I hate roadkill. Can't stand it. There I am, driving down a lovely, scenic stretch of road (picture it: fall foliage, a winding blacktop, the perfect road-trip song on the radio) when, out of nowhere, there it is: a dead animal on the side of the road.
My "driver's high" is immediately gone and I'm sad for the rest of my trip. I begin to imagine a whole life for the now dead animal that I just saw on the side of the road. Maybe she was a mama deer and there are three baby deers cold, hungry and alone at this very moment, with tiny deer tears streaming down their little deer cheeks. Maybe it was a well loved possum that will certainly be missed by the whole possum neighborhood...you get the picture. Roadkill hurts my heart and it brings me down.
Now that I drive 60 miles round trip every day to work and back, I had to come up with a coping strategy because, as you might imagine, I see a lot of roadkill. A lot. It was time to get a grip. If I let my overly sensitive soul get caught up in the tragedy of each animal life lost, I'd never have time to do anything else. And so, at my partner Sarah's suggestion, I turned toward ritual.
Now, when I see a dead animal on the side of the road--rather than imagine that animal's sad and desolate animal family and slowly lose myself in mournful, existential thoughts about life and love and death, I instead offer a blessing over the animal's life. With each possum, cat, dog, squirrel or deer I see, I say something along the lines of "God, I offer this animal's life up to you, witnessing that it is no longer here, and marking the end of its life. Its death did not go unnoticed. Today, I notice it. I bless it. I offer it up to you."
You know what y'all? It works.
In the act of blessing, in the act of naming and claiming the twinges of sadness I feel at the sight of a dead animal on the side of the road, in the act of holding it up before God and saying "yep, here it is," I find a bit of release. This ritual of mine, the witnessing of this animal's life, the blessing of its passing, the offering of it up to God, it doesn't change anything. It doesn't "fix" anything. The animal is still, after all, definitely dead. It doesn't have any tangible "effect" on this life what-so-ever.
But, in this act of blessing, of witnessing, of letting go, I am changed.
I am changed.
So here's my thinking--if it works with the roadkill, why not the rest of life?
I'm wondering if there might be something powerful in acknowledging our utter lack of control to change or alter patterns of life, loss, love and death. My guess is that perhaps in the witnessing and the blessing of the passings in our own lives, both the little and large occurrences and situations beyond our control that tug and pull and weigh on our hearts, perhaps there just might be something sacred. In throwing our hands up, acknowledging our helplessness, and offering it to God, in saying "yep, here it is," we just might meet the divine and somehow be changed in the encounter.
I don't really have anything deep or profound to write here...just the observation that the act of blessing roadkill seems to have changed my life. Yep, that's right.
So here's to blessing it all--the good, the bad, the ugly--offering it up to God (whatever it is), letting it go (as best we can), and then driving on by.