On this overcast and warmer than frozen day, this day that solely caused 46 million beautiful individuals to be slaughtered for their flesh, this day where I headed into the upper barn to retrieve some meds before the sanctuary residents began their morning greetings, this Thanksgiving Day I began with sorrow.
This sorrow was not from dwelling on the 46 million individuals who lost their lives - I have built healthy and loving new traditions with family and friends that help create joy and celebration on what is otherwise a very dark holiday - it was instead from an unexpected discovery I made early this morning. There is a sense that caregivers develop; a sense of homeostasis disturbed, of energy flows disrupted, of something not-quite-right. That sense drove my attention to where Jake turkey was, or should have been, except Jake wasn't there, it was just his corporeal remains.
I am not ashamed to say I lost it. The grief hit my entire body and I sobbed. It is Thanksgiving day, ThanksLiving as I now think of it. The turkeys I know personally are supposed to eat pumpkin and explore and thrive. We had already had to say goodbye to two brand new turkey friends to whom we could only give a short amount of time due to their insurmountable genetic and physical problems, and I just could not bear saying goodbye to Jake also. But that is part of sanctuary work; we say goodbye when we think it is the last thing our hearts can handle, and I feel fortunate to know humans whose hearts hurt as much as mine, but who do the work and translate that sorrow into a beautiful part of life.
Jake was 13 years old; he lived a glorious and long life, and today was his day. The beauty of a free and beloved turkey's spirit departing on Thanksgiving Day was eloquently stated by sanctuary founder Indra Lahiri, Jake's longest human friend who had originally saved he and his siblings from slaughter prior to Thanksgiving in 2003.
Indra's thoughtful and authentic response, even amidst her own grief to Jake's passing, had the intense effect of transforming my emotional space. It didn't hurt less, but rather it shifted my energy from tragic to something calmer. It opened up my ability to hold space for Jake's transition, and though my Thanksgiving began with sorrow, it ends with peace.