I knew before I met her that we were bringing her here to die…
She came to us on a mild, sunny day in early summer. Nobody (human) was around the farm.
It would be risky, I supposed, letting her in the pasture with the big cows right away without the customary transition time. And yet, I knew she needed them, and they’d be good to her.
We backed the trailer right into the pasture. As the trailer door swung open, I caught my first glimpse.
Her eyes, a deep, rich, eternal brown, held the radiant clarity of awareness, and a deep kindness that comes with suffering and ageless wisdom. Tears flowed from my eyes as I gazed upon the precious soul who would be among my life’s greatest teachers.
She began to move, and my attention was then drawn to her physical form. My eyes took in the broken little cow that embodied this radiant light. She was 4-5 months old and about 300 pounds. Her coat was a pure, shining black.
Instead of walking, she crabbed forward on gnarled front legs that would never straighten. It was for this reason she was deemed unsuitable as a dairy cow. If she can’t stand, she can’t carry a baby, and therefore can’t produce milk. So, she was going to be slaughtered for meat until we intervened.
When we decided to take her in, I didn’t know if we would need to euthanize her as soon as she arrived, or if she’d be able to live pain-free for a few more months before her body became too big for her legs.
It didn’t matter to me.
I just wanted to give her a peaceful and loving end, and knew a slaughterhouse certainly would not do that for her.
As it turned out, she was relatively small, so for the moment, her contorted legs could still hold and transport her, albeit slowly and awkwardly.
Patiently, she made her way out of the trailer and onto grass for the first time in her life. The other cows lovingly gathered to greet her, touching their noses to hers. One by one, they each gave her a kiss, and then they all turned back to the pasture to graze together, walking much more slowly than usual so that she could keep up!
Holstein heifers (young cows) grow up to 2 pounds a day during the first 15 months, so I realized that she would not be able to support her own weight for long if we could not fix her legs.
A voice inside said her name was Mo Chridhe, Gaelic for “my heart”. Quickly, I arranged to take her to Dr. Randy Bimes of Quakertown Vet Hospital. Randy specializes in treating lameness in horses, so if anyone could fix Mo’s legs, Randy and his team could.
Unfortunately, yet not surprisingly, the vets were unable to help her, although I was glad we tried. I was reminded our job was not to save her, but to escort her out of this plane with love.
At Indraloka, every animal is showered with affection and healthy treats everyday. We did even more for Mo, and the other cows took it on themselves to do the same. Never was a cow more beloved than our little Mo.
Our intention was to fill her life with peace, love, and joy until it was time to let her go. And yet it was she who filled our lives. But with so much more…
Time and again, when visitors came to meet Mo, they wept at the sight of her, not uttering phrases of pity, but of awe. More than one fell at her feet and cried. She exuded calm compassion and grace, and on each of these supplicants she bestowed a blessing with a gentle look or a soft nudge.
We all learned so much from Mo. She paid no attention to limitations in her physical form. She never seemed stressed or concerned with the need to crab slowly around the pasture instead of cavorting like other young cows do.
As months went by, Mo grazed on grass, enjoyed the company of other cows, and ceaselessly taught us lessons in non attachment. Although she savored each moment and embraced life fully, Mo never sought more than she was given, and always gave of herself freely. By November, she was laying down more, and began to have difficulty holding herself up.
It was time. I spent the days leading up to Mo’s crossing preparing myself, the volunteers and the animals. Our compassionate farm vet Jen agreed that Mo would soon be in pain, and that it would be best to let her go while she was still enjoying life.
Instead of looking to us for comfort, our bovine bodhisattva gave us comfort. This little crippled cow managed to do what so many of us strive for our whole lives. She seemed to live by the words of St. Francis:
…grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love…
Mo was ready.
She was not attached to this life, for she knew that we are all eternal, that this is just one stop on a boundless soul’s journey. Living this example was her greatest teaching. Still, it was unbearable for some to think of losing her light and being plunged into darkness. For, when someone has brought so much light into your life, it is easy to think there will be only darkness in their absence. Mostly, it seemed they would just miss Mo terribly.
Finally, the hour of Mo’s death had arrived. Dr. Jen and I went out to the pasture, where Mo reclined in the lush grass, waiting for us.
The other cows gathered around.
As I held her head in my lap and murmured a loving prayer, Penny and Gus each placed their muzzles tenderly on Mo’s body, Dr. Jen gently administered the shot that would send our Mo out of her body forever.
This is the prayer I prayed as Mo crossed over:
Navajo Beautyway Ceremony
In beauty may I walk
All day long may I walk
Through the returning seasons may I walk
Beautifully I will possess again
Beautifully joyful birds
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk
With beauty may I walk
With beauty before me may I walk
With beauty behind me may I walk
With beauty above me may I walk
With beauty all around me may I walk
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, lively again, may I walk
It is finished in beauty
It is finished in beauty
Photo credit: Indra