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Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Omens of Death

Thirteen years ago this month, my mom passed away. I need to get this out in the open...I miss her. I probably didn't need to say that because, if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you already know that.

It's a strange thing, but every year at this time, I get into a bit of a funk. It's like something inside me keeps time--my biological clock?  Usually, I start to feel a bit low and then when trying to figure out why, I realize that it's March. Last year, I mentioned how I was feeling to a friend, and she commented, "Well, Julie, isn't this about the time of year when your mom passed away?" That, somehow, gave me the reassurance that this wasn't going to last forever, and I was able to get above the feelings.

Please bear with me as I think, this year, I may try to get some memories out of my brain and down on this blog.


Thirteen years ago, life was VERY interesting. What I share here, you will think is a big fat lie, but I promise, this is just as it was. You can check with the Warden. We lived, at a time of death in our family, surrounded by death.

In July of 1997, we moved to a house out in the country at the end of a gravel road on the top of a hill in Monmouth, Oregon. We had two children (ages 3 and 1) and were expecting our third, who was born two months later. We were housesitting for a couple who were on a mission to Africa. One of our jobs was to feed and take care of their cat.  We enjoyed living there.  The scenery was beautiful and peaceful and the house was wonderful.  We felt it a real blessing to be there.

After residing in the home for a number of months, in about March of '98 (when #3 was about six months old), we had gotten word that the Warden's grandmother had a brain tumor. The Warden's mother went to Pocatello, Idaho, to take care of her. We were awaiting a phone call any minute that would inform us of her passing.

My mom, during this same time, had been diagnosed with colon and bone cancer, and we were packing our kids into the car twice a week to help take care of her in Portland (an hour away).

Let's just say that, whenever the phone rang, we jumped.

Daily, during this time, the cat would leave us little "presents" on the doorstep. You'd go to step outside to the carport, and there would be the daily offering--usually a vole or a mouse--on the mat. The cat had done this previously from time to time, but this was everyday. She never missed. I got so I dreaded leaving the house only because of the death the lurked there. It was definitely a "look before you leap" scenario everyday. You never knew what you were going to find; don't step too hastily.

Eventually, in late April of 1998, we received the phone call from the Warden's mother. Her mother, the Warden's grandmother, had passed away, and we were heading to Idaho for her funeral. We were there for a few days and returned. I remember being anxious about being away from my parents and their situation for too long.

The day after we returned from Idaho, I was sitting on the couch reading a book to #1 and #2. As I read, #1 stood up on the couch and looked out of the window behind us. She said, "Mommy, look at the big birdie." I turned around and sure enough, there was a bird. A vulture was circling the house and swooping. I knew this was a sign that death was nearby.  Being the chicken that I am, I didn't go out and investigate--I was scared. I was pretty sure no vole or mouse was causing this.

About a half hour later, the doorbell rang. It was an exterminator who came around every few months. I greeted him and sent him off to his work around the perimeter of the house.  I know what you're thinking--"Don't go out there!  Get back in your truck and DRIVE AWAY!"

After only a few minutes, he returned to the door and explained to me that there was a deer carcass right out at the back of the house next to the pool. He wasn't allowed to touch it or go near it, so before he could finish his work, I'd have to take care of it.

That was NOT going to happen that day. That big guy I'm married to would be riding up on his white horse later in the evening, and he would take care of it for me. So, I sent the exterminator away telling him that we'd call him when it was taken care of. He had also explained to me that it was very strange for a deer to come so close to a home to die. It was clear to him that it had been there for a few days. Needless to say, I was NOT going to go out to inspect.

Do I have to say that at this point I was pretty freaked out? No? I didn't think so.

Well, the deer stayed there for a few more days--so much for my brave knight. We had called the county and every other agency we could think of but no one was willing to do anything for us. Since it was on private property, it was our job. Ick! We were both freaked out about having to take care of a dead thing; I mean, a vole is one thing, a DEER, however, is a completely different story. We're city folk, what can we say? But, eventually, the Warden got his nerve up and got out there and did the deed  My hero!  I would say, though, that that experience would rank right up there being one of the grossest things he's ever had to do.

It just so happens, that a few nights later, while in bed, we heard a roaring engine coming up the gravel road to the house. We ran to the door and looked out the window to see a white van come zooming up right toward the house. The headlights shone in our eyes. As soon as it came, it was gone. It drove around the house and took off back down the road.

The next day, there was another deer carcass found on the gravel road just below the house.

I have often looked back and wondered why. Why when we were facing death so imminently, did it seem to surround us on all sides?  There was no avoiding it. We have never had any experience like this since, thankfully.  I will add, however, that the cat's gifts, as I recall, seemed to be a bit more sporadic after this, but they didn't fully stop until the day we moved.

In July of '98, we moved to the home we live in now. Our move had nothing to do with getting away from the omens of death.  At the time they were happening, I was so engrossed in concern for my parents and the Warden's grandmother, that I don't think I fully appreciated the weirdness of what was going on until it was over.

Thanks to the Warden's parents, we were able to be closer to my parents to help with my mom's care.  Something I will always be grateful for.  That will be a post for another day.

There's your story for the day, boys and girls.   Admit it....you were scared.  Weren't you?


Alyson said...

Wasn't scared, because I didn't have to live through it, but it does seem like an excess! So interesting that you experienced all of that at once. Did the white van drop off the deer carcass, do you think? Were they poachers? Or were the two events not connected?

Julie said...

The "scared" comment was really said tongue-in-cheek. The events were more bizarre than scary. I do think the white van were poachers, but I'm really not sure. We had never seen it before that time or after. Don't know when it dropped the first one, but it must have been while we were in Idaho.

vaxhacker said...

Wow... that was interesting to say the least. I have to wonder about the deer carcasses and the van, though, what on earth was going on with that? Strange things are afoot in Monmouth.

Janiece said...

Totally understand the "funk" feeling. April has been a hard month for me in the past.
Nothing wrong with missing our mom's!

Lena Baron said...

Wow! Fascinating story! It is so bizarre to look back on certain seasons of life to see the interesting "omens" or premonitions, or whatever you want to call them leading up to tragedy or death. I understand the "funk" thing. My month is the end of October and first of November. Praying for you! BTW: you might appreciate the blog post I posted last night about a few tender mercies I received yesterday. Take Care!

lia london, author and writing coach said...

I just want to give you a great big hug.

And now I wonder how many times the Huxfords had to deal with dead deer....

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