Many of you know our sweet steer, Benny Coconut, loved to sing with me in the evenings. I don’t remember when it first started, it’s been so many years, but before we went to bed the dogs and I would walk to the top of the hill and I’d sing out an Ommmmmmmm. Moments later, Benny sang back with a Mooooooooo. (Which, of course, is Ommmm in reverse . . . we mirrored each other . . . I think he trained me how to play the game more than I trained him . . .) It was always one of my favorite parts of the day, like a little daily blessing on our magical farm, chanting with a charming, sensitive, spiritual being who happened to be a 2,000-pound steer with a heart of gold and the soul of an angel.
I’ve written a lot about Benny over the past 13 years because, while all animals amaze and delight me, Benny was one of the very special ones. Bovines are deeply spiritual and meditative animals (as are all ruminants . . . the act of chewing cud is a very meditative movement) but I believe Benny was a guru amongst them. When we brought home Francis Beauregard three years ago as a two-day old bull calf, he was fascinated with Benny. As the next calf rescues arrived, Francis would take each of them over to the fence and introduce them to Benny, and he would lean over and nuzzle the tops of their heads as if giving them his blessing. Our volunteer director, Amanda, called Benny “The Godfather.“
Anyways, this past Thursday, when David came to the horse barn and told me Benny was down and he couldn’t get him standing, my heart stopped beating for a few moments. Then I took off for his paddock. All I could do was chant no no no no no no no over and over in my head. Not Benny. Not yet. I wasn’t ready, and I never would be. I will spare you the details, but there was no way we could get him to his feet, and when he began to grind his teeth, we knew it was time . . . we called the vet and sat with him, sang a little, played Gregorian chants, rubbed his forehead and reminisced. He had lived for six years with cancer, lost an eye to it, and some eyelids . . . had multiple surgeries to remove new growths, always a gentleman, with nothing more than a sedative and some singing . . . and we always knew every day was special and we were grateful for every day we got.
Our friend Christine came over to offer moral support, as she so often does. Dr. Stephanie arrived and was patient while we did our thing . . . she and Dr. Macintosh are always patient with us . . . and when the time came, David and I talked our sweet boy to sleep. We covered him with a tarp and called Debby and Jeff at Connecticut Horse Cremation to come for him, and then I watched as Benny’s paddock mates, the three burros, Locket, Meadow and Imogen, walked up to Benny, side by side, and in unison, bowed their heads and rested their noses on his belly. Then they slowly turned and walked away.
As big a mess as I already was, that’s when I totally lost it.
Last night, the day after we said our goodbyes, I was showing a guest our yoga platform area at the top of the hill when the steers came running to the fence.
“Who is going to sing with me now?” I asked, trying not to cry . . . again . . . as I reached over and rubbed noses. “What will I ever do now?”
And I don’t know why, maybe just out of habit, I sang out a lonely ommmmmm . . . and moments later, I heard a moooooooo. Who was it?? I sang it again, watching the herd closely . . . and I heard it again. It was Patrick Aurelius! Again and again, we sang out, and I tried not to cry, but I was so excited I shouted out loud and my husband thought there was something (else) wrong and ran over, then stopped when he saw what was happening. I couldn’t stop smiling, even as I fell asleep last night, thinking about the continuation of our evening blessing of the farm.
This morning, as I was walking horses up the hill, I thought about Patrick, born on St. Patrick’s Day, of course. When he first arrived, I had asked him what his name was, and he told me Patrick Aurelius, and I figured, easy enough with his auspicious birthday. I hadn’t thought about his middle name until this morning, so I looked it up. First, it’s meaning is The Golden One. Second, St. Aurelius was a monk who built a monastery and had a fondness for the meditative life. Of course. And third, his holy day is July 20th, the day before our Benny went to Heaven. Did Benny assign his very important job to shy, little Patrick Aurelius on his special feast day and then decide to cross the following day and leave him in charge? I will have a lot to chat with him about when I join him on the other side. It’s gonna be an awesome reunion . . . so much singing and laughing!
And here I am again, left behind by another dear friend, but with a gift, as so often happens. It reminds us that, as grueling as this crazy life of ours is, what we get from these animals is so much more than we give them. They remind us every moment that we are on a wild ride on this tiny blue marble, side-by-side with our angel animal friends, learning about love and life and Spirit, and by that Grace, we get to do it with the best of the best here on Locket’s Meadow.
We wish for all of you a Benny Coconut or a Patrick Aurelius in your life, and that you may learn some of the many secrets they carry, and accept the gifts they offer. For me, I am smiling today, thinking about singing with my Patrick tonight, and I know for sure my Benny will be joining us from his heavenly home, and smiling, as well.
Kathleen Schurman and her husband, David, are owned by the many animals at Locket’s Meadow Farm Sanctuary in Bethany, CT.