A beautiful story I came across on facebook yesterday reminded me of my own story of a visit from a deer.
It was one evening a few years ago, when Peter and I were driving to the wedding of good friends Mark and Pauline. It was the night before the wedding and we'd stopped in Dannevirke for dinner which meant it was dark and we were on unfamiliar winding roads.
We were listening to Luther Vandross and when the song 'I'll Never Dance With My Father Again' came on, the impact on me was swift and profound. The next day was the anniversary of my fathers death, I don't remember which anniversary and thats not important, what was important was that it was the first one that I wouldn't be sharing with my Mum. Not only that, there was no one else there to be with her, which was a big deal for me. We shared all those special dates, doing something, whether it was going out for coffee or a meal, we were always together for them and I was already feeling the absence of that.
So here we were driving along, this beautiful song playing, me sobbing along to it and Peter driving, knowing what I was going through.
A little while later we came round a bend, slowly, because we were in unfamiliar territory, and there right in front of us was the most beautiful stag, just stood there staring at us. It was one of those moments in time where you hold your breath, perhaps because you don't want it to end. That stag seemed to be staring straight at me and we held eye contact for what felt like ages and I knew I was experiencing something incredible. Then he gracefully wandered off the road and up a bank out of sight.
Peter and I both seemed to release our breath at the same time and we looked at each other, almost like we were seeking confirmation that we'd both witnessed this magical thing, that it wasn't a figment of our imagination.
I can't remember everything I said to Peter, though I do remember saying "Oh My God!" several times over and "There has to be a reason for this encounter, I don't know what it is but there has to be a reason." For the remainder of our journey, which was only a few minutes to the B&B we were staying at, I kept racking my brain trying to think why we had been blessed with this. I just knew that there was more to it than the gift of seeing a stag a couple of metres from us. I think it was the way he stared at me...
We arrived at the B&B and after mentioning our encounter to the hosts who had never heard of anyone else having an experience like that so close by, we got caught up with settling in and catching up with people and before I knew it, the whole thing was pushed to the back of my mind.
Next day, before the wedding we went for a little drive around and as we drove our encounter with the deer came to mind. I remember saying to Peter "I wonder if we'll see out deer today". In an instant I knew. The emotions were overwhelming and I didn't have to say anything because somehow Peter got it too...
I knew it was my Dad, popping in to let me know he was okay, that everything was okay. Dad was a real animal lover, and I grew up around animals. People would bring sick critters to Dad to look after and nurse back to health if he could. Whats more, deer are one of my favourite animals and he knew that.
I tried to call Mum to tell her what had happened, however I wasn't able to get coverage on my mobile, so we went back to the B&B and asked if I could use the phone. Now Mum didn't believe in any of this stuff and she would often roll her eyes at me when I talked about it. So picture me in the kitchen of this B&B, where staff were doing stuff (there was no-where private) telling Mum what had happened, balling my eyes out and barely making sense I should think... God knows what the people must have been thinking.
Mum didn't say much, however she didn't rubbish it and I felt better for having shared it with her. I know that a good deal of the emotion I was experiencing was around guilt at not being there with her, our bond was very close, as was the bond I had with my Dad.
I got off the phone with Mum and tried to call my sister Ness to tell her, as I knew she would get it. I couldn't get through and I found out later that Mum had rung Ness straight after getting off the phone from me and that Ness could barely understand a word she was saying because she was crying so hard. Mum and I didn't really talk about it much but I knew she believed, even if just for a few moments, and that it felt good.