This is a sad story, but it also captures the mind of a particular seven-year-old, so I want to share it.
A few weeks ago, my daughter and I were walking to church, and there was a DEAD RABBIT in the middle of the road. Curiously, from a distance, it didn’t look like it suffered any physical trauma at all. It was dead, though, surely. Right? I mean it was lying in the middle of the road.
“Look, Daddy! A sleeping bunny! It’s sleeping, right? Or is it DEAD?”
Who’s to say? I didn’t know for sure, and there have been many cases of birds hitting our windows, and a small little frail mass is found in the garden, and only minutes later a second check will reveal an absence. Recovery! A miracle!
Now, this was no bird, and this was no garden, and we were running late for church so I didn’t really want to get into it with her so I just said, “I don’t know! It sure doesn’t LOOK dead, does it?”
And I thought that would be the end of it. By the time we got out of church a couple of cars will have run over it and there will be no doubt. Or some animal will have carried it off and it will be gone from our minds and from this story.
But it didn’t go that way.
Instead, my wife turned up at the end of church to collect our daughter and she was a little out of breath and she said, “something really eerie just happened to me.”
This is her story:
She left for church, saw the same rabbit my daughter and I saw, but instead of ignoring it she went back to the house and got a shovel with the intent of moving it AND MAYBE EVEN BURYING IT. She is much more thoughtful and kind than me, and when she got that bunny on the end of her shovel, there was no doubt in her mind it was dead. There WAS some blood around its neck, and it probably was killed instantly but not dragged which probably explained its faux peaceful repose in the middle of the road. My wife found a quiet corner of a neighbouring yard which had a huge pile of fallen leaves, and decided that she would just bury it in the leaves and let nature take its course.
The eerie thing for her was that she just put the shovel back and returned to the burial site BUT THE RABBIT WASN’T THERE. There was a little disturbed spot where the leaves were moved around, but no rabbit. And so, like Mary to the remaining disciplines, my wife bee-lined it to the church to share the “GOOD NEWS”.
Our daughter was overjoyed with the story, but I was skeptical. A animal must have grabbed it, I suggested, but my wife was steadfast in her belief that there simply wasn’t enough time for anything to grab it in the minute or so it took for her to return the shovel.
A friend of ours, (AND INDEED A FRIEND OF THIS BLOG) was going to head home for lunch BUT INSTEAD BECAME SO INTRIGUED BY THIS REVELATION that she joined us on the walk home and came for lunch. On the way, we all examined the area where my wife “buried” the rabbit, and we all saw the disturbed patch of leaves, and it all seemed very mysterious until one of us noticed that in fact the rabbit was STILL THERE, but just slightly over from where we were looking. When you have hundreds of leaves in a corner lot, they all start looking the same, and it was quite easy to mistake a disturbed spot as “THE” spot. There was a certain little twang of sadness in my gut when I saw that furry body partially hidden under leaves. I am a grown man, of mostly rational thought, and yet a part of me wanted to believe.
You’d think this would be the end of the story, but it’s not.
This lot was right on the way to school, and so every morning my daughter and her friend and I would walk by, and we would always stop and look for the rabbit. The cooler weather was doing a good job of slowing the decay process, but this couldn’t really end any other way. I’m not sure I really wanted my daughter to see this lovely little rabbit go from fur to bones over a few weeks, but what was I to do? Take a different route to school? Get the shovel and dispose of it properly? I don’t know. And this also gives you a little insight into the mind of this 7 year old, because even though the rabbit hadn’t moved in weeks, she was always checking to see if it “got better”. What does a 7 year old really understand about death? We’ve talked about it. She knows one of her grampas died before she was born. She knows that one of her cousin’s dogs died. She knows death means loss, and death is sad, but I was starting to wonder if she really understood how any of this works if she thought this rabbit was going to rally.
And then: something weird happened. This past Sunday we were walking to church, she and I, and we stopped to look where the rabbit had been. We were pretty good at locating it by now, but THIS TIME the rabbit really wasn’t there. I guess something finally came and took it away, but all my daughter said, matter of factly, was “I guess it recovered”, and I could have actually cried at her quiet faith and belief in the miraculous.
It’s been a tough week for a number of reasons, and a part of me really wanted to believe in this weird little resurrection miracle. My brain said “No”, but where was the body? People will believe what they want to believe, and maybe what they NEED to believe to get them through the night. I’m no different. Hope is addictive, and maybe the only fuel we have at the moment. What is going on here? Was this some kind of “Velveteen Rabbit” level of magic? Wait, that’s not right. The Velveteen Rabbit was a toy rabbit who became real because of the power of a child’s belief, right? What’s THIS situation? A “reverse velveteen”? *nervously checks Urban Dictionary* I’m not saying my daughter has magic powers, but I’m ALSO not saying that she doesn’t.
I thought I’d end this story on this ambiguously hopeful note, but as I said at the beginning: this was a sad story, so we have to go a little further.
I left it for a couple of days, until a recent morning when I went out for my morning walk. It was before our most recent snow, so the ground was frosty but not covered. I took my usual route, and not far from our house, on the sidewalk, I stumbled over the rotted, flattened corpse of a rabbit. It was startling to see such a sight in the pre-dawn gloom, and I couldn’t be a hundred percent sure it was the same bunny, but what were the odds? Whatever magic had been preserving it in the leaves had long worn off, and the thing looked very dead, and dead for a long time. Weeks. It looked how a rabbit who was hit by a car a few weeks ago should have looked. Somewhere, a painting of a rabbit has been slashed in an attic, and this is what was left. The sight of that little bunny’s remains really hit me hard, and in spite of myself, I started crying over its broken body. I was crying for how I feel about the world and this American election and our future and Leonard Cohen and how I feel about myself and my many petty worries and inadequacies that seem to loom large as soon as my head hits the pillow these days, and somehow the quiet faith of a 7 year old in the restorative healing properties of a glorified rodent wasn’t enough at this moment. I wish I hadn’t seen what became of that rabbit. I wish it just went away.
You often feel better after a good cry, and maybe I did for a moment. Life moves forward, and we do the best we can with what we’re given. Let’s try to be kind and good to one another, at every chance. Why live any other way?
You’d think this would be the end of the story.
But it won’t be.
I’m not mentioning the rabbit to my daughter. There will be plenty of other opportunities for life to get her down. She’s only 7. And this isn’t a faerie-tale, this is 2016.