This is the first post in a series about how Pearl has coped with the loss of her best friend, Blanche.
“When you write about this, don’t write it so people will be sorry for me,” Pearl said. “I don’t want people to feel sorry for me.”
Pearl was still in the smaller coop and run I had built. She and Blanche were separated from the others when Blanche started to not act like herself and appeared sick. This would protect the others from catching whatever it was Blanche might have if it was contagious. Pearl went with her even though she appeared healthy because a separation would have been too much for them to bear.
After Blanche died, Pearl seldom said anything to me.
She would stand at the top of her chicken ladder in the morning and cry out for Blanche, calling her home for breakfast. Then she would stand on their roost in the evening and cry out for Blanche, calling her home for bedtime. Filling the time in between was her most difficult challenge of the day.
Those were the only sounds Pearl would make. She wouldn’t even make little baby chick whimpers the way the others would sometimes do when it seemed like I wasn’t paying attention to them.
She filled her days pacing back and forth and looking off into the distance to see if she might spot Blanche coming home. She would scratch and peck and dig, hoping to look up and see Blanche standing there ready to gobble up whatever edible treasures she had discovered.
She would do her best to be good. This was not easy for her because calamities always seemed to follow Pearl. It was as if she thought being good would bring Blanche back.
She had seen Blanche that morning, that Easter Sunday morning, lying peacefully at last in their coop, not moving, not breathing. She knew Blanche wasn’t in discomfort or pain any longer. She didn’t realize Blanche was dead. Love always has hope.
I have missed Pearl’s on and off chattering throughout the day. It was her way of entertaining or being entertained by just chittering away to Blanche or herself or both. It really didn’t matter.
Pearl was hatched to entertain, and now without her primary audience, it was as if a part of her own life, a part of what made Pearl who she is, had died as well.
“You might think I feel sorry for myself, but I don’t.” She looked at me. “Well, maybe still a little. Blanche and I had the best friendship ever, even though it was short.”
“Yes, she died before the two of you even had your second hatchday celebration.”
“You still have a lot of years left, even for a chicken.”
“I know that too.”
“That’s a lot of years to be by yourself.”
She didn’t say anything.
“Every day is likely to be a tough one,” I prompted, thinking she might need to be held. “I know what that’s like.”
“I miss her most at night. When I could lean against her, I felt like all was right with the world, no matter how tough the day had been. I felt safe. I felt comforted.
“No matter how much I had goofed things up, it didn’t matter to Blanche. When I could lean against her, somehow there wasn’t anything the two of us couldn’t face together.”
It was not easy for me to stand back and trust she would be able to work this out for herself, but she would.
“Maybe, just maybe,” she said, “I have enough incredible memories wrapped up in my mind to last for the rest of my lifetime. I will unwrap each one carefully and hold it in my heart. Then I will wrap it back up again safely. Maybe my memories will last longer that way. Maybe that’s how it is when you love someone so much.”
Pearl would say no more. She had said the most she could say that evening, I think, because she was so accustomed to telling a joke or just saying the first silly thing that popped into her head. She was frightened of having to face her grief and more frightened of telling someone about it.
We said our evening prayers. It was the first time in a long time that she joined me, softly clucking her agreement when I paused at the usual places, even the most difficult ones for her heart.
“You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices…O Son of God, O Giver of Life…”
She didn’t have a happy voice, and she knew it. She felt a life she loved had been taken from her, and she didn’t understand why. But she did her best.
She knew her happy voice would return some day, even if Blanche didn’t.
Then she stood by herself, looking and waiting for her new friends, the fireflies, to come out.
My Life With Gracie (and especially Pearl) showed me life’s value is seldom measured in quantity of days.
This is the first of four posts which tell about Pearl and her grieving process. You may wish to read the next post in this series.
The prayer quotation is from an ancient Christian hymn called Phos Hilaron which in English begins “O Gracious Light.” It is included as part of the Early Evening Devotions in The Book Of Common Prayer.