Despite eighteen years of parish ministry, helping families grieve the death of a loved one is still really, really hard—especially when it’s the tragic death of a child.
Tag archive: loss
Thanksgiving Day was great. All of Mommy’s family was in for a big dinner—so the chickens were the beneficiaries of many delightful scraps of fruits and veggies as Mommy prepared to receive her guests. The chickens spent the day taking the normal path around the yard, and when they made their way to the back deck, got to spend some time with Mommy and her nieces, who tossed fistfuls of oats to them. Mommy stood and told the nieces all about the chickens.
Suddenly, Amelia made a warning sound—there was a hawk flying nearby. All of the chickens stopped, listened and quietly made their way underneath the deck until it was safe to come out. All of the chickens, that is, except for Martha Jones. She stayed out, daydreaming, pecking oats and singing softly to herself—never noticing that there was any danger.
“Good grief.” said Mommy to her nieces, “Martha is oblivious. See how she’s in her own little world? What a goofball!” They all chuckled. “Martha! Pay attention! You’re going to get yourself in trouble one of these days!”
The day after Thanksgiving was a very sad day at Blackwater Farm. Martha Jones, the sweet, oblivious hen who always had a daydream in her head and a song in her heart, was murdered in cold blood. It’s still unknown what animal killed her, but it was scary enough to frighten Samwise, the Australian Shepherd. So, maybe an angry chipmunk with an ax to grind…
On that brisk November morning, a few hours after the flock was let out of their coop, Mommy went to spend time with them, as was her habit. They girls were not in their usual spot for that time of day, and Mommy had a little trouble locating them. Nathaniel had come outside, so Mommy drafted him into helping find them. He found them near the meadow that they stayed away from because it was where the Hawk kept its nest and not far from the place that a fox had kept it’s den the year before. That was a strange place for them to be, but maybe they were feeling bold.
Anyway, later in the afternoon, as was her habit, Martha was trekking around the yard with her sisters, quietly singing to herself and not paying attention to her surroundings. They went back to that section that they were in during the morning hours—a little farther down the hill, toward the meadow and out of sight from the house. Dad was outside chopping wood with Samwise for company.
“Okay, ladies. Keep a sharp eye out and an attentive ear. We’re a little far from home and have to be cautious.” Cartoon said. “Amelia; we’re counting on you to be the lookout.”
“You’ve got it.” said Amy, proudly.
The flock wandered through the brush on the hill, picking at the last remnant of greens as the increasingly cold weather slowly withered them away. Many hours passed in peace, but as the girls made their way up and down the hill, over and under bushes and tall grasses, Martha kept falling behind. She would stop and daydream, and not notice that she was alone. Several times, Cartoon found herself asking, “Where has Martha got herself to, now?” They would call to her and eventually, Martha would snap out of her dream world and rejoin her sisters.
“You have to be careful, Martha!” Cartoon chided. “We’re not close to the coop and Mommy’s not out here to step in if danger approaches.”
“Oh, alright.” Martha would answer. “I’ll pay better attention.”
But she didn’t. She continued on wandering and singing, and continued to take no notice of what was happening around her.
Without warning, a predator was upon them. Amelia let off a warning and the girls scattered under a nearby quince bush. All of them except for Martha, that is. The creature nabbed the unaware Martha and carried her away. The terror of it scared Samwise, who begged Dad to let him go back in the house.
The other girls, in a panic, split up. Cartoon, Amelia and Butterscotch ran through the quince, under some brambles, behind the shed and took shelter in the forsythia. Cartoon told Amy and Butterscotch to stay put and ran straight to Dad, yelling to him that Martha was in trouble. Unfortunately, Dad didn’t speak chicken, but went to get Mommy. While that was happening, the creature made another pass, and separated the baby, Belladonna, and her mother, Donna Noble. Donna went all the way across the meadow, over the brook and up the hill. The baby was missing.
Mommy and Dad looked everywhere for Donna, Martha and Chanticleer. Even Samwise tried to help. For more than half an hour, they searched, calling out to the missing chickens.
“Chanticleer! Martha! Donna!” Mommy called, trying not to cry. Sam found Martha, but they were too late. The animal had killed her, but must have been scared off by their noise. Mommy became more desperate to find Chanticleer and Donna, fearing the worst.
Eventually, Dad found Chanticleer. Mommy scooped him up and put him in the coop. Then she grabbed Butterscotch, Amelia and Cartoon and put them into the safety of the coop. Now, she just had to find Donna. Fighting off terrible thoughts, Mommy scoured the yard, calling out to the mamma of little Chanticleer. As she got to the stream, calling for Donna all the while, Mommy heard a reply.
“I’m here, Mommy!!!!” called Donna.
“I hear you, Donna, but where are you?!” cried Mommy
“Over here! Across the stream!”
Mommy bolted over the stream and saw Donna on the hill under a fallen tree. Donna kept calling to Mommy after she saw her, and ran to her as fast as she could. Mommy clutched Donna and held her in her coat to comfort and warm her. Donna nestled in, relieved that she was found and safe again.
Mommy returned Donna to the coop with her remaining sisters and son and they all comforted one another quietly.
Since that day, everybody is far more vigilant about predators. Samwise is always on the lookout for “bad birds,” barking at and chasing vultures and hawks, and Mommy only lets the chickens into the fenced in garden when she can be out there with them. Everybody misses Martha. And everybody learned a very terrible lesson from her story.