Whenever I near that dark stretch, the same cold, darkness, trees, street signs;
I relive that same span of minutes, moments,forever etched into my memory;
One of the life defining times they say, that reshapes and re-molds everything that follows.
In the approaching set of lights, opposing, appearing separate then joining my headlights and theirs~
the long black forms, legs, four of them, dancing in the glare.
He didn’t know where to go as he stood there in the middle of the road, in the middle of our fast combining, shortening distance.
Then I saw him dart, and as the fast approaching car passed he darted behind it and off the road, to safety.
But in one split second my relief became horror as he ran back onto the roadway
zig-zagging, almost stumbling, and in front of me as I ground to a halt, hitting him on my way.
The awful thud, a bang so deep and final~no sound of glass, no crunch~just a thump.
Knuckles white on the wheel, and cold, I took a breath and reached for a light to shine.
I had no thoughts.
Like a reflex I got out and went to the front to shine my light.
No dent, no body, no blood…just January late night mist hazing through the shaft of light.
Maybe no harm.
Then I saw him on the roadside, lying not on his side, but with legs folded under him like a nativity scene animal.
The night was so quiet. There was no sound in the bitter cold,
…then a dog in the distance, and a faraway jet plane as I watched in the light from a distance.
A few steps toward him…big white puffs of steam came from his nose with a heavy huffing sound.
His head didn’t turn toward me, but his eye could see me I know.
I moved no muscle, but told him softly, “I’m so sorry baby”
Surely he’d get up and run if he were able. Then he tried.
…and his rump went up and his front stayed down, and his front went up and his rump went down.
All the while, four long legs moving in different directions, with no agreement, and his massive body inching along the roadside, making a shuffling sound on the blacktop that was deafening in the still night air.
He tried again and again, each time further into the road, but unable to stand.
He gave up and I began to cry.
The white puffs of steam slowed down, each one heavier than the last,
and he rested his head on the cold road.
As a car passed here and there, I stood in the road with my light so no other car would brutalize him.
No one stopped to help; to put him down~it was just he and I…
a beautiful majestic creature, reduced to rubble on the road, and one small woman powerless except to watch~
and pray for pain to end for him, and for me.
The struggling stopped. He swept his head from side to side,
then rested the opposite side of his face on the icy macadam.
I could see no steam, no breath.
He was dieing.
I was very close now, close enough to touch him.
I stared so hard at his belly and face that my eyes stung.
The light shone into his huge brown eye~a beautiful compassionate eye,
and all I saw was stone and a yellowish film; a lifeless gaze.
There was a heavy flow of blood from his mouth and nose, and was smeared on the roadway.
This gorgeous wild and free animal was now captive to death, because his path crossed with my own.
The night became even more quiet and still. I whispered a prayer for him.
For a moment I almost touched him, but I didn’t~I had no right to.
Back in my car I could see his form in my red flashing tail lights, in the mirror.
I left him there; my prayer and hope that somehow I was comfort to him in the end~that God let him know I loved him as a wild creature and he could feel my remorse.
And I prayed that my presence there in the night at the end did not add to his terror.
Was I selfish for staying~or was it the right thing? I’ll never know,
But that life defining span of time will be with me forever~
witnessing the death of the deer…