My Life With Gracie…Remembering Blanche

There is never an easy way to write about death. I had shared earlier this year how Blanch’s health was not good. Since then she has had her ups and downs.

Warm days were the best for her. She would sit in the sun and would feel better. Lately though, that didn’t seem to help as much. She spent more and more of her time to herself and sleeping.

She stayed up in the coop Easter Sunday morning and didn’t come down for breakfast. She just slept, breathing slowly.

When I returned home from Easter worship service, I found she had passed away in her sleep. I had felt it’s what would happen while I was away, when it was just Blanche and Pearl together.

When I picked her up, I found she had lost even more weight these last few days, but her feathers were still pure white, just as white as the Easter lilies had been in church, maybe just a bit more in the afternoon sunlight.

I wrapped her in a piece of cotton quilt batting. It was soft and protective. There really was no reason to hurry. We all took our time saying our “good-byes” to Blanche.

She is buried next to the spot where I like to sit with my chickens in the evening, under the camellias next to the coop where we sit and enjoy each other’s company.

When it is time, we will plant white Easter lilies beside her in the garden next to the lunaria (also called honesty) growing there now. The lilies just seem right for her, though I can’t imagine them being as white and as pure as her feathers were when she would stretch them out in the sun.

Blanche was a good friend. She was so patient and kind towards Pearl, no matter how annoying she got. And she did get annoying! On Blanche’s not-so-good days, Pearl would tell her, “Get up! Get up! It’s time to play!” Blanche would always do her best.

From the time she hatched, Pearl had adored Blanche and was almost always at her side as a sister and a friend.

Out of the kindness in her heart, Blanche struggled to stay with us for as long as she could. She did that for Pearl’s benefit. She knew how lost Pearl would be without her.

We will always remember and love Blanche. She taught us so much.

My Life With Blanche showed me every day the meaning of “love is patient and kind.”

My Life With Gracie…Beautiful Things

Beautiful Things

This is part of a series I’ve shared from time to time about Amelia and how she wants to be the first chicken to fly to the moon and back. Here is the most recent posting if you are a new reader or just want a refresher before reading today’s story.

“Those are really nice. What are they for?” Emily was examining some of my flower drawings.

“They are part of a Hatchday surprise for Gracie and Bessie.”

“You know I love our garden home. I love watching things bloom and grow.”

“Yes, I know. Whenever we have free-range time in the backyard and garden, you’re always the one who walks down the garden paths before scratching for any bugs.”

“The bugs will always be there, but the flowers are only with us for a season.”

“You know, Emily, you are a bit of a philosopher.”

“I don’t know what I am other than a chicken. Everyone else has a special interest. Gracie has ballet. Bessie has cooking. Pearl has comedy. Blanche has eating. I don’t have anything.”

“You didn’t mention Amelia.”

“I know.”

“Why?”

“Because she wants to fly away and be an explorer. She is going to be the first chicken to fly to the moon and back.”

“And she will leave you behind?”

Emily looked down at her feet.

“I’m afraid she’s going to leave me forever. She is the only friend I’ve known for my whole life. It’s not easy for me to make new friends. I’m small.”

“I know. But as hard as it is on you thinking about Amelia maybe leaving, it could be even harder on Amelia. If we love her, we can’t stand in her way or make her feel guilty.”

Emily sank to the ground. It was as if the weight of all this was more than she could bear.

“This may be the most difficult thing you and I will ever have to do. But we will have to do it for Amelia.”

Emily raised her head and looked off into the camellias where the song birds like to build their nests. “Sometimes I want to tell her not to go,” she said, raising her voice almost in anger, but she held back.

“Sometimes I want to beg her to please take me with her,” she said softly as if to cry.

“But I know I can’t go with her. I wouldn’t survive. I’m not as strong as she is. I wouldn’t be able to keep up. I’m smaller, and I’d only hold her back. She would be so worried about protecting me that she might lose her focus and get hurt herself. I can’t let that happen.”

She rested her head on my shoe, and we sat together for a while, neither of us saying anything.

“Emily, it is a beautiful gift and sacrifice you are willing to give Amelia.”

“What do you mean?” She looked up at me, unaware of her own goodness.

“I mean if you asked her, she would take you with her, and you would be happy. But you know it would risk her life. So you don’t ask. You are giving up your happiness to let her do what she must do to find her own happiness.”

“I love her so much.”

I nodded in silent agreement.

“She will always be our Amelia. But we must remember she must always be her own Amelia first.”

After a long silence, Emily said, “I like the daffodils.”

“They really are bright and cheerful, aren’t they? Are they your favorite? We can plant even more of them if they are your favorite.”

“I’m not sure if I have a favorite.”

“Yes, I know what you mean. A big part of designing a nice garden is putting different things side-by-side so everything looks like it belongs together. One plant compliments another one, just like you and Amelia compliment each other even though you look different.”

“Do you think we can plant more of everything? And make it so there are flowers blooming all of the time?”

“That sounds like a beautiful idea. But why blooming all of the time?”

“So maybe when Amelia has flown up to the moon, she can look back down and see all of the flowers here in our yard. And so maybe she will discover she misses them. I don’t think they have flowers on the moon.”

She took a deep breath and whispered very hopefully, “And so maybe she will discover she misses us too.”

“Emily, I think she already misses us, even though she hasn’t left yet.”

She considered this carefully and said, “Then I think all of the flowers will help Amelia find her way back to us. She will know which house is ours by all of the flowers everywhere.”

She had a more determined tone in her voice which was good to hear. I stood up and reached for my shovel.

“Emily, you can help with adding more flowers, whatever kinds you’d like. Maybe gardening is your special interest. For today, let’s divide and transplant the Japanese Iris. They are just starting to come up, and now is the time before it’s too late.”

Emily seemed happy to be doing something to help move forward in her own way. She began searching for a new and perfect spot for them. “I think they are one of Amelia’s favorites. They are beautifully tall and slender. They reach for the sky just like she does.”

“You’re right.” I agreed.

I started digging and Emily started scratching in the spot she had chosen. It was nice to see her putting her worries aside for a time.

“And Emily, I can guarantee there are absolutely no Japanese Iris plants on the moon.”

Emily was delighted to hear this.

My Life With Gracie (and especially Emily) taught me beautiful things always help you find your way back home.

My Life With Gracie…True Iridescence

True Iridescence

“Why do you always draw me small? Like I’m still a just-hatched chick?” asked Emily as she peered over my sketch pad.

I thought about this for a moment because I wasn’t completely sure how to answer.

“I draw everyone as a just-hatched chick sometimes, even Gracie.”

“Yes, I know, but you’ve never drawn me as a grown-up hen with my comb and wattles and everything.”

“That’s true.”

“So?”

Emily is seldom persistent like this. She only gets this way when it’s something really important like when everyone else isn’t giving her space to eat breakfast salad or mealworms. It is not always easy for her because she is the smallest.

“Maybe part of the reason is I never really saw you growing up every day like the others. I used to visit you and Amelia when you were little. You probably don’t remember because the world was so new to you then, but I did.

“There were twenty-four of you in that huge brooder box and playpen. There was so much going on all of the time. It was tough to keep track of who was who, except for Amelia. She liked to fly up to the top of the play pen and walk around.”

“Yes, I remember. There were a lot of us. But I didn’t stand out from the others did I? Not the way Amelia did?”

Her heart would have loved for me to say I had picked her out right from the beginning as a very special baby chick, but I had to be truthful.

“What matters is how you stand out now. Even with people, it’s not easy to see who is special in a crowd. It takes time and time together.”

“So it’s not because I’m smaller than all of the others?”

“No, not at all.”

“Is there anything else?”

“Well, when I draw you so young, it helps me imagine you as if you had always lived here with me from your very first day. Sometimes I wish you and Amelia had been here with me from the beginning.

“But if you had been here with me from the beginning, I would not have been able to choose you. I like how I was able to choose you because of who you are rather than who you might become after you got here.”

She seemed pleased with all of this and turned to look for sunflower kernels.

“And Emily, to be totally honest, I’m not sure I can draw your grown-up hen feathers as beautifully as they truly need to be drawn. I don’t know how to draw iridescence, and everything about you is iridescent.”

She stood a little taller and poked out her breast a little farther. “You always know exactly what to say.”

“I just speak from my heart, Emily, and my heart adores everything about you.”

My Life With Gracie (and especially Emily) taught me the biggest hearts are often covered with iridescent feathers.