Note: I was going to post this yesterday when it happened but we had wildfires in our area that kept us concerned and preparing in case we had to evacuate. Today is a better day so I’m sharing it now.
Early last winter, an injured doe showed up alone on our property. She looked like she might have been hit by a car as her right-front leg was disfigured from the shoulder down making it unusable. Her face showed the depth of her pain, and so did her thin, frail body.
I cried when I saw her.
I post a lot of pictures showing the beauty of the wildlife that wanders our property and share the joy it gives my husband, Michael, and me. But I’ve never really shared the other, less-joyful side of living in nature, which is witnessing the challenges and life-and-death struggles it faces every day.
This particular injured doe is that “other side” that I’ve witnessed but have not shared until now.
This deer, who we named Grace, showed up when I was in my battle with cancer and going through grueling treatment for it, and, for some reason, in Grace I saw myself. I felt that Grace and I were kindred spirits not only in our pain but also in our struggle to survive.
I have found it hard to watch wildlife when it’s struggling, knowing that there isn’t much we can do to help it, leaving us, at times, to witness nature “run its course.”
In Grace’s case, Michael and I knew the only thing we could do to help was to give her food. So we did. We heard that other neighbors gave her food, too, all of us hoping that it would give her the strength she needed to make it through the winter.
This beautiful, helpless creature in so much pain and struggling to walk, especially in the deep snow, haunted me. My heart was often heavy, thinking about how she was suffering every minute of every day, as I, myself, was experiencing the same kind of constant and relentless pain.
In some way, I felt that we depended on each other for our individual survival – for Grace it was the food we provided her and for me it was the strength her infrequent and temporary presence gave me, reminding me that if she could endure her challenges and survive, so could I.
Every morning I would look out our kitchen window for Grace, but most of the time she wasn’t there. She would be gone for weeks at a time, and when she was, we thought the worst: she probably had died.
But just when we were sure that she had, she would show up, sometimes with our neighborhood deer Rudy, who we think is her mom, skinny and still unable to use her injured leg yet, miraculously, still very much alive.
Winter turned to spring and spring to summer, and Grace’s visits to our property were few and far between. Her last visit was on May 8th of this year and she didn’t look good (see attached picture).
A few days ago, Michael and I were talking about Grace because it had been so long since we’d seen her; sadly, we both agreed that she probably had, finally, succumbed to her injuries and the harsh elements of nature that she faced handicapped.
But this morning Rudy showed up with two other does. When I saw them in our back yard, I went out on our deck to say Hi to Rudy, and when I did, I noticed that one of the does had a bit of a limp and her right-front leg looked different than her other three legs.
Could it be Grace? I wondered.
I studied her for a while, and even though she looked different because she had gained quite a bit of weight and was walking almost normal, I could tell, without a doubt, that it was Grace.
My heart was overjoyed so I ran inside to share the good news with Michael!
We both went back outside, and after carefully looking at her, Michael agreed that it was Grace.
With big smiles on our faces we watched Grace be a “normal” deer, amazed that she had not only survived but also that she was now thriving, her face no longer showing any pain and her injured leg now strong and usable.
The picture with this post shows the amazing transformation Grace has made from when she was here in May to today.
We came back inside and I watched Grace, Rudy, and the other deer wander around our back yard then off and out of sight. As I did, tears filled my eyes as I thought about the individual and collective journeys Grace and I have been on the past year and how far we both have come.
This morning, Grace reminded me that, even when a positive outcome seems impossible, or when the odds are stacked against us, or when our days are dark and our challenges big, if we just keep going, putting one foot (or one hoof) in front of the other, miracles can happen.
If you are facing a big, or small, challenge right now, I hope you remember this, and that you find strength from Grace’s amazing story and how this little creature defied the odds!
Thank you, Grace, for showing all of us what strength, resilience, and grace look like. I will remember you forever.