The Long and Winding and Beautiful and Tragic Story of 3M ~ Part VI

☆ June 19, 2018

Previous Installments: Part I
 / Part II / Part III / Part IV / Intermission
 / Part V

After she grazed my garden, after the corral dried out, we moved 6 back to the corral because we were afraid she might lie down between the raised beds and get stuck. We wanted her to be comfortable and we wanted her to be safe and we wanted her to be with 3M. Sitting in the mud and the rain with 6, I had begged her to “don’t die yet.” Yet. Yet. I knew it was coming. We all knew it was coming.

She created her perfect baby calf and she delivered her calf safely into the world and then she started declining. The day after she calved, it was as if she took a deep breath, thought to herself, “I did it,” and let go. She got visibly thinner daily, and she was already so thin. She got visibly weaker daily, and she was already so weak. By the end of April, when she started having trouble getting up (even when rainstorms and mud were not part of the equation), there was no denying it was just a matter of time, a daily countdown, a waiting game. Except it wasn’t a game.

When she couldn’t get up at all, we carried water to her in a five gallon bucket. We brought her hay. We gave her everything we could – water, food, assistance, peace, space, gratitude. 3M slept beside her, or stood at her head while 6 licked her from where she lay. 3M still scampered back to 6 after getting her meals from Star Baby, and 6 licked her slowly and methodically from chin to hock as she’d done since their first hour together. These two together… 3M, content and carefree. 6, stoic and doting.

She died in the night. A warm, calm night with moonlight. Mike took her body away at dawn, so when I went out to do my morning chores with the corral crew, 6 was gone. I put Star Baby in the head catch and fed her treats while 3M nursed, and 6 wasn’t there and she wouldn’t be there ever again. The corral seemed so much emptier without her presence. 3M finished her morning meal and 6 wasn’t there to lick her as she always had. I grabbed a curry comb and brushed 3M’s little body – her forehead, her cheeks, her neck, her chest, her back, her sides, her flanks, her belly. She stood with her eyes half closed and leaned against me as I brushed her. From that morning on, I brushed 3M after every meal.

This was a hard one for me. They’re all hard – every death on the ranch is hard. This one was intense and lingering. Sadness stuck to me. I was sad for 6, I was sad for 3M, I was sad for the abrupt ending to our beautiful routine (which was never going to last forever, even if 6 had lived), I was sad because Death changes everything with its dark alchemy. My frustration and confusion resurfaced as it does with every death – frustration that death is part of the deal at all, confusion over why it was designed that way.

6 had the best life of any cow – she was granted care and independence and safety and respect from the first day of her life to the last. And hers was the best death any of us could hope for – peacefully at home, surrounded by kin, knowing her baby was going to be cared for after she was gone. How many cows get to die of old age? I can tell you it’s way, way less than 1%. I joke with Mike that we work so hard every day for so little money, but our cows are the 1% of cows.

Everything is temporary. I knew this. 6 was dying from the day she gave birth. I knew this. 3M was born on April 13th; 6 died on May 3. Twenty days. Those magic mornings and evenings lasted for twenty days. The motley cow crew in the little corral were together for twenty days. 3M was twenty days old when she lost her mother. It was only twenty days. I was in awe of the time we had together, that little pocket of time and togetherness and cooperation and appreciation and being. The grace of that time. The grace of 6.

Up next: The Finale. Miracles and synchronicity have been part of The Long and Winding and Beautiful and Tragic Story of 3M since the very beginning, and one more is coming up. I’m reluctant to call it a happy ending because that seems a little dismissive of and disrespectful to 6, plus I don’t think life is about happy endings. I think it’s about happy, wondrous moments in between devastating moments in between tedious moments in between scary moments in between thrilling moments and, if we’re lucky, a whole lot of love swirled into all of it. In such a spiral, where is the ending?

Part VII is here.


42 Responses to “The Long and Winding and Beautiful and Tragic Story of 3M ~ Part VI”

  1. janice
    June 19th, 2018 @ 8:26 am

    That exhausted me–sad and beautiful. Life as it is.

  2. Alyxx
    June 19th, 2018 @ 8:29 am

    Shreve, I love you. I love each of the cows, Charlie, and every other critter who comes through your Farmly. This story is a gift, and one for which I am profoundly grateful. I sensed 6 wasn’t long for this world, but the grace and love surrounding her makes this moment more sweet than bitter. Thank you.

  3. Caitlin Sullivan
    June 19th, 2018 @ 8:36 am

    “if we’re lucky, a whole lot of love swirled into all of it. ”

    That’s it right there: that’s all it is and that’s everything.

    Love you, Shreve.

  4. Deborah
    June 19th, 2018 @ 8:37 am

    Such a good storyteller you are, but so sad that it’s a true story. I’m so sorry for the pain you all experience with this passing. But as you said, it was a beautiful death. We should be so lucky when we are called back to where we came from.

  5. Barbara Sanchez
    June 19th, 2018 @ 9:08 am

    Shreve, I’m sorry for the pain and the loss you are all feeling right now. I dreaded this was going to be the tragedy with each week’s reading.

    Your writing is both beautiful and honoring to 6! Thank you for brushing 3M every morning since. You are a beautiful person and it’s a comfort to know I am not alone when saying goodbye to beloved animals! Prayers for you and the farmily.

  6. Sheri Nugent
    June 19th, 2018 @ 9:11 am

    Here’s what I think: animals teach us how to love unconditionally and at the same time how to let go. In our lifetimes, if we are lucky, we love and let go over and over. With repetition, we (I) get better and better at accepting loss and appreciating love when I have it.

    That said, the hole that is left when our beloved is gone is never filled. What better way to honor 6 than to love her while you can and miss her when she’s gone.

    My tears join yours and all of ours in this lovely little community of animal lovers.

  7. Kim
    June 19th, 2018 @ 9:18 am

    Over the past few years I’ve had life get very busy, and I’ve only been able to check in once and a while on the farmily. Nine months ago I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. I’m still working on being cancer free, a little longer to go, but this time has allowed me to slow down again, and check in regularly. The story of 6, the cow crew, 3M, all of it is helping me sort through all my new emotions as I transition from chemo through surgery to my final stage of actively treating this cancer. Thank you so much for sharing this sweet, wonderful, heart achingly beautiful story. My husband wants us to retire to a farm and have cows, just to have them. No expectations of them providing anything other than peaceful companionship.

  8. Carolyne
    June 19th, 2018 @ 9:32 am

    I told myself I would not read this post when I got notified – I even thought about it this morning as I watched the sunrise and thought, please don’t let her email today…. But you did and I did!! The power of love was my first and last thought, as I read. Ubuntu

  9. Nova Lockhart
    June 19th, 2018 @ 9:42 am

    Even though I was prepared for the sad part, I cried. So sorry for your loss, Shreve.

  10. Meredith
    June 19th, 2018 @ 9:44 am

    You know when you are trying not to cry and it makes your throat hurt? So there right now. Rest in peace, 6.

  11. Angela Meier
    June 19th, 2018 @ 10:07 am

    “… I don’t think life is about happy endings. I think it’s about happy, wondrous moments in between devastating moments in between tedious moments in between scary moments in between thrilling moments and, if we’re lucky, a whole lot of love swirled into all of it. In such a spiral, where is the ending?”

    Wow! Such a beautiful truth — just like life …

  12. Helen Packard
    June 19th, 2018 @ 10:47 am

    Shreve, I love how you and Mike have so much compassion, love and respect for your Farmily and other beings. Thank you for sharing with us in such a beautiful way.

  13. Heather
    June 19th, 2018 @ 11:10 am

    Those last few sentences say so much and so perfectly. Your words will be with me for a long time… mulling over that truth. Thank you for your beautiful writing; it means so much to so many of us.

  14. bonnie
    June 19th, 2018 @ 11:51 am

    6 was one lucky cow!! many thanks to you and mike for being such shining examples of the goodness possible in humans. peace and love to you both.

  15. Patr
    June 19th, 2018 @ 12:04 pm

    There is a life in between two breaths – first and last. Cherish each first and each last as to be witness to either is such a blessing.

  16. Lindsay
    June 19th, 2018 @ 12:06 pm

    So much love and compassion for your animals, it is truly inspirational and so, SO many could take a page from your book.
    I’m sad to read of the finality of her death but happy it was at home, surrounded by love.

    Your last paragraph, particularly, ” […] plus I don’t think life is about happy endings. I think it’s about happy, wondrous moments in between devastating moments in between tedious moments in between scary moments in between thrilling moments and, if we’re lucky, a whole lot of love swirled into all of it. In such a spiral, where is the ending?” – Shreve, this almost brings me to tears, it’s so true and so beautiful.

    Take care my friend and be good to yourself…

  17. Julie
    June 19th, 2018 @ 12:14 pm

    20 days…It felt like more. I can’t find more beautiful words than those already written above, but I can say the gift of storytelling is yours, Shreve. We are living our lives, and in our heads, we are thinking of how to share it. You are doing just that. And we receive your gift with gratitude!

  18. Vanessa H
    June 19th, 2018 @ 12:44 pm

    Like Carolyn – I didn’t want to read todays entry…I was already near tears knowing what was to come – but not who…have been on a slow sniffle all afternoon since reading about 6 and her love for her babe.
    Every being – human or animal deserves a gentle passing; thank you Shreve and Mike for feeling the same and letting it be so.
    If ever there was a question of love, those cows confirmed daily what most people are not honored to see, feel and share as you did; your hearts were one, together in bringing life, caring for life and giving permission for life to end. How humbled and heartbroken I am for reading this particular chapter…

  19. Sherri Cox
    June 19th, 2018 @ 1:44 pm

    Robert Redford said, “Life is essentially sad. Happiness is sporadic. It comes in moments and that’s it. Extract the blood from every moment”.

    Every animal I’ve ever lost came to mind when I read this chapter of your story. I tear fell for each of them.

  20. Bev in Oregon
    June 19th, 2018 @ 2:39 pm

    Thank you, Shreve. I’m crying, but thank you.

    We had to let our sweet kitty go, three weeks ago, after a few months of illness. Sometimes she got better, sometimes worse, but just as with 6 – it was a “not yet” – we knew what was coming. Death hovered over us, and we did our best to enjoy the time we had.

    Thank you, again. It helps to not be alone.

  21. Malcolm
    June 19th, 2018 @ 3:20 pm

    Thank you Shreve. Your heart lifts mine.
    As Bev said: “It helps to not be alone.”

  22. Sara Robben
    June 19th, 2018 @ 3:27 pm

    Spirals are never ending – prime numbers form a spiral – I think the spiral continues forever because numbers are infinite. The connection you have with nature and your animals is magic – and the connection goes on – even after the physical. Peace be with you :)

  23. Theresa Szpila
    June 19th, 2018 @ 4:18 pm

    Sobbing, and can’t stop.

    Sending hugs to all and special kisses for 3M.

  24. Pamela
    June 19th, 2018 @ 6:27 pm

    Shreve, you know that I love you and feel your pain deeply. I am writing with tears in my eyes & such a heavy heart for all of you who intimately knew and loved 6.
    You gave her ( I can’t seem to call her 6) the very best life any animal could ever have and you took such good care of her and her baby and she knew that. Animals know good people and she knew when she finally died that all was going to be okay for her baby.
    We humans should be so lucky to have someone like you in our lives. We should all feel such love and be able to trust.
    I’ve said it so many times but YOU are the very best human being that I know and am so glad that you are in my life, if even so remotely. I am going to donate to Daisy’s meal fund now In Honor Of 6 and her beautiful baby. xo

  25. Pamela
    June 19th, 2018 @ 6:57 pm

    a ps…. I was wondering how 3M was doing without mom…but I bet you address that in the last post. :-)

  26. Frances
    June 20th, 2018 @ 2:38 am

    You write so beautifully. The picture of your garden and your community of animals is so vivid in m mind.

  27. Holly
    June 20th, 2018 @ 6:32 am

    I wept while I read this post. My mind picturing all that you wrote.
    6 getting weaker, and her baby, 3M frolicking and the corral. Life is a wonder. Everything comes and then leaves. There are those that are left behind to go on and push through the sadness. Their daily routines make it a little easier to bear. The sweetness of 6 and her final victory in life, to have her perfect calf. Thank you Shreve for sharing your story and your pain. Like all of the above comments, I am thinking of you and Mike, and the love you share for your farmily. You and they, are truly blessed.

  28. Leslie
    June 20th, 2018 @ 6:48 am

    Shreve, as always I’m moved to tears by your evocation of the circle of life and circle of love you experience within your Farmily. But what strikes me most about the story of 6’s death is how it reminds me of my struggle to help my mother die the most peaceful, supported death possible, at home and with sunshine and breeze pouring in her windows. That we succeeded at this is a comfort to me in her absence. The contributions that you and Mike make to create spaces of dignity and compassion around animals, your insistence that cows not be treated as “waste,” are exactly the contributions I want to make to prevent animals and humans from living and dying under cruel comditions after being written off as waste. So much here to feel, to ponder, to learn from, and to attempt to implement in the world. Thanks, as always, for the inspiration!

  29. Pamela Ryan
    June 20th, 2018 @ 7:03 am

    Shreve,, I was just wondering if 6 was one of Mike’s original 10 cows? Cant wait to hear how 2 month old 3M is now. Prayers for all of you .

  30. shreve
    June 20th, 2018 @ 7:26 am

    P ~ no, but she was one of their daughters! One of Mike’s very first calves.

  31. Pamela
    June 20th, 2018 @ 8:22 am

    Thanks, Shreve,,,you both are the very best people.

  32. Judy
    June 20th, 2018 @ 9:13 am

    Tears here. Beautiful truths, wondrously said.

  33. nerr
    June 21st, 2018 @ 3:25 am

    thank you for your very beautiful words. we felt it through writing but how generous of you to feel it real life and share with us so eloquently.

  34. Jenny C
    June 21st, 2018 @ 7:17 am

    Oh, sweet girl – I’m so sorry for your heartbreak and so very grateful for your beautiful care of this wonderful animal and her baby. It always takes my breath away that deep sorrow coexists with great joy in this life.

    I’ve appreciated every comment here; may the love we all have for you and your farmily bring some comfort and strength as you move forward in your astonishing life. Sending love and prayers to cover you like warm sunshine each and every day. You are a treasure.

  35. LN_cello
    June 22nd, 2018 @ 6:31 am

    Gosh you do have a gift for writing and you’re such a keen observer! You make us feel being right there and then with you, sort of looking over your shoulder in silence, without being intruders. Thanks for that!

  36. Sybil
    June 22nd, 2018 @ 6:25 pm

    There is no real experience of joy without the appreciation of its miraculous, tenuous nature.

  37. Julia at Home on 129 Acres
    June 22nd, 2018 @ 7:07 pm

    Thank you for this post. Next week, my Dad is going to die. It’s right and it’s what he wants. But it’s sad and it’s hard. The void that is going to be there in our lives, for the rest of our lives, is hard to fathom: “6 wasn’t there and she wouldn’t be there ever again.”

    “Death changes everything with its dark alchemy. My frustration and confusion resurfaced as it does with every death – frustration that death is part of the deal at all, confusion over why it was designed that way.”

    My Dad always says death is a part of life. I’ve been thinking a lot about that circle of life, and your story is a beautiful illustration of it.

  38. Jenny C
    June 22nd, 2018 @ 7:56 pm

    Julia, my heart goes out to you as you move through this tough time with your dad. You will be in my prayers; God bless you and your family.

  39. Sandy G.
    June 23rd, 2018 @ 3:13 am

    That is a “Universal Truth” that you have expressed so well, Shreve. You are an exceptionally wise and humane and strong and interesting person. That is why we all love knowing you through your blog. Thank you for sharing yourself and your thoughts with us.

  40. Meaningful Monday – Learning to Dance in the Rain
    June 25th, 2018 @ 8:25 am

    […] ~ Shreve Stockton from “The Long and Winding and Beautiful and Tragic Story of 3M ~ Part VI” on Honey Rock Dawn […]

  41. Erica
    June 27th, 2018 @ 9:27 am

    “In such a spiral, where is the ending?” This is so, so wise.

  42. Rachel ONeil
    November 22nd, 2019 @ 2:01 am

    It’s been a long time since I checked in with your blog, but every time I remember to come return I’m always so happy I did. Your stories and farmily are incredible. I can’t wait to read the book. I’m glad things are still well with you. I still have my stabby necklace and full-on stabber. Time to check out your current offerings.

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