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The Dark Side of Nature Continued

I spent the afternoon and evening over at the other house, I didn’t have the courage yet to tell them my turtle had died. I allowed the busyness and noise of the house to distract me, an hour or so slipped past. Aleesha had gone outside for a moment and Teddy left to pick up her son, Tony. The other children were outside; Isaiah and I were the only ones in the house for a few minutes. Almost in a whisper, I told Isaiah my turtle died as I saw Lexie walking over to my house with her hands cupped, taking some creature to feed Jordan. My heart almost stopped as I observed her knocking on the door. The kids had enjoyed collecting bugs and worms to feed Jordan. They also liked to hold him. How were they going to take his death? I watched as Mom opened the door and Lexie showed her what was in her hands. (I was told later she had an earthworm.) They talked for a minute or two. Momentarily, I turned away to talk to Isaiah and then they were gone. Walking away from the window, I sat back down and ate some apple slices. Just a few minutes later, Aleesha came into the house and Teddy returned with Tony. Before long, Lexie also came into the house; she deliberately walked around the table towards me.
IMG_0244She hugged me and whispered, “Grandma told me your turtle died”. Then she crawled into my lap and wrapped her arms around my neck and snuggled into me for a while. She was on my lap off and on for the next two and half hours, consoling me but also distracting my sorrowful thoughts with her school work and conversation.
To comfort me, Lexie said, “You could get another pet or we could get one for you. Your turtle lived longer than our bird did.” It was true, I should be grateful for the two weeks I had Jordan, which I am.
Around 6:00pm, Isaiah and I went out to wash the aging room floor in the cheese shop. We just left the house and Lexie was nearby, she came to me and reached up to hug me. As I picked her up, she wrapped her arms and legs about me. She begged to come with us, wanting to keep me company. Unsuccessful in talking her into walking with Seth instead, I carried her down to the cheese shop. With delight, Lexie helped us wash the floor using a scrub brush on the tough spots that didn’t wash away with the water and broom. The work became light hearted with Lexie’s sweet company and eagerness to help. As we finished and walked out, she asked if I would hold her. Needing a lot of touch at the moment, I eagerly picked her up and carried her back into the house. She begged me to eat supper with them. Isaiah, and Seth and Teddy with their kids were also eating supper with Alesha’s family. Lexie and I shared a plate and sat close together.
At some point in the many hours together she told me, “Grandma said you need lots of hugs today.”
Lexie had made it her mission. She showed such love and empathy through her actions. I thanked her multiple times for being so sweet. Around 8:00 pm, she very gently and reverently went up to everyone and told them my turtle had died. I had decided to bury Jordan, however I didn’t have the courage to do so that day, fearful the tears would start streaming yet again.
I asked Lexie, “Would you like to help me bury Jordan tomorrow.”
She said, “Yes, I would like to.”
Not too long after finishing supper, I said my goodbyes to my siblings and the children. Lexie hugged me one more time and kissed me too. The full, cheery house was behind me, my quiet and at that moment dreary house sat across the driveway, thankfully, an extremely short walk. Mom was heading to bed when I walked in, before long I was alone once again. Tears began to fill my eyes once more, mercifully, they didn’t spill over.

IMG_0245We waited until late afternoon on Wednesday to bury the turtle. It had been raining off and on all day, very gloomy and chilly. The weather, though miserable, seemed perfect for a burial. I was still sad about Jordan’s death, but the sadness wasn’t threatening to overpower me, I had successfully clung to the joy Lexie had brought me. Asking Lexie to help bury the turtle was a good idea, I wasn’t alone and it was an important ritual for kids. (She missed the burial of their bird and was disappointed that she had.) It was important for me too, the burial provided closure. I found a place near the houses so Jordan would be close to us. The spot was under a clump of lilacs. A large maple’s branches spread as a canopy over the lilacs. It seemed like a beautiful resting place for our turtle. I stepped on the shovel, securing it in the ground at the chosen spot before getting Lexie and carrying Jordan out. Together, Lexie and I went to get Jordan from my house. I delicately carried him on a napkin.
When we reached the place of burial, I asked Lexie, “Will you hold Jordan?”
She eagerly said, “Sure,” and held out her hand to receive him. There was a twinkle in her dark brown eyes. I love that twinkle, its beauty gives me reassurance and strength.

IMG_0248Carefully I place Jordan in those small open hands. I wasted no time in digging the hole. Lexie knelt down and gingerly removed Jordan from the napkin and reverently placed him in the hole. He had seemed so weightless in death, as if he himself had actually left his body behind. I covered him with dirt and as a final touch placed a leaf on top. I said something about resting in peace.
Lexie looked up at me with those sparkly eyes that always seem to smile and said, “He’ll have a long rest”. It was so sweet.
It is deeply humbling to be consoled by a child. The moment was so tender, beautiful and precious, one that will carry me through and one that she will remember and we’ll probably both consider it dear. The experience has made us even closer.
As we walked away, Lexie said, “Maybe we could snuggle today.” We went into the house; I sat down on a chair and pulled her onto my lap to snuggle briefly. Before I left, I told her I loved her.
She replied, “I love you too, Aunt Bethany.”

“Do not grieve. The joy of the Lord is our strength.” Being able to share the love of nature and wild animals with my niece and nephews, to teach them a deep appreciation for all created things is a source of great joy that carries me through each day. Since stumbling upon this verse I have treasured it in my heart and clung to it.
Goodbye Jordan, my “pant- less” turtle!
Death is not something we can ever prepare for no matter the warnings we are given. Death is something each one of us has to cope with, many people have lost a beloved pet, rescued animal, and of course family members and friends. Death is a part of nature, a part that we all face and can’t escape. We will never learn to accept it; however, we can learn to push through with our heads held high, refusing death to steal our joy. I miss Jordan, but through this experience my life has been enriched, I am not alone and loving the wild is worth it. Seeking beauty in creation and seeing it as a gift from the Creator is a balm for my broken heart, a refuge in a dark and broken world where death is always lurking around the corner. I will respect Jordan’s life with thinking of him not with sorrow but rather all that he brought to our lives in that short time.

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