I can remember vividly the summer of the ducks. I was about twelve and my family was living on a lake. In past summers I had raised little abandoned baby duckling and then putting my own heartache aside, I would release them to enjoy their lives in the wild. This summer was different. Our lake was plagued with botulism. Botulism is a paralytic illness caused by bacteria that leads to nerve damage. As the ducks lost control of their nervous systems their bodies would uncontrollably jerk which was followed by death. As a girl it was a heart-breaking experience but as usual if you pay attention, there is something to be learned.
We, unlike most families actually had ether available to us. My father was a biology teacher and used it at times in his lab at school. My childhood Doctor Doolittle act made it clear to my parents that I was not going to stand by and do nothing through the summer plague. This is when I learned how to pour the liquid death into a cloth and hold it over the ducks beak until the agitation of the jerking body dropped into a peaceful sleep that deepened until its sweet little duck soul was released.
I spent that summer scanning the lake. Often I could see in the distance on the shoreline the quivering. The canoe and I became close friends and I would ride the edges of the lake in hopes that the summer I would never forget, would be over – yet I had a job that I was committed to and until our lake was calm and the ripples of pain were gone I would continue.
Initially I wanted to fix them – make it all better, but it took no time at all to realize that this was not an option. I was then able to shift into a different place. There was a huge sense of relief that flowed through me every time I found a duck in pain – knowing that I could send him into a place of comfort – knowing I could hold his little body, fill him with love and then free him. I was dedicated to my mission of reaching the ducks while they were still alive and I did the best I could .
When I look back at that summer as an adult, I see the lessons clearly. I learned to lean into fate instead of push against it. I learned to face something that bruised my heart deeply, find a solution and follow it through until the biter end. It was not my job to change the ducks destiny.
Some would say that none of that mattered, that the ducks didn’t care but I would tell you a very different story. Those ducks left this planet with love.