This past summer our family enjoyed watching a beautiful doe and her two spotted fawns who selected our woods for their home. Early in the morning and just as the evening turned dusky, we looked for them and were often rewarded with the sight of the little Mamma and her two babies as they stepped out of the woods to eat the fresh grass in our backyard.
It felt like such a privilege to observe them in their natural state. As we watched from inside the house, the children learned to stand very still at the windows lest the mother sense their movement and quickly lead her children away.
But the antics of the little fawns were so entertaining that standing still was nearly impossible. The youngsters playfully teased each other and freely bounced about, zigzagging this way and that. We often roared with laughter, clapping our hands over our mouths, as they energetically chased one another around the picnic table and around our garden with such hilarity. Sometimes the fawns would abruptly stop their play to look curiously at us through the windows, as if checking to see if we enjoyed their performance!
All the while their mother, wise from her years in the forest, stayed near the woods and looked on nervously — and perhaps disapprovingly, as parents sometimes do! With her tall ears perked in attention and her nose scanning for danger, she quickly grabbed bites of shrubbery, tensely on guard and ready to bolt at a second’s notice.
The contrast was great. It saddened me to think that the joyful little fawns would one day grow to be as vigilant and mistrustful as their cautious mother. She, so wary in her approach to life, was solely focused on survival. Always in a state of being exposed and threatened, she consequently – and out of necessity — had no time for games or play.
The delicate, anxious doe in my backyard reminds me of numerous survivors of suicide loss. Many – including children who have lost loved ones – become as wary and fearful as her. After all, if one suicide has happened, couldn’t another? Many survivors constantly need to know where their family members are, frequently phone or text their loved ones, and are cautiously braced for impending bad news. Tuned in to hints of sadness and depression in others, survivors read their loved ones’ moods as a scientist does a seismometer, warily studying meters and gauges in an attempt to detect any tremors that might warn of impending danger. Some survivors – much to the irritation of others — can’t handle houseguests, crowds, or travelling away from the refuge of their home. Some have been hurt by things family or community members have said regarding their loved one’s suicide or deeply fear accusation and blame. Others live with heightened anxiety and jerk awake at the ring of the telephone or at any odd sound in the middle of the night. With ears upright and senses perked, many suicide survivors live as worried and frightened as the doe on the edge of my backyard.
Many survivors – including myself at times – need to be reminded to take a deep breath and set aside their anxieties. 2 Timothy 1:7 states: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” As children of the Heavenly Father, we rest in His hand and any event that touches our life is of no surprise to Him. He promises to equip us for anything we face, strengthen us with His grace, and faithfully walk beside us every day of our lives. Yes, trouble may come. Hardship may appear. But we are God’s children and we can cast all our cares on Him. He will never leave us to stumble or falter alone. By His right hand he will lovingly lift us up to safety.
The next time I look out the window and see my deer friends, I will again be thankful for the opportunity to enjoy their beauty. Purposefully, I will let the doe remind me to breathe deeply and set aside my fears while her happy, exuberant fawns teach me to live with unhindered freedom and joy.
“I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears.”