Death and Fierce Compassion
The kids were playing their game system in the back of the car and I was ruminating on the nature of awareness.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a deer heading across the highway maybe 200 feet in front of me. In Southern Indiana, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. This time, however…
There was an older blue car in my lane whose path could not avoid the frantic deer.
The back of the deer and the front corner of the car collided. The deer stumbled into the grassy median and the driver of the car quickly pulled off to the side of the road, as did I.
I went on high alert. I was watching the deer, struggling to stand, her head flopping up and then down as she tried to move a body that was no longer responding. I was watching my phone, dialing 911, trying to calmly share what had just happened. I was watching my rear view mirror and the road behind me, anxiously fretting every time a car approached. I was watching my kids, who seemed confused but (horridly? thankfully?) disinterested. And I was watching the person in the car ahead of me, cell phone in hand, surveying the front of her car…
She looks exactly like my grandma.
Timidly, I took a few steps away from my car. I danced between flagging cars away from our side of the road, painful glances at the deer who, by this point, was resting with her head on the ground, and the woman (my grandma – she looks like my grandma) who was visibly shaking.
I had to talk to her. When there was a large break in traffic, I asked her if she was ok…checked her dented front fender. Tears in both of our eyes as we re-hashed the facts…I had to hug her.
Eventually an officer and someone from animal management showed up. We all knew. I kept talking to the woman, keeping us focused on us, look at the car, mention again how good it is that she is ok, …
We saw the woman from animal management go over and, with a visible kindness, face the deer.
Thankfully traffic isn’t heavy, perhaps we can find that piece that came off your car, anything, just keep talking, keep talking…
No conversation could have been loud enough to cover the single gun shot that pierced the air.
We just hugged.
I offered my name. Marsha offered hers. We exchanged a final hug. What more could we say?
I left her, the officer, and the animal management employee who had seen the deer’s final moments in this life.
This is one story, one view, on short series of minutes that could otherwise have little effect. For Marsha and I, it did. And you know what?
I’m thankful for that.
I’m glad to be the type of person who cries after watching an animal die. I’m glad to be the type of person who stops, feels the instinct, and offers a hug to a stranger. I’m glad to be the type of person who feels for Marsha, the deer, the woman who had to make the choice to end the deer’s life.
And I’m angry.
I’m angry because I am unique in this way.
I’m angry because I know that of the 100% of people I would share this with, 90% wouldn’t shed a tear. (I’d venture a fairly high percentage would give some response about thinning out the deer population.)
On the way home, a hawk flew right in front of our car, wings open, a peaceful glide through our awareness. 90% wouldn't think twice about this either.
Through my tears, something burns within me.
It is a fierce compassion that demands attention.
It is a being within that holds a sword and, one determined, unhurried step at a time, marches towards those who would laugh about or ignore the deer that probably still lies in that grassy median.
This way of being is deeper than the anger, beyond any emotion-driven response. There is not a typical reaction of damn it you will see it MY WAY. There is only compassion, a compassion that does not whisper and ask, ok, maybe, could you possibly listen to me now, I mean, only if now is an ok time….
The sword slices through illusion to reveal the being that the laughs try to protect.
This way of being, MY way of being, for I am finally owning it, is gently powerful and determinedly compassionate without apology. THIS IS THE TYPE OF WORLD IN WHICH I WANT TO LIVE, thus, this is the type of person I choose to be.
Tonight, I send prayers to Marsha. I wish her a peaceful night’s sleep. I send prayers to the woman whose gun remains holstered with one less bullet.
I send prayers out into the world that we may all find our pain, our anger, and yes – our laughs and complacencies – and that we may acknowledge it all. That we may see our way through our fears and our jaded attitudes and, without judgment for any way of being, start living in our own lives as we want this world to be.