A squirrel died today. That won’t mean anything to most people. But we called this squirrel “Little Bear”. To put it in the most human terms, she was the daughter of our beloved Sunny, the squirrel who has brought so much light into our lives. Little Bear wasn’t very old. She died from what I believe is some form of cancer. Her body was riddled with growths. Her eyes were almost shut from the growths on her head. For the last week or so, I had been trying to help her out by making sure that she ate, and drawing her to food by sometimes waving the white container I keep peanuts in. She couldn’t see me offer a peanut to her, but she could see the movement of the white container, and she knew it meant food.
My heart went out to this little one. It was suggested that we somehow capture her and bring her in to a vet so that they could kill her (so she wouldn’t suffer). But we couldn’t bear the thought of her last moments alive being spent in terror, being manhandled by strange creatures that stuffed her into a box and then removed her only to stick her with a painful needle so that she would die in a panic. In the end, Little Bear laid down her head and passed without any fanfare. Weak and weary, Little Bear laid down her head and died like a squirrel should die – with the sun shining down upon her and the wind blowing through her fur.
I found Little Bear’s body because Sunny came onto the porch and made a racket. I went outside to see what was up, and found Sunny perched on the fence, staring down at Little Bear and making her distressed noises. I gathered up Little Bear and took her into the backyard, where four or five squirrels watched intently from nearby trees as I buried her. Sunny went on up into one of the larger trees and disappeared, but I could still hear her high up in the branches, still making her distressed noises. Part of me likes to believe she was mourning her baby, but that’s something I can never know. It’s possible Sunny was just upset that a dark shape was laying out there in the yard and it posed a possible danger. All I know is that when I finished patting down Little Bear’s grave and looked up into the trees, the squirrels had all disappeared. It’s been very quiet in the back yard ever since.
I’ve found myself oddly affected by Little Bear’s death. We knew it was coming. She got dramatically weaker over the last couple of days. It was only a matter of time. But now that she’s gone, I find myself burdened with a sadness that I can’t shake. Perhaps because none of the people I know who think so highly of themselves and their faith and their vaunted spirituality would likely take a moment from their day to notice the death of anything as unimportant as a squirrel. But it is said that God knows when a sparrow falls. I imagine He knows when a squirrel dies, as well. So in this moment, when my heart is filled with sadness over the death of a simple squirrel, I can find comfort in the fact that I am in good company, indeed. As long as God and I noticed that Little Bear was here, it really doesn’t matter if anyone else did.
Sleep well, Little Bear. I take comfort in knowing that you no longer suffer and are, at long last, at peace.