Early one damp Saturday morning in spring, when I was 6 and my little sister, Christina, was around 3 or 4, the two of us ran into the house and hollered at our father, “Dad! Dad! There’s a dead animal in the backyard!” That’s a pleasant way to be woken up in the morning. And based on our extreme excitement you would have thought that we’d found a beached whale out behind the shed. We hauled Dad out into the backyard and pointed the way. And there, in a pile of pine needles, was a dead little mole or a shrew or something that would have easily fit into the palm of your hand. You wouldn’t’ve thought much about the little thing unless you had the curiosity and gross-seeking instincts of child.
I imagine my father’s first thought was just to throw the thing over the fence so we wouldn’t play with it and then go have breakfast, but instead he had another idea. He took us into the garage, and we got a shovel. And then we dug a little grave together in a small open patch of grass near a birch tree. While we were digging, Dad told Christina and me that the little vole or mole or whatever it was had lived a good long life doing all the things that God had made it to do on the earth. And when it got old and it knew its end was near, it had found a comfortable place to die. And now that it was dead its spirit had joined God with the spirits of all the other little creatures of the fields.