Last night, my husband and I took our new dog, Henry, to the end of the road on his normal walk. We noticed a figure in the road, and upon looking closer, we realized it was a doe. She was dead. At first, we thought she had been hit by a car, but that seemed unlikely, since there is nothing but a field at the end of the road. Looking closer, we noticed that she had been partially eaten—attacked by some wild animal in the woods nearby. Maybe a coyote. Her back legs and part of her abdomen had been chewed to the bone, and one of her legs was broken in half. Somehow, with that much damage, and in that much pain, she wandered through a large field and released her body to the road near my home. Even in her torn state, she was beautiful and graceful. Surprised, I could not take my eyes off of her.
The deer, or hind, is a spiritual animal for me. The deer symbolizes a journey or great calling. Deer is able to guide us into a deep spiritual world beyond our own reason. For that, the deer reminds me of rebirth and the importance of the great road to self. I know this doe is on her own soul journey into the wilderness of her own deeper knowing where she remembers her origin and sees her beauty reflected back at her. While I often meditate on the presence of living animals who cross my path, I realize that I limit myself by only acknowledging the physical representation I see with my eyes. I am challenged to see the life presence also in the death of this graceful doe who now haunts me.
On this week when we give thanks, specifically in holiday form, I am grateful for my life and for the life of the majestic doe now resting at the end of my road. Having recently lost my dog of fourteen years to spleen cancer, and having helped her go to rest peacefully in her final days, I am often swallowed by grief at the most unexpected moments. The doe reminds me of the day I said good-bye to my sweet Lily dog (pictured above), who was my greatest friend, teacher and daughter for so much of my life. She will always be a soul mate for me. The presence of the resting doe helps me muse on Lily’s recent journey into deep wilderness. When I release myself to my own sorrow and allow the presence of Lily’s love to fill me, I make pilgrimage with her. In those moments, grief is beautiful, too.