Grandma Llama died this morning in the barn. She was around 20 years old and anemic. To spare you the gruesome details, she somehow received a cut on her stomach that was over an arterial vein. In the end, she basically bleed for too long. This may have been the first time an animal has ever died in front of me. Except the one time I rode over a chipmunk on a bicycle, but that was such a freak accident, I still don’t understand it fully.
We were never meant to welcome Grandma on the farm. While we were picking up Patsy and Edina, there she was, with baby Saffy, unwanted and sure to meet an untimely end. So the next day, I returned to the farm and loaded them both into the trailer. That was almost one year ago. Since then, we learned Grandma was considered a Level 5 starvation case – the worst of the worse. With lots of hay and fancy grain, her hair grew back where it had fallen out. She sat mostly in the barn, hanging out with the other old-timers, Hyacinth and Richard.
She was the first to the grain every morning. In fact, I knew something was wrong when she didn’t come to eat this morning. I’ve never really tried to describe llama characteristics, but she was friendly, inquisitive, and tolerant. Whatever happened to her early this morning, I know she certainly didn’t instigate it. I can’t describe the feeling as I was applying pressure to her wound, waiting for the vet to arrive, and having her collapse to the ground. At that point, we knew to brace ourselves for the worst.
Farm life is very real. And it smacked me the face this morning. Not only facing the death of an animal you’ve become accustomed to seeing, and caring for, every day, but also the logistics of handling death on the farm. Llamas are large animals, and cremation can be expensive. But whatever the end result, we have respected Grandma as she lay covered with an old, but very loved sheet. Her lifeless body was always lifted, never dragged.
My final memory of Grandma won’t be the final moments, but instead will be seeing her face every morning. I’ll also remember how kind the other llamas were today; how Hyacinth let Grandma rest her head on her back as she wavered standing this morning. How Saffy kept trying to peer inside the barn, checking on her Grandma, who she had known since birth. Farm life an be an emotional occupation. I’ll never be the guy who raises pigs for food. I’m too much of a blubbering idiot. So when someone at Orchard House dies, it’s a sad day. But we move on, because there are still hungry mouths to feed and young animals to carry on the legacy of those who have come before.
Good night Grandma, you may be gone, but you are surely not forgotten.