On Death

Twin lambs were born on our farm yesterday morning —a tan male, Milo, and a black female, Maude.

Maude managed to get through a welded wire fence into the nighttime pen of our Livestock Guardian Dog. When we discovered the lambs in the morning, Milo was up and nursing, but Maude was inactive and shivering.

I brought her inside and checked her temp — it was 97.4. Anything below 99 is hypothermia for a lamb, so I tucked her in my shirt and covered us both with blankets and a heating pad. Once her temp reached 100, she accepted a bit of honey from my fingertip. At 101.5, I tried giving her a bottle of colostrum, but her sucking reflex was weak, so I went to YouTube University and quickly learned how to tube feed a lamb. I had everything I needed on hand — every farmer has bins full of medicine and medical supplies they hope never to use. The tube feeding apparatus and colostrum replacer were, no doubt, in that category. 

After feeding, she took a nice long nap on the heat pad, and when she woke, I brought her out to her mama to try nursing. She was too weak to stand, so I held her to the ewe’s udder —  she showed a bit of interest, but never really nursed. The ewe kept smelling her daughter, and I honestly believe she was terribly confused. Why did this lamb smell like her, like me, AND like our guard dog, Nala? 

The ewe pushed the lamb away again and again as I tried getting her to nurse. It was cold out, and I didn’t want to risk the lamb’s temp dropping again, so I decided to do another colostrum tube-feeding. As I turned and climbed out of the pen, the lamb let out one small bleat, a cry for her mama. 

I carried her away. 

Throughout the afternoon, the lamb grew weaker. Her body temp kept dropping to 99-100 despite my efforts to keep her fed and warm. I stroked her soft ears and spoke gently to her as if she were a human. She looked back at me with trusting eyes. 

By evening, her breathing was erratic, and I knew the end was near. I called my sons in to explain what was happening, and we all cried as we said a prayer of thanks for her one day of life. 

My youngest son hugged me so hard and sobbed on my chest. 

“It’s just so, so sad. She only lived one day.”

“It is sad,” I replied. “I’m so sad with you.” 

“I’m glad she got to spend her one day with us,” my middle son replied. 

“I am too,” I answered. 

And I was. 

I am.

I gave that little lamb everything I had yesterday. Heat. Warmth. Courage. Comforting words. A soft touch as she took her last breaths on a warm pad, wrapped in faded towels. 

I sat over her for several minutes after she died, thinking of the other deaths I’ve witnessed. 

Small chicks that weren’t strong enough to hatch from their shells. 

Bunny kits that strayed away from the nest. 

My beloved dog Riley who locked eyes with me in his final moment. 

My dear friend who died so unexpectedly on what began as the vacation of a lifetime. 

My grandmother who lived almost 100 years on this earth, and whose hand I held as the curtain closed. 

My eyes filled with hot tears as I thought of these deaths. I know what to expect, now. I know how death looks. The shallow, erratic breathing. The distant eyes. The twitches and tremors. I’ve never looked away through any of it. As much as it devastates me, I want to be there — fully there. I want to bear witness. To be a companion. To hold space when holding space is the last thing I can do.


When you live on a farm, you live for beginnings. New birth. New life. Seeds sprouting in trays. Chicks tucked in beneath mama hens. Lamb siblings frolicking around on the greenest of spring fields.

But death is as much a part of life as birth. We cannot wish it away. We cannot cover it or conceal it. We cannot escape it. And sometimes, even all of our love and efforts and prayers and intentions cannot stop it. 

So we step in. 

We say “Let it be.”

We offer our gentle hands and empathetic eyes. 

We offer our presence and our peace. 

We even offer our gratitude for being chosen to occupy such a holy and sacred space. 

Where there is life, there will be death, and where there is death, there will be life. 

What an honor to be the holders and keepers of both.

10 thoughts on “On Death

  1. Dear daughter, I read this the first time and cried, read it again and soaked it in. I especially liked the part about being grateful to be in a holy and sacred place. Truth. Keep writing. You shine. Love you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Stacy. I raised my two boys on a farm…the joy of birth and growth vs the pain of death is a reality of life that I too thought was important for them to learn. Besides the rabbits, ducks, chickens, cows, horses and goats, I had a flock of Polypay sheep which are a great breed. They usually birthed twins or triplets, so frequently I helped out with a weak lamb. Tube-feeding, snuggling, warming, gets one REALLY attached. Then they succumb to death. So very difficult. However, in adult life, hospice care of our elderly has been my draw and passion. I’ve seen too many left alone by family who just couldn’t or didn’t want to face it. Whether it’s a dog, lamb, chick or person, it just seems like a Godly thing to hold them, pray over them and cry for them. You and Chad are doing such a great job with your little family. We need more like you!! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Donna, your comment means so much to me. Thank you for the understanding and encouragement. I didn’t know you had such a history with animals. We could talk for hours given the chance!

      Thank you for the important work you are doing for the elderly. It matters so much. I, too, am drawn to hospice care. I have researched being a death doula, and I feel I am being called to help terminally ill patients write letters to their loved ones. I don’t know exactly how this is going to look, but God knows, and He’ll shine the light.

      Blessings to you and Mark, my friend!


  3. What a beautiful writing this is. The circle of life is definitely something to behold. Proud of you, sister, for all that you did for sweet Maude and for all that you will continue to do. You are teaching your boys such great life lessons. Love you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ohmygoodness. Wonderful and painful and awful and beautiful and incredibly sad yet hopeful all rolled up in one. Beautifully written, Stace. Your gift is incredible and even though you make me sob, I’ll always be a fan in awe of your writing. ❤️


    1. Sheri, you have a very personal and keen understanding of this beauty, pain and hope. Hugging you in my heart right now!

      Thank you for your steadfast encouragement in my little nook of the internet. It means the world to me!


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