Kim’s Lamb


First Red, then Kim came, as I crouched down next to the dead lamb in the barnyard.   Kim put her nose to the lamb, stood there for a while then walked away.  Moments later she was back.  Never before have I seen her stand so close to Red, never has she been so calm around me.  We stayed that way for a while.  Jon and I going over what may have happened, trying to make sense of the dead lamb.

Kim watched as I pulled the lamb from the ice that held it to the ground.  Little teeth and the tip of a tiny pink tongue.  My responsibility for the care of the sheep came crashing down.  I want to know that the lamb was premature,  born dead, that I couldn’t have done anything for it.  That I couldn’t have saved it.  That I didn’t do anything to contribute to it.  We never expected a lamb this early, it’s too soon.  But still I can never really know for sure.

I cradled the lamb in my arms and held it out for Kim to sniff one more time.   Jon offered to take it out into the woods,  pry it out of the ice, but I wanted to do it.  Partly to own my responsibility for it and partly, because it was all I could do.  The least I could do.

I carried the lamb into the far pasture, Kim baaing as I walked away. Over the fence and across the stream,  past the stone wall I saw a clearing under a tree.  The whole way I talked to the lamb, a prayer of sorts I guess, although I don’t remember what I said until I laid it on the ground. “You’re long gone, let your body nurture another during this cold winter, the way you were not able to be nurtured”.

Kim was a really good mother.  Even I, who have very little experience with sheep and lambs could see that.  She tried to protect he lamb from Red and from me, only leaving its side when she tried to distract us by running in circles and kicking up her hind legs.  And if we lamb again next year, I know she’ll be a good mother again.

My friend Suzy, said this will make the arrival of the rest of the lambs even more special.  I think she’s right.  I think I’ll appreciate the sheep and lambs even more, having experienced what could happen.  Understanding that each live birth could just as easily have a different outcome.

Later, when I was back in the house, I wondered if this was all a bad omen.  Our first lamb born dead.  But I don’t believe in omens anymore. Real life can be harsh and awful enough without having to bring superstition and the preternatural into it.   It’s not an omen, it’s just life.

18 thoughts on “Kim’s Lamb

  1. It is life…the messy, unavoidable and often tragic counterpart to the beauty, purposeful and joyful breath of our treasured days in the world. The lamb’s fate connects us to each other…to the creatures who grace our lives…the wee thing touches our hearts. That is supernatural…powerful…beyond the understanding of our minds.

  2. Maria, I am so sorry, about Kim’s lamb!! You have written a raw and beautiful post about the experience, and it shows how all the animals around you respond to your loving and intuitive ways. Red’s presence, the tender way you spoke with and carried the baby away are true testament of why so many of us love you and Bedlam Farm. My thoughts are with you and Jon and all the farm critters today.

  3. So sad, but grateful that you shared the awful beauty of this with us. The image of the lamb in your gentle care is a comforting one, your words so touching.

  4. Dear Maria and Jon,
    I am so very sorry about Kim’s lamb! What a terrible shock it must have been to see the anguish Kim felt along with feeling your own anguish. Life is never easy and without adversity. My condolences to you at Bedlam Farm.
    More lambs will be arriving. And all will be well.
    From Fran

  5. Brings back my own memories of dead lambs, and wondering what I could have done. There will be more dead lambs, but there will be many many more lively and healthy ones. Choose the better memories, and do what you can; lambing is not easy. Yes, Kim will be a good mother. And she knows, she saw how you honored her lamb. I believe they know much more than some think they do. The first time you cradle that next sweet, live baby and smell that new lamb smell, it will be worth it.

  6. I was so sorry to hear of the little lamb. An omen…. merely refers to a change, though we hear it and think of it with a sense of foreboding, something negative.

    But I looked it up.

    No one seems to know the exact origin, but there is mention of the latin root, audere, meaning ‘to hear’

    I like the idea that others have shared, that this event will make the new lambs (and each live lamb) mean so much more. I like that the origin of ‘omen’ – a word that climbed into your head and was dismissed – might mean, ‘to hear’… to pay attention. That life and death are meaningful things. That we should take each life as something very special, and never for granted.


  7. I’m sorry about your loss Maria. But thank you for taking the time to share with us, another example of your tenderness and sensitivity. The lamb is in a good place.

    Kathy P.

  8. Hi Maria: So sorry to hear about the first lamb and its loss. Other lambs will come and they will thrive. And this first lamb will sustain others as this harsh season comes to a close.

    I’ve been following Bedlam Farm posts the entire time we’ve been in NYC (unexpected surgery for me – a surprise cancer diagnosis – but I am healing well). I look forward to them each day – and to reading your blog. Your words and Jon’s are like small graces each day…


    1. Wow Susan, I’m so glad to hear that you’re doing well. Life is full of surprises isn’t it. It must be good to be back home! And it’s good to have you back with us.

  9. Kathy said it well. You write beautifully. An artist in many ways. The valleys help us appreciate the mountaintops. Sorry for the loss.

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