This story is one that inspires faith, faith that we have exactly the help that we need when we need it, along with the reassurance that many will join with us in our purpose if it is to the benefit of all. A Doe’s Lesson in Surrender exemplifies the strength and courage we all carry to live our purpose. And, perhaps above all else, this story illustrates the important connection between life, death and rebirth, the healing and transformative power of the feminine.
It’s a longer story than most posted here, but if you take the time to read it, you’ll be rewarded with and strengthened by its powerful lessons.
Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your healing story with us.
A Doe’s Lesson in Surrender by Sarah Alexander
I had just dropped my daughter Leora off at school, and was on my way down winding Arlington Avenue to take my son Ryan to his preschool. Just opposite the local park, and past the new house that had just been completed, a doe was thrashing around on the road near the curb. Someone had hit her and hadn’t pulled over. People were speeding by on their way to work, swerving to avoid the deer but not slowing down. It was a sobering sight. Ryan was alarmed and sad. ”Help the deer, mommy,” he pleaded. I told him I would try.
I parked just past the doe and approached her, trying to reach Lindsay Wildlife Sanctuary on my cell phone. No one was there yet; it was too early. The deer was seriously injured, terrified, and in danger of throwing herself further into the road where she would get run over. What else could I do? She was too heavy for me to lift by myself, and I could worsen her injury. I stood looking around, helplessly, wishing I could make her safe and willing for assistance. Just then a man approached with a very concerned look on his face. He said his name was Andy, he was a neighbor, and he knew this doe; he’d watched her as she grew from a fawn. Together we lifted her to the ground, off the street and away from another collision. He touched her gently, familiarly. She didn’t withdraw from the touch, and I knelt down and began to stroke her. She was trembling with shock and pain. I looked straight into her eye and gently told her,”It’s okay, we’ve come to help. You’re safe now.” She instantly became calmer. Every so often she would start thrashing again in an effort to stand, but the movement only hurt her more. She was bleeding out of her backside; I had blood on my right hand from lifting her.
I didn’t want to leave her; she seemed to be comforted by our touch and the sound of my voice. I was worried she would become frightened again and get herself back onto the street. Andy, a kind looking man in his late 60's, was also scared and anxious about his friend. Ryan was still in the car; I needed to go to him. But I couldn’t bring him to the deer, and I didn’t want to leave her either. I was so torn. Again, I wished for more assistance.
Suddenly one of the moms from Leora’s school drove up, parked, and purposefully approached me, asking if I wanted her to go to Ryan. Not whether she should stay with the deer and I should go to Ryan; she was very clear. I thanked her warmly and said yes. She stayed with Ryan the entire time it took for my story to unfold.
Another man arrived, saying he worked for the county and he had the number for Animal Services, which he was already calling. Meanwhile, two police officers showed up in their squad car and were crossing the street to us. I remember clearly as each person arrived and approached us, as though they were entering a stage on cue from an unseen director.
There was a senior officer in charge, accompanied by a very green rookie. The rookie was young, blond, with a very soft and gentle face. Andy became concerned he’d be late for an appointment; I offered to take his number and phone him later so he would know what had happened. He was deeply grateful, and told me he’d go call the person he was scheduled to meet. Perhaps he could arrange to stay.
I looked at the senior officer now. He appeared to be a very well defended man. His body was hard and tense, his facial features rigidly set. He mechanically pronounced that the animal’s back was broken and they’d have to dispatch it. I looked up sharply, and asked him how he knew for sure; had he spoken with Animal Services? He pointed to her spine and the fact she couldn’t get to her feet. Suddenly it came clear to me that he was right. I hadn’t wanted to see. From the moment I had arrived I’d had a goal; keep the doe safe until someone could save her life. A barely perceptible but profound transformation took place then in my heart. I was no longer there to help the doe live; I was there to help her die.
Meanwhile Senior Officer was repeatedly suggesting that I back away from the deer. ”This is a wild animal, ma’am; she can really hurt you. It’s a liability; really, please back away immediately.” I ignored him the first two or three times. When he repeated himself again, I looked straight into his eyes and told him that I’ve worked quite a lot with wild animals, that this deer trusted me and she was responding to my reassurance. I wasn’t leaving. He was about to object when the doe made a supreme effort to hoist her torso up into the air, landing with her head and neck cradled in my arm. The officers stared. I looked down into her face. I stroked her neck as I would stroke Leora’s or Ryan’s, caressing her head, her nose, the space between her ears. She let out a long sigh, perfectly still. She stared up at me, softly. She was calm; all the pain and terror of before seemed to have vanished. No one suggested that I should leave after that.
Everyone stood still and silent as I sat with the deer for several minutes. Then Andy came back, saying he had been able to reschedule his appointment. I told him what the officers had said, that they were going to shoot her; there was no option. He instantly started to cry. ”Are you sure?” he asked me. ”Do you trust them? Do you think this is really what has to be done?” “Yes,” I answered. Something shifted in all of us then. Andy placed his hand next to mine on the doe’s neck. Together we gently lowered her to the ground.
The younger officer was being offered one of his rites of passage on the force. He slowly removed his gun from its holster, looking very sad and reluctant. His senior suggested we all drive off so we wouldn’t have to see this. He didn’t want to see this. But there was no question about leaving. I leaned close to the deer and assured her she was going to be okay, she was soon going to be out of pain and free to run wherever she wanted. Andy and I stepped back. But the young officer couldn’t shoot her. His hand was trembling terribly. I approached him and gently advised him to look at her. “Talk to her,” I said. “Touch her. Look her in the eye.”To my surprise, he knelt down and placed a hand gently on her flank. With his head inclined toward her face, he spoke quietly to her. I couldn’t hear what he said, but I imagined he was telling her how sorry he was for what he had to do. If he had young children at home, I knew what kind of father he must be. I saw his shoulders relax as he stood again. This time he raised his gun and leveled it at her, his arm steady and his eyes focused but kind. He pulled the trigger and fired one clean shot.
I cried out as the deer threw her body up in response to the bullet entering her heart. Andy and I ran to her side. I continued to talk to her gently, to stroke her, as her heart reacted to the shot. She was calm between contractions, steadily gazing at me. Andy had his hand on her forehead. Suddenly, Senior Officer knelt down for the first time and gently lifted her head off the curb and onto the soft grass. “So she won’t be on the hard pavement,” he explained.
I could feel the exact moment she left her body. Andy felt it too. Her body was still in the process of dying, but she was gone. She was safe now, out of pain, at peace.
The officers immediately commenced with the business of calling and waiting for the animal control people to come and dispose of the body. They didn’t address us further.
Andy and I walked silently back to my car, noticing the sign I had placed in the rear window after the events of 9/11. Love is Stronger than Fear.It was then that Andy noticed the blood on my hand and ran to get a bottle of alcohol. He busied himself with squirting the liquid into my hand and tearing off pieces of paper towel as I needed them. It was something to do, a sacred part of the ritual. Jan, the woman who had stayed with Ryan this whole time, said he had been wonderful; he told her all the names of his Thomas the Tank Engine Trains. I thanked her for staying with him. She, in turn, thanked me. She told me it had been clear to her that I was meant to stay with that deer, and she had wanted to help me to do that. Then I thanked Andy, who gently said, “Thank God you were here. You deal with death a lot better at your age than I do at mine.” We shook hands warmly. He and Jan crossed the street and drove off, after Jan had asked me several times if I was okay, was I going to be able to drive, was I sure....
I looked at Ryan in his car seat, the two of us alone now, and he was perfectly calm. I smiled and told him, “Mommy helped the deer.” He smiled back at me and asked,”Is she moving now, mommy?” I paused only a moment before answering, with absolute certainty, “Yes, she’s moving now.”
Two years later, my Ryan wrote a story for his Writer’s Workshop in 1st grade. I didn’t see or hear about the story until I attended Open House in the Spring. Here’s how the story began: My Mommy saved a deer by helping her die. It ended like this: And now, every time we drive by Arlington Park, I feel happy.
©2002-2010 by Sarah Alexander.
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