The gift of Teddy
a love story - part 1
I loved him as soon as I saw him. His tiny frail body covered in burrs, bleating as loud as he could to get our attention from the wrong side of the fence.
‘Poorly’ was the word my father-in-law had used to describe his lacklustre appearance. My heart ached for this little lost lamb likely abandoned by his mother only days before.
My husband quickly scooped him up and brought him closer to me, my hands instinctively reaching out to gently cup his darling face.
I knew he was mine - a divine gift meant for me - and it seems he knew it too. I just had to convince the McLean men to see it that way.
He survived another night without food and at 8am on Monday morning he was placed in my arms, shivering and weak. Rolly and Bruce had relented. And in that moment I became his mother…but I had no idea of what that actually meant.
I knew it was a beginning- a bright exciting new unexpected chapter that I was so happy to start - but sadly I now know it was the beginning of the end.
By the time we got home we had well and truly bonded. For the four hour drive I carefully picked all the burrs off his delicate belly and legs, cradling him gently in my lap and feeding him the lamb rescue mixture we had made from an old recipe my mother-in-law had cut out and kept many years ago.
And we had his name - Teddy. A name that proved to fully suit cuteness and his teddy bear nature.
The next five days were a whirlwind of feeding, cuddling, nappy changing, cleaning and washing. I was thrust into full-time motherhood without any preparation. It was an intense time - a mixture of elation and awe and joy, blurred by weariness and worry over all that had to be done, that wasn’t being done, and worse - would this little lamb make it.
The feeds were tricky, frequent and time consuming, as were the nappy changes - trying to put a nappy on a moving 4 legged baby with a tail before the runs started again was no mean feat! I was rising at 5.30 each morning like the new mum I was 23 years ago, stopping only to feed and settle him, snatching naps with him sleeping peacefully in my lap.
From Tuesday afternoon the scours had settled in but that didn’t stop us giving him the full experience of life in Mandurang with his new flock - the sheep, chickens, Harvey, the kids and our neighbours and friends all meeting him and adoring him at first sight.
On Friday morning I discovered him too weak to hold his head up and we knew he needed help. Hydrolyte supplements and de-scouring medicine were administered throughout the next two days but little did we know they couldn’t reverse what was happening to Teddy. His little body wasn’t getting stronger or gaining weight and he was fast becoming dehydrated.
By Saturday morning I thought we’d turned the corner - he was feeding well and was his playful, inquisitive self chewing anything he could get his tiny teeth around.
I wanted him to have the chance to walk around a bit more - it was too cold outside so I Teddy-proofed my office lifting plants and papers so that he could wander and explore.
I sat on the edge of my mat watching him and marveling for the hundredth time that week how this divine creature had come into my life only 6 days ago and turned it upside down in the most profoundly beautiful way. I was filled with gratitude for the love he had brought out in all who had met him and the joy he inspired. It was beautiful to witness and to feel.
I thought he’d happily wander around but after a minute or so he walked over and stood right in close to me, tucking his tiny face into my neck and resting his head ever so gently on my left shoulder.
In that tender moment time stood very still. It was the most loving gesture from a non-human I had ever received…a gift and a memory I will always treasure. I placed my hand on his back to ‘hug’ him and love him in return. It was love in its most unexpected but divine glory.
He then made his way to sit as sheep do - front knees first - at my legs, nestling in as close as he could. It was another unforgettable moment in time of beauty and tenderness that had me teary and thanking God again for the incredible gift of Teddy.
The next day, Sunday 6 August, became the date of his way too early departure - another unexpected and unforgettable moment that I wish wasn’t frozen in my mind - our precious Teddy taking his last breath at about 8.30am. I wailed no, no, no but it didn’t change the sad truth that Teddy’s life had been lived. We buried him at noon wrapped in one of the towels he’d made the trek from my in-laws farm in, laying angelic and peaceful next to our other precious lamb Howie.
With the grief weighing heavily I knew I needed help and discovered Dorothy P. Holinger’s book The Anatomy of Grief who says very early on that:
Grief is inextricably bound to love. It looms as large as the loved one we lost, and it is the price we pay for love.
The grief has been big and deep. But then, so was the love.
But he was just a lamb…
It was just a week…
He was divine. He was connection. He was joy. He was delight. He was tenderness. He was courage. He was tenacity. He was beauty. He was vulnerability. He was love. In every moment of every day of his brief but profound life.
I couldn’t have loved him any more or any less.
I have been blessed. We all have.
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