Thursday, April 01, 2010

An Open Heart and the Will to Live

The following is an article I wrote for the All Souls Church monthly journal Simple Gifts on the theme for the month: salvation.

An Open Heart and the Will to Live

We operate with a simple rule on the farm: If a sick animal shows us she wants to live, we will do everything we can to help her get well. The rule was at the forefront of my mind the day Lily was born. A lamb born to a ewe that was too young to be bred, Lily came into the world without all she needed to survive the first few hours of life on her own.

Too weak to stand or lift her head, Lily needed help getting her first meal. I prepared a bottle and brought it out to the barn where she lay in the soft hay. Her nervous mama paced and called to her. I picked her up and put the nipple to her lips. Mama came over to us and licked Lily’s back, stimulating her to suck, the two of us working together to give the lamb her best shot at life. Lily latched on to the nipple, emptying the bottle in a matter of minutes. I knew immediately she had a strong will to live.

I took Lily in the house as night fell and the temperatures dropped. I held her to my chest while I talked to Lisa on the phone. It’s been a hard winter at the farm. We’ve lost some animals and my heart has been broken more than once. Lisa knew immediately what I needed as I described the situation. I had the basics down, all the necessary care to help keep her alive. But I was tentative and scared. Lisa affirmed all that I was doing, but quickly zeroed in on what was lacking. “You have to open your heart to her. She’s going to break it. You have no control over that. It may be tonight. It may be tomorrow. It may be ten years from now, but she will break it, so accept that and let her in.”

I nuzzled Lily against my chest, and let her rest in my arms. I prayed for my heart to open. Tears fell as she nibbled on my chin. I felt a deep connection to her. I struggled with fear that she would die. I knew the odds. If a lamb doesn’t get up on her own in the first few hours of life, she isn’t likely to live. The impending sense of doom that had lingered since we lost the first animals in the Christmas Eve snow storm crept in over and over again. I wanted her to live but I was afraid to ask for it, afraid to believe that it would happen.

I let her sleep near me. Every few hours, she stirred and I fixed a bottle. For nearly 48 hours, I fed her and stood her up. I talked to her and sang to her. I watched her struggle to get up on her own. Time after time, she’d almost make it, only to collapse with a thud. Until, finally, almost two days after she was born, she got up. Her shaky legs barely able to pull her up, she stood and in seconds began to walk around the room. She walked circles around me while I danced and laughed. I felt the wall that I had so carefully erected around my heart come crashing down. Salvation came to both of us. With an open heart and the will to live, joy returned and lifted us to the sky.

by Rumi

There is no salvation for the soul
But to fall in Love.
It has to creep and crawl
Among the Lovers first.
Only Lovers can escape
From these two worlds.
This was written in creation.
Only from the Heart
Can you reach the sky.
The rose of Glory
Can only be raised in the Heart.


concretegodmother said...

perhaps i'm just emotional tonight, linda, but this made me cry.

Katherine E. said...

Ahhh, so beautiful. Absolute beauty.

Would you mind if I used this at a Circle of Trust at my church? fully attributed, of course.

Linda said...

Ah, sorry, CGM! I didn't expect this post to have that effect on folks, but it has. I had several tell me the same thing at church yesterday.

Katherine- Of course. I'd be honored to know that you shared it.

concretegodmother said...

no apologies necessary! they weren't bad tears. i hope you'll write another essay/story/post again soon.

Katherine E. said...

thank you, Linda.

I just reread it, and again, tears filled my eyes.

What a gift you have...