One spring afternoon, my friend Lee and and I were driving home after a 5 day silent retreat. Just north of Shasta, on I-5, a beautiful deer raced across the road in front of us. Though Lee braked hard, we couldn’t avoid him and the bumper of her car hit his hind leg. He flew through the air and landed on the meridian behind us.
While Lee called Highway Patrol, I raced back towards the deer. He was on his side, breathing heavily. In tears, I lay down beside him, stroking his warm fur, singing softly to him. I asked Lee what the police would do. “Oh, shoot him.” She said. I was stunned. Another man who chanced by offered to slit his throat to put the gorgeous animal out of his misery. I couldn’t stomach either option and just kept on loving him.
As grace would have it, a beautiful man in our sangha happened by and he quietly sat down next to us and laid his hand too on the deer. Together, we just breathed silently with him, ushering all the love from our hearts towards our new friend.
By the time the policeman arrived, the deer had eased out of this world, his huge brown eyes staring into infinity. I was supremely grateful for this as the cop kicked the deer hard, declaring, “he’s dead.”
Although Lee and and I were badly shaken, I remembered that it was the very same day my beloved Ramana, the Indian sage, passed on in 1950, a radiant star shooting across the sky in his wake. Ramana was like St. Francis of Assisi. All the creatures who came into his sphere fell in love with him. And he too had once placed his palm on his dying deer’s heart, the other on his head. He held them there until Valli issued his last breath and was liberated.
That night, as I watched the shadow of earth draw its cloak over the burnt orange moon, it seemed a sign: how our true light, no matter how it appears, can never be extinguished.