At this point in time it is over 3 years since we lost Biggie, and finishing this story has been emotionally challenging. It was a difficult struggle for me to write and to see words that spoke of Biggie’s death. Many more deer have suddenly been coming into our lives, and Biggie’s legacy lives with them and with us. Just as human stories pass from generation to generation, there seems to be a similar communication among the deer. Virtually all of the deer who visit seem quite at home with us. We see many injuries, the majority of which are the result of jumping fences. Many of them stay here for days at a time to rehabilitate. The biggest surprise and one of the happiest days we’ve had since Biggie’s departure came just a few days after I placed the last period ending the final chapter. Lillie Boy showed up and stayed with us for 2 solid days, seeming like the Lillie of old, always a bit timid but not afraid to approach and accept a treat or two. It felt as though he had been staying away intentionally, until I finished the book, then showing up (along with the noticeable increase in the number of other deer) to say thank you and “happy surprise ending.” But now I understand that the story never really ends, even after experiencing closure.
Early in the morning of Feb. 27, 2003 we got a phone call from the nursing facility where my Mom, Lucile Hultquist, had been a resident in the Alzheimer’s unit for several years. We were told that Mom probably wouldn’t live much longer, so we dressed quickly to be at Mom’s side. Her long suffering mercifully ended about nine hours later as I held her in my arms.
Before we left the first time, I made a note of the 4 deer who were resting in the out lot. That was nothing out of the ordinary, but I was keeping a daily journal as I had been for years, having gotten in the habit during the Biggie years. All throughout the day, as I made trips between home and the nursing home, I noticed that the number of deer had been increasing and that they weren’t leaving as they normally do after a few hours at most. The herd grew to 8-10 deer, and most, if not all of them were still here after more than 18 hours. This was quite extraordinary, and I noted too that when I went outside to replenish bird feeders and bird baths, that they stayed put even as I came within a few yards of their positions. Some even came closer, although that isn’t all that unusual. Their reluctance to move away was accompanied with a gaze that spoke not of fright, but rather of genuine concern and even comfort. I definitely felt a different energy coming from this small herd, and I think I understood.
I got the distinct feeling that they sensed my emotional state and that they had gathered in support. The fact that they started gathering much earlier than the “phone call” is exciting to ponder. Their numbers and the length of time they stayed are all we needed as evidence that we had been blessed with a truly special form of support. Whether it is real or imagined, we find great comfort in believing that they gathered, offering support in our time of need. It is and has always been that we feel a peaceful calm whenever they are around, whether it happens to be one or a dozen.
On December 21, 2007 we had an unusually large gathering of deer, at least 12. My visits to the yard were met by most of them approaching in a kind of semi-circular fashion. Being so used to them I didn’t pay too much attention at the time, but they did stay all day and were back the next day, which is also unusual. Each visit to the yard brought them closer, when normally they would pay little attention and go about resting and chewing.
It had been rare for us to leave the house for any length of time without letting Dad, Martin Hultquist, know, so that he could contact us by cell phone if he needed us. But this nite we did something we seldom did while caring for our parents. We went to a concert just a few blocks away, and when we returned at about 9:30 we went to check on Dad. His lights were already all turned off which was early for him since he almost always turned in after 10pm. I noticed that his TV was still on, which he sometimes forgot to turn off, and when I went to turn it off I discovered him on the floor in front of the TV, struggling to get up, but unable to do so and unable to communicate. His eyes were not normal. Immediately I called for an ambulance and was assuming that he may have had a stroke.
It wasn’t until we returned from the hospital at about 1am the next day that we found a note indicating that his pain and weakness were becoming too much to endure. His post shingles pain had lingered for more than 3 years and his legs were losing strength almost daily. We don’t know what he took, but we rushed the note to the hospital where we had been told earlier that all the tests had revealed nothing of what might be going on. His wishes were that no heroics or life prolonging measures were to be taken. The next day he was transported to hospice care. All day on the 22nd and 23rd the larger than usual herd of deer remained and partially surrounded me each time I went outside, and then déjà vu hit me. This was strikingly similar to the deer behavior when Mom died in 2003.
I had the distinct impression that they were knowledgeable of Dad’s impending death well before I was. Indisputable is the fact that I once again felt their comforting presence and I knew why they were gathered in such large numbers and had been approaching the way they had.
Dad never regained consciousness and he left us on Christmas Eve morning, while we were still a few minutes from arriving at the Hospice care center. My cell phone rang and the nurse who was attending to Dad informed us that he had passed away while she was with him. Feelings of guilt were impossible to escape, but when we arrived we discovered that the nurse was an old acquaintance with whom we had lost contact more than 30 years ago. She was the daughter of a former neighbor and she reminded us that we had given her a “graduation from nursing school” party, along with a shiny new Timex watch. Then a few years later we were with her and her brother when her father passed away. We shared the tears and embraced the synchronicity.
That she had been with our Dad helped us overcome the sadness of not being there, and was a reminder of how fortunate we are to be witness to the “circle of life” moments. All these things surrounding Dad’s passing were truly comforting gifts.
Smaller numbers of our most well known deer have been here every day, all day since the 21st, and it is now Dec 30, 2007.