She was as beautiful in death as she was in life. Her haunting beauty that had defied age and circumstance, was as grace-filled as it was classic. Befitting of the most glamorous and legendary Hollywood actress, grace and poise were always hers – something that the passage of time and circumstance was never able to diminish. Lying there before me, on the crisp dew covered grass, she still commanded our awe and respect. And so too our hearts. And whilst we wept heavily, there was a lightness, a sense of calm and peace that overcame us. It was over. The waiting, the not knowing, the searching for ideas, the sinking feeling one got when they looked into her sad and lost eyes. Gemima was gone. Gone to join her one true love in this world. Gone to join Bambi.
Gemima came into our world on the 20th of October 2010. An answer to our prayers and a forever-friend to the perfect being we came to know and love as Bambi. Bambi, having lost both his mother and his world to the tragic fiery inferno of the Black Saturday bushfires in February 2009, was in desperate need of sanctuary and that we were able to provide. But we knew a place to live in itself was not enough for the tiny fallow deer, he needed a life that was truly worth living. Although two gentle sheep, Carly and Twiggy kept his company, we knew the distant gaze he offered each morning told he wanted a friend. That friend came in the form of a hand-reared and captive-bred fallow deer, Gemima. Her human folk were moving on from their country retreat and needed to find a new home for Gemima. Telling us her age was around 16 years saw us racing for the books to find the life expectancy of fallow deer. Oh, how our hearts sank when we discovered their life expectancy can be as short as 16 years. But no one told Gemima that. And so, both she and Bambi thrived, yet we always thought it would be dear Gemima who would leave us before first.
One of our fondest memories sees the two of them stotting* about their paddock, at the old sanctuary each frosty morn with such energy and zest for life we couldn’t but help catch the vibe. Their heads held high as they effortlessly teleported upwards with the greatest of ease, aided no doubt by those invisible springs concealed in those ever so dainty hooves. But just as gravity reined them back to terrafirma, they would teleport once again, repeating this scenario over and over. Each time they leapt, so too did the corners of our mouth – nature possesses so few animals who rival the grace of deer and their majesty of movement. I smile now as I write these words, holding dear that image of Gemima and her Bambi together now stotting about, albeit on a different plane.
Although a part of me grieves the loss of Gemima from our world, a part of me does not. Having recently lost her dear buddy, Bambi, Gemima grew increasingly forlorn, and lacklustre. However, it was not a physical illness that plagued her in the most general sense of those words. It was, I say with great confidence, a broken heart. Gemima was never the same after Bambi passed, no more did she spring about the enchanted forest the two had shared. No more did she rush to the gate to greet you as both she and Bambi always did. No more did she sit in the sunshine, as both she and Bambi did, or seek out a quiet spot behind a tree. No more did she enthusiastically nibble on her favorite fruit and veg treats as both she and Bambi did. Despite offering her companionship, love, kindness and any treats you could think of, nothing we did could come close to replacing her beau, nothing.
People often ask, “Can one die of a broken heart?” Of course one can. The heart, the most vital of organs, needs much more than oxygen to fuel and sustain it. It needs a reason to be. And sadly, Gemima had lost hers. Those who have come to know, love and understand animals as many have, in the most purest of forms, divorced from commercial interests and financial gains, appreciate that regardless of our form, our worlds are linked and guided by the emotions we have. Expressed as they are in many guises, these emotions strike at our hearts and our very being nonetheless. Every day we here at Edgar’s Mission have the privilege to bear witness to the rich and emotional world of animals, the joyous moments they share together, the “ah ha” moments when they find a way to tweak the gate, the wiggle of a tail when one recognises a friend or the sharp turn of one’s head and hooves when they see a foe. We cannot witness these things and not see with new eyes and hearts, that animals regardless of the form they have taken, all need something dear in their hearts to have a reason to be.
*Stotting (also known as pronking)- a behaviour of quadrupeds, particularly gazelles, in which they spring into the air, lifting all four feet off the ground simultaneously. Source Wikipedia