I live on a farm in the Klein Karoo in South Africa. I moved here with my husband and our menagerie of animals; dogs, cat, chickens and goats. Shortly after taking our residence here, we decided to procure a small flock of sheep. 10 Pregnant ewes to be exact. Before too long the birth cycle had begun and 13 lambs were born, 3 sets of twins and 7 singles.
One of the babies of one of the twins managed to have such a deep sleep on his second day of life that he didn’t wake up when the flock moved along. When we realised we were one short we initiated a search and found him quite easily as he was noisily looking for his mama. Poor baby!
We got him back to his mama, and as these things happen from time to time, she decided she would have naught to do with him. We would have to bottle feed him. So began my journey with Loompi.
Now as anyone who had ever hand-reared an animal would tell you, it is very hard work. Mammalian babies need to drink every 2 – 3 hours in the first few weeks, and for some time my day pretty much revolved around making a bottle, finding Loompi wherever he was with the rest of the flock, feeding him, heading home to clean and sterilise the bottle and then before too much time had passed, doing it all over again. 6 times per day.
Easy to see how a bond would form…?
Loompi started responding to his name and would come running whenever he saw me. We decided to keep him with the flock, because he was pals with the other lambs and apart from friendship they also gave him warmth at night when he would sleep in the centre of a pile of lambs.
He was struggling a bit for the lack of colostrum and vital nutrients to be found in mothers milk, and not growing as fast as the rest. But what he lacked in size and vigour he made up for in cuteness. I fell deeply in love with this little lamb and thoroughly enjoyed all the time spent on keeping him alive, having decided that he will remain on our farm until he died of natural causes in old age. But sometimes a greater plan is unfolding than the one than concerns itself with our desires.
One day in November the sheep were grazing behind a little hill next to the homestead. The weather turned suddenly in the afternoon, becoming very cold and very, very foggy. My husband came back after rounding up the sheep late in the day, and said that Loompi was missing. OH NO!!
We searched and searched all over the farm. Late into the night we braved the cold and damp with spotlights, but Loompi was not to be found. We searched some more the next day and for some time after we would call and look for him, as if we thought he might surviv
e all by himself.
I had to feel into the situation, and my heart told me that Loompi was no longer on the earthly plane. It was heartbreaking when the realisation dawned that a jackal or lynx must have taken advantage of the thick mist to snatch Loompi, who had no chance of getting away.
Time passed and eventually I could smile again at the time spent with my special little lamb.
Recently my husband and I decided to take a walk through the veld as it was a lovely day and winter was clearly over. Sunbirds flitting about and new signs of life budding everywhere. We were walking in the area the sheep had been grazing the day of Loompi’s disappearance when I noticed a small pile of animal bones under a bush. It became quite clear when I picked through them that they were the bones of a lamb, Loompi size. I realised with unwavering certainty that these were the bones of my little sheepy guy. Some bones were missing, and many had clear marks where something had gnawed at them.
I had the strangest feeling of joy and gratitude at finding the remains of Loompi, closure. I thanked Loompi again for the experience of time shared with him, and also for feeding whatever predator had made a meal of him.
I thanked the unknown predator for playing his part in the ever-unfolding drama of life and death.
I thanked the Mother Earth for all the gifts she bestowes upon us so endlessly.
The moment became Holy and the experience of bottle-feeding a lamb became sacred.
I realised Loompi had joined the realm of the ancestors and gave thanks to the Ancestors, to all who had come before me, so that I may be who I am, shaped by so many experiences and connected to all that is.
And through the telling of his story I honour Loompi for breaking my heart wide open and making my life experience richer.
Loompi’s bones now rest on my altar.