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The Dark Side of Nature

Jordan, the rescued turtle, died this week, most likely sometime on Monday though we didn’t confirm it until Tuesday morning. My mind was busy and preoccupied Monday night when mom told me she didn’t think Jordan was doing well. I thought perhaps he was sleeping. I went to bed with a prayer and hope that he was indeed just sleeping and that in the morning he would wake. I didn’t immediately rush to check on Jordan Tuesday morning, rather I went out to work in the cheese shop for awhile. It was mid morning when I came back in to eat breakfast. As bread was in the toaster and tea in the microwave, I went to check on Jordan. (We don’t know Jordan’s gender, but we often called it him.) He was still lying in the exact same position as he was last night. My heart sank and began to race. Gently, I picked the turtle up. No movement. Eyes were shut. He was completely lifeless. I placed him in my palm, hoping by moving him such he would stir. Nothing. My chest and throat tightened, tears erupted from my eyes and flowed freely down my face like a river, even before I could place him back. I cried like a child. Not just tears but sobs gushed forth. I was alone at the moment of my discovery. Mom was sick and had gone back to bed for awhile. I hoped she would emerge soon as the grief threatened to drown me. I tried very hard to gulp down my toast and tea, nearly forcing myself to take each bite. The initial tears began to subside as I read. My whole body began to shake uncontrollably, a combined effect of grief and the cold house. My tears dried a little before mom came into the dining room.

Noticing me shaking, she asked, “Are you getting sick too.”

I said, “No.” And then tears began to pour down my cheeks as I said, “I’m just sad, Jordan is dead.” I explained that he was unresponsive when I picked him up. “I don’t know much about turtles, do they basically shut down when cold?”

She replied, “I don’t know much about them either.”

Then she suggested warming him up and seeing what happens. I heated a bag of corn, laid a napkin on across it, then placed Jordan on top, and turned on his lamp. I felt very child like. Waiting a moment or two with nothing happening, I looked up at mom on the couch. Nothing had happened; he didn’t magically start to move again. Her eyes filled with sadness and empathy for me. She tried consoling me as the tears came gushing forth again.

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“Perhaps, if you leave him there for awhile.” Wait and see.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, I sobbed, “He’s gone.” The turtle had been a gift, it was my beacon of hope in a stressed time.

I sat on the couch, tears rolling down my cheeks. I was taking the death very hard, though it didn’t come as a  surprise, a week ago when Aleesha told me Therese took the death of the bird very hard, and we talked about that we knew and the kids knew right away that there was a very good chance the bird would not make it. I had told Aleesha then, that if Jordan died I would take it very hard given everything else I was going through. Actually I have always had a hard time saying goodbye to beloved animals, even cows, though I didn’t cry over their deaths. One would think by now it would be easier for me, but I don’t think it ever will. With my tender, fragile, big, fierce, and childlike heart I will always respond this way. Loving much means grieving much. In a moment of grief, I often doubt my heart, but then I remind myself it is good and beautiful; I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s interesting how I could love so deeply a wild turtle I had only known for two weeks. But I had become deeply attached. In the evenings, I liked to hold Jordan in the palm of my hand and feel him crawl. I was delighted to run my finger along the keel on his shell, feeling the texture. Look into his eyes. A few times it seemed like he winked. I found it comforting to hear him move around under the glow of his lamp while I read a book. I enjoyed saying goodnight to him as I turned off his lamp so he could sleep. I loved to say good morning to him before I ate my breakfast. To think that he was gone overwhelmed me with sorrow. Tears continued to flow off and on while I weeded in the greenhouse. A friend encouraged me, told me I would get through this. Imagine her hugging me, and remember she loved me. It helped a little but the pain was still present. A few times sobs rocked me. Trying to encourage me, Jesse reminded me that I knew of this possibility before I took the turtle especially since it was unhealthy. He reminded me it wasn’t my fault. Those negative thoughts though popped into my mind, perhaps if I had done something differently. These thoughts spun around and around in my head, adding to the pain. Quickly I recognized the falsehood in these thoughts. Who knows if there really was something I could have done differently, I was probably just borrowing time for Jordan.

Mom also comforted me by saying, “we didn’t know what was going on with him, having part of his shelling missing may have been very painful, if so his death was an act of mercy.”

Back in the house for lunch, I stood in the kitchen looking lost, my eyes were very puffy. Mom was on the couch.  She said, “You look like you need to snuggle.”

I nodded as tears began to flow again. Nestling in next to her, I laid my head on her lap. Tears wet the blanket. I sniffled. She put her arm around my shoulder, silently she let me grieve. Of course it wasn’t just about the turtle, and she understood that. In the safety of my mother, the tears subsided and I started to drift off to sleep. About twenty five minutes passed before I was ready to move. The well of tears was momentarily dry, but I was still overwhelmed by sadness. I indulged a cup of hot chocolate with my lunch, hoping the warm chocolate would help my emotions. It may have been at this point that Mom said Jordan was indeed a gift, he had brought joy and happiness to me for a little while, and I was able to have the pleasure of educating my nieces about turtles and made turtles personal for them. There was nothing to regret. I ate my lunch. Took one last drink of hot chocolate to drain the mug, then I set it back down, I somehow turned it the other way. Starring at me was the verse, “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” It sat there boldly, telling me exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. Funny thing is, I almost had used a different mug but then changed my mind. I showed it to mom.

She asked, “Where is the joy, Bethany?”

Tears filled my eyes again as I answered, “It’s hidden.”

After I was done with this bout of tears, she told me to spend the afternoon with Aleesha and Teddy, since they were making applesauce. As I got up to leave, she reminded me to find the joy. Trying to lighten my heart, I replied, “There are seven of them over at the other house,” referring to my nieces and nephews.

To be continued…

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