Death is just a breath away.
The finest line separates here and hereafter.
That was again brought to bear on a record-nice Saturday afternoon. One minute the most ideal cow, perfect in type, condition, age and ready to calve within days, was calmly devouring lush hay. Minutes later she was on her side in uncontrollable convulsions. Every imaginable lay maneuver was attempted, but she died almost immediately.
No logical reasoning behind the loss. Maybe she had a heart attack, but at five years of age? Maybe it was too warm, 71 degrees in middle of the winter; maybe she took on feed too fast or a bite too big; maybe the birthing system went haywire without warning?
Take her to the veterinarian, and have an autopsy performed? Take her to the locker for hamburger? Neither. We will always wonder about the cause. Likely, there will never be a definite answer. God forbid such an unusual casualty occurs again.
As a cowboy, we’ve lost uncountable livestock. Literally hundreds of cattle, hogs, and horses, let alone dogs and cats, have died. Like one inappropriate maxim: “They can’t die if one doesn’t own them,” but that doesn’t lessen the loss financially or mentally.
“If there’s a way for something to die, it will,” is another adage, which seems to hold true with longtime livestock producers. Yet, typically, there is logical cause for the death. With calves, pigs, puppies and kittens, deaths are not uncommon during or shortly after birthing, though with calves quite low. Foals can die at birth, too, but infrequently.
During growth stages, again losses are few, but not completely uncommon within any of the species. Once animals become mature, death is usually rare unless it’s while giving birth, or an unforeseeable accident, which can always happen.
Without apparent cause we have lost both cattle and horses, but it’s often that they were fine one day and found dead the next. No logical reason for the demise is known, and there is no readily accessible way to figure it out. This cow death was different, in that we were there, and it was completely inconceivable: why?
Human life is no different. One can be fine and then gone a split second later. We have been present at the time of some family’s passing: alive and then lifeless, instantaneously. Oh, how short life can be. It is a sobering reminder of the importance of heartfelt living every second to the fullest in all aspects, especially with faith, family and friends.
Realistic view of life’s fragility is given in Ecclesiastes 8:8: “There is no man who has power over the spirit to retain the breath of life, neither has the power over the day of death.” Yet, clarification of directions comes in Jeremiah 21:8: “Thus says the Lord: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.”
Most essentially, sadness, painfulness and finality of death are all replaced by the promise in Proverbs 12:28: “Life is in the way of righteousness, and in its pathway there is no death but immortality”