, the scraped knees, the bleeding hands. That we could all teach and lead by being the servant first so that we would know instinctively what to say, what to do that would take the hurt away.
But life isn’t always like that, I guess. Its good to have the deer to remind us that in the end, it will all be okay.