Full Circle

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The day before Blackie was born, his mother– Ming Nau– was saved. Not as in her soul was saved, but as in her life was saved. Because, if Ming Nau had given birth to Blackie and his siblings before the police got the order to remove all of the pigs, the many bigger, stronger pigs– all of whom were starving– would not have been kind to her piglets.

But instead, Ming Nau was ensconced in a small, airy barn. She loved the sensation of being safely tucked into bed with a breath of summer night floating in through the window. This was a good place to have her babies. They’d be safe here. She thought of the piles of fresh vegetables she had been served last night when they arrived here, and the similar pile she was served for breakfast.

While Ming Nau had enjoyed breakfast, the woman tidied the barn and brought everyone fresh water. The woman was one of many people that removed Ming Nau and all the pigs from the sad place yesterday. She had stayed in the barn with Ming Nau all night, as if keeping vigil with Ming Nau for her babies to arrive.

Ming Nau could feel that the babies were ready to be born very soon. But the woman didn’t appear to be planning on leaving the barn anytime soon.  Okay, Ming Nau took a deep breath. I guess I’m going to have these babies, whether the woman stays or not.

Ming Nau was a magnificent mother. She seemed to know exactly what she was doing, fluffing her nest with precision, arranging herself just so under the radiant heater, breathing, grunting, pushing…she cleaned each baby tenderly, nosing them carefully from head to toe, as if checking their wellbeing.

So  I was there– right there– when Blackie took his first breath, felt his mothers kisses for the first time, nuzzled his siblings for the first time, experienced his mother’s milk, and fell asleep in a heap of piglets. When they awoke, Ming Nau gently nudged Blackie closer to me. Understanding the gravity of her invitation, I slowly, gingerly moved towards Blackie. Ming Nau watched me contentedly, as the other piglets jostled for nipples. Gently, slowly, carefully, I cupped my hands around the newborn piglet and brought him against my heart. His perfect little snout nuzzled my neck. Ming Nau and I exchanged looks. We both knew we needed each other to care for these babies.

Holding Blackie up, I looked into his shiny, sweet dark eyes. I marveled over his perfect snout and ears and toes. And then I gently lowered him down to nurse with his siblings. 

Today, Blackie and I came full circle. I held him as he took his last breath.

What a profound gift. What a big, sacred light to hold. I was there for his first and his last breaths. For a decade and a half, Blackie and his siblings lived some of the rarest of lives– pigs that were free and beloved all of their lives. Pigs who lived in true sanctuary from birth to death. And I had the privilege of knowing what it is to be truly seen as family to another species. What a gift.

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