The kids and I came home last week from school and headed outside to do chores. It was a miserable and rainy afternoon. I had so much to do and the idea of facing all the chores in foul weather had put me in a rushed and irritable mood. As I walked to the pig pen I was met with three little pink snouts, curiously poking through the fence. Three. Not four. I own four pigs. Or did. Upon further investigation I discovered the smallest of the bunch had died in her sleep in the back of the shelter. Great.
It had to be a day when the schedule was full, the rain was coming down, and it was getting late. Dead things have always been Marc's job. We haven't had too many animals that have just up and died, but when they did, he was the one that took care of the grisly deed. I glanced at my boys. They looked back at me with a wide-eyed-no-way-Mom look. Yeah, that might be a bit too emotionally scarring for the kids.
After looking around for...what...I don't know...a magical pig grave digger to appear, I came to the conclusion that I was probably that person. I resigned myself to the unavoidable task ahead of me and hunkered down into the pig shelter, grabbing what felt to be a long dead piglet. I now fully understand the meaning of dead weight. Gross.
I then started to dig the hole. It seemed to take forever. I had to pause on occasion to allow my boys a moment to grab the enormous earthworms that I was uncovering. Again...gross. After what seemed like hours (probably more like five minutes) I had a hole that seemed quite large. Unfortunately, I don't have Marc's superior spatial relation skills. I have always been terrible at estimating distance and relative size. So, as I grabbed the piglet that was in full rigor and tossed it into the hole, I was met with the realization that I was not done digging --not unless I wanted to bury the stupid thing with its feet a good six inches sticking out of the ground. I was so desperate I actually considered it for a moment. I decided this was proably not a job one should shortcut. My next thought was maybe the legs would fold down. No. That rigormortis thing proved to be a bigger challenge than I thought. Every time I would push them down they would spring back up. With an exasperated sigh I lugged the pig back out of the hole and dug some more. Second try. Still no good. Third try. A bit closer. The fourth and final try I was finally met with success. By the time I was done I had lugged that dumb thing in and out of the hole four times, was covered with mud, and was mad at my husband for having the audacity to die, leaving me to handle such yucky tasks.
I sat there winded next to the hole. The boys were pretty much unphased at this point. They were just excited to have enormous earthworms to feed their salamanders. They handed me their tangle of earthworms (which I gingerly placed in my coat pocket) and enthusiastically pitched in and started covering the poor pig with dirt. Suddenly this whole muddy, dirty, tragedy had become fun for them. In no time the deed was done and we were on our way to finishing up the rest of the chores.
A few other things have happened over the last few weeks that have made me pause and ask myself, "What exactly am I doing out here on this farm in the middle of nowhere?" In fact, I get that question a lot from people. It's a valid question. Should I be spending my time burying pigs, mowing yards, and doing all this stuff, when I have four kids to raise? After pondering it and praying about it, the answer is a resounding Yes. Despite the unlovely tasks I have had to face in the last few weeks, this is our home. Marc built it for me and for the kids. They love it here. While it's no fun to face the death of an animal, or how to figure out how to operate a chainsaw, or how to extract dead earthworms that have been forgotten in one's coat pocket, or a myriad of other normal issues that arise when living in the country, it seems well worth it. On most days we love this life. The kids love their animals. I love the freedom they have in playing outside, building forts, and learning to work hard. I love the fact that Marc and I built this house together. His memory is part of every room and that is a comfort to me. No, I think we will stay put. It's home...