Of Ducks and Men

You may recall that in a recent newsletter I told you about the passing of my dear sister-in-law, Lori, as a result of breast cancer.

Time has a way of marching on, of course, even in a time of Coronavirus, and so I have continued to work through grief. My brother has especially had to work through his grief, and sometimes grief can bring us to some strange places.

Lori was very much a farm/nature girl at heart. On their two acres, she had all kinds of things going on: raised vegetable beds, hulga kultur beds, aquaponics, chickens, ducks, grape vines, fruit trees…the list goes on!

Over time, she had hatched several groups of ducks and chickens. Eventually she got rid of all the chickens, but she always kept ducks. With a particular group of hatched ducklings, one of them imprinted on Lori and started following her around the property. Naturally, that duck became a bit of a pet, and was named Princess Tiger Lily (from Peter Pan).

Tiger Lily believed herself to be much more than a mere duck. She generally refused to hang around the rest of the flock and instead would perch herself at the back door, waiting for Lori to come and spend time with her. Lori was able to pick Tiger Lily up and pet her.

If you know anything about ducks, you know that they are very nervous, excitable creatures and do not typically welcome being touched by humans.

When Lori got sick and knew she wasn’t going to make it, she asked my brother what he was going to do with the ducks. He promised her that as long as Princess Tiger Lily was alive, he would keep all of them.
After Lori died, though, he found the work of keeping up with the ducks to be too much for him to manage on top of everything else he had to do with his beloved wife gone. Tony had nearby friends who lived on a river with a plethora of their own animals and they were willing to take his ducks. He decided that it was a better environment for the animals, especially since his friends were on a river and he only had a crudely-constructed water feature for them.

Thus, one day I helped my brother crate up all of the ducks to take to their new home. What an operation that was! As I mentioned, ducks don’t like being touched. You can imagine the hysteria that resulted when we gathered them up for the short journey to their new home.

Once they got there, however, the ducks went crazy with joy. Immediately they ran into the river and began diving up and down, shaking their feathers and quacking in delight. My brother was relieved that it was the right decision.

He picked up Tiger Lily—who had since imprinted on Tony and was willing to be held by him—for a final goodbye hug and then she ran to get in the water. Pictured: My brother and Princess Tiger Lily at her new waterfront home.

Tony and Princess Tiger Lily

I wish this story had a totally happy ending. Alas, two days after we took the ducks to their new home, Princess Tiger Lily simply laid down and died. Ducks do that—they don’t always give you warning if they are ill. The new owners were mortified that it had happened. They kept her little feathery body so that my brother could pick her up and take her back to his house for burial. He buried her beneath the window from where Lori used to watch her all the time.

The other ducks continue to be overjoyed with their new home and I tell my brother it was still the right decision to take them there.

It’s hard, though, isn’t it, second-guessing some of your decisions? I like to think that Lori would have whole-heartedly approved of the ducks having a river to paddle on every day.

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