She is 17 years old, very frail at 80 pounds. Her body slowly shutting down looking sad and tired, refusing food and water, her hair dry and dull, her eyes without sparkle. How could this be? The child I have known for 17 years, always bright, healthy, full of life. How could this be the teenager who graduated high school with honors and recognition, always responsible and understanding. What is happening to her I ask the void around me.
Driving for many hours across the Utah Desert on our way to California, I look at her little body curled up in the corner of the back seat of the car. It pains me to look, my grief is unrelenting and my tears uncontrollable. My heart breaking I beg for a few minutes rest, I need to get out of the car, to walk, breathe and cry in private.
Consumed with doubt that my prayers will never be answered I walk the cold white desert sand. For miles you see nothing, like being on the moon. It is very cold but I don’t feel it, I feel helpless, I feel a mother’s sadness.
Quickly a small black rock catches my eye, I focus on it, it looks so out of place on the white sand, it’s like a magnet pulling me. I slowly walk towards it and pick it up and to my surprise it is shaped like a heart. I hold it, it feels warm and comforting. I hold it tighter and soon I am washed with peace and strength. I hold it tighter and walk to the car. I become aware that the silence of the desert is not disturbed by a thing. As I listen to the silence I hear the essence of a man’s voice saying
When a situation appears dark and cloudy and you don’t understand treat it with love.
With a new strength I get into the car. I am okay, now we can drive on. My prayers have been heard.
Greg and his wife, Mary Elisabeth, thought they had hit it big. They were given a “golden parachute” of considerable size as they were told that Greg’s position with his company had been eliminated. The company had graciously given him a wonderful severance package. Despite his anger and frustration over this unfortunate happening Greg made the most of it and he and his wife of 25 years both had similar thoughts about future plans.
They had saved well, budgeted fastidiously and their nest egg was substantial. They were from similar rural backgrounds and their parents taught them well about saving for a rainy day. And their two adult children were reasonably educated, though still single. Both lived in other states, and had the good fortune of having stable, and good- paying jobs.
This was a perfect time for this enterprising couple to fulfill a longing desire they had discussed many times. They would buy a small farm in the country not far from their urban home. They went the usual route of selling their home after several months of frustration over the lax real estate market in the area. Finding a country place was easy comparatively speaking. They agreed that they would have chickens, a couple of horses and especially some cattle to keep them busy. And keeping food on the table meant that they’d have a substantial vegetable garden and home-raised organic meat, free of all those antibiotics that they’d read about so many times. They found a place that had some 15 acres of open land that would serve as a great pasture for newly-acquired bovines. Mary E, as she liked to be called, shopped the weekly cattle sales near their new home and steadily accumulated a mix of beef calves of different ages. And though all of this was a new venture for her she did surprisingly well in haggling for the right prices with some of the old “geezers” at the sales barn who chuckled behind her back about “that city gal over there.”
Ultimately, with Greg’s approval, Mary E had what she thought was about the right number of animals for their property. The old barn that sat close to the woods on their property would easily hold all of them, with room to spare, in the cold winters of this Minnesota outback. The garden would have to wait until next year.
But a few months later a rather strange appearance in three of their cattle caused them some concern. They called in the local veterinarian, a gruff older man – smart, to-the-point, but not given to much small talk. It seemed to them that the three cattle were not looking as they usually do; something was not quite right but Greg didn’t know what it was. He had heard about a situation called bloat that occurs occasionally in cattle. Greg was quite concerned and called Mary E out of the house to the fence where two of the three animals were standing, chewing their cuds contentedly. Dr. Martin, after briefly checking over two of the three animals was already soaping up his long shoulder-length rubber sleeve and after telling Greg to halter the animal he inserted his arm deep into a cow’s pelvic cavity. Unusual for this crusty old man, he gave out a “whoop” and then a knowing smile. “What’s goin’ on, Doc. What are ya not tellin’ me? Is it serious”? “Yep, serious alright, how many cows you got here anyway?” “Seventeen; why, am I gonna lose one?” “Nope, you’re gonna gain one – this one’s pregnant!” “C’mon, that couldn’t be” said Greg, “these animals are all fenced in. I spent two months to build the fence myself.” Further examination of the other two animals verified Dr. Martin’s comment – all three were pregnant. Mary E was embarrassed and then recalled how the old men at the sale guffawed when she unknowingly bought a bull calf. One day she’d get back at them all and let them know she was no rooky in this “farming business”. But, looking at it another way, – she now quickly regained her composure and started to smile contentedly; she was getting three more animals that didn’t cost her a cent!