Easter morning 1998, I was in a bitter, angry mood, certainly in no emotional state to go to church. My husband Terry was due to be admitted to the hospital the next day in order to donate a kidney to his sister. I was scared and, as often happens when people are fearful, I covered my fear with anger. But I headed down the driveway on my way to church, only to encounter a deer who emerged from the trees into my path. The deer stopped midway on the driveway and our eyes locked. Time seemed to stand still. I have no idea how long we engaged each other. But when the deer continued across the driveway and I resumed my drive to church, my spirits were lifted. I arrived at church, buoyant with Easter joy, somehow mysteriously at peace.
From that time forward, deer became something akin to holy for me. I was more attentive to them when I saw them grazing on our property or when we observed them when we travelled. Some of my favorite places are Peaks of Otter where deer roam the grounds freely and Zion National Park where our room provided us a ringside seat to these creatures enjoying leisurely breakfasts and quiet suppers on the grounds of the lodge.
In 2009 my father, who had come to live with us, began to deteriorate after a stroke. I had left my job as a hospice bereavement counselor to be home with him but it became apparent I needed to call on hospice services myself. On a hot July day I drove to the office and signed up my father to enter the program. On the return trip home, I uttered a silent prayer for some sign, some message that I would have the courage to get through what lay ahead of me. I remember thinking, “If only a deer would show its face.” Though mid afternoon on a hot July day is not a likely time for a deer to appear, I watched for one as I drove home.
When I arrived, the young woman who had stayed with my father while I was gone immediately asked “Do you often get deer around here?” Startled, I said, “Why do you ask?” She replied “Because one just came to the window and stayed for the longest time.” I fell into a chair, near breathless, choking back tears.
Truth is, though we often see deer around our property, never had one come to the window. I longed to see the deer that had come to the window for myself. A few weeks later, as my father’s death was clearly imminent, I woke early and sat in his apartment that was attached to our house. I began to mentally construct what I thought I might want to say as a eulogy. Once again I longed and wished for the appearance of the deer that now symbolized assurance and peace to me. As I did, lo and behold, a deer came to the window. Mesmerized, I watched as she ate some leaves just beyond the windowpane. I wanted Terry to see her too but I didn’t want to disturb her. Eventually she made her way around the house. I alerted Terry and we were able to share the experience of watching her at a small pond outside our screen porch.
Regardless of how you respond to my unusual experience, I hope you will always feel a certain reverence for deer. For me, they truly are “something akin to holy.”
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.
Hope’s Café Bonus: “Plant-based deer on the menu” Dip triangle shaped shortbread cookies (“Petticoat Tails” or alternatively Nutter Butter Cookies or Keebler Vienna Fingers) in melted chocolate, attaching pretzels for antlers, mini chocolate chips for eyes and red hots for noses (or if you prefer plain, use icing or melted candy to attach antlers, eyes and noses) . No deer were harmed in the making of this recipe! 😊