I awoke about 3:00 a.m. the night Esther came to live with us and stood at the top of the stairs listening for her bleating. At the time, Esther was a day-old, orphaned lamb. Bum lambs, as they are called, have only a 50-50 chance of living through their first night and, hearing nothing but silence from the basement, I grew anxious. “Oh no. OH NO!,” I thought. “Grace will be devastated.” Though she was new in our home, Esther was already very established in Grace’s heart.
I quickly descended the stairs, hoping for the best and fearing the worse. Trepidatiously, I approached the enclosure Grace built for Esther on our basement’s cement floor. There, nestled in the straw, sleeping peacefully with baby Esther was teenage Grace. No wonder the lamb was not bleating; she had found a mama.
Grace and Esther slept together for the next month. They moved from straw on the floor to sheets on the bed (which Grace washed daily). Grace convinced her teacher to let Esther come to school and her parents to let Esther go with the family to Las Vegas for Spring Break. Odd things are the norm in Las Vegas but seeing baby Esther strolling on a Las Vegas boulevard caused more than one person to stop and ask for a photo.
Esther, genetically a Merino sheep, identified as a human. Grace’s human to be exact. She entered our house at will, jumping through an open window if no one was gracious enough to open the door for her. She was Grace’s little shadow…and echo. When Grace left her (heaven forbid!) and then returned, all Grace had to do was “Baaaaa” and Esther would come running, "baaaa-ing"her response.
Little Esther grew and became big Esther though she was always Grace’s “baby”. Once Grace adorned her with a red cloak and took her trick or treating as Little Red Riding Hood. The neighbors invited Grace and Esther into their living room where Esther (that’s Queen Esther to you…!) nibbled on their indoor geraniums and head-butted their Standard Poodle. Grace and Esther were a not-uncommon site walking the streets of Roy….and the halls of Roy High.
Actually, Esther never walked the halls of Roy High as an adult, but she did make appearances on Roy High’s stage several times. The first time was as Grace’s Homecoming Royalty escort. Most Homecoming Queen candidates choose boyfriends, brothers, or fathers to escort them. Grace chose Esther. And, as if bringing a wooly friend into the auditorium was not risky enough, Grace left Esther with a student body officer on one side of the stage, walked to the other side of the stage and told the officer to let Esther go. A sheep loose on a stage in front of 600 high school students….. What could possibly go wrong? Esther performed like the queen she was. Grace “baaaa-ed” at Esther. Esther baaaa-ed back and the two (Grace and Esther) met happily on center stage.
Mature Esther became Mama Esther…and what a Mama she was! Tough and tender, she was not afraid to knock any non-sheep thing that came too near though she was “as gentle as a lamb” when she softly nuzzled her babies. During her second pregnancy we almost lost her to pregnancy toxemia, but she rebounded the next year and had triplets: three black babies Grace named Sam, Sarah, and Sariah.
Grace moved to SLC to attend the University of Utah. Esther may have been out of her sight, but she was not out of her heart. Many times Grace said to me, “I came to Roy last night but I did not go in the house. I needed an Esther fix, so I went to the pasture and hung out with her for an hour.” I say that Esther was not in her sight but that is only partially correct. Every room in Grace’s apartment, with the possible exception of the bathroom, sports at least one photo, painting, or stuffed animal likeness of Esther.
“Ewe complete me” was the headline (above the fold!) of the local paper on Monday, 24 August 2020. Below the headline was a full color photo of Grace and Esther and below the photo was an article that began “This is the heartwarming story of Grace and Esther, two unlikely friends who have been virtually inseparable for the last 4 ½ years.” Still, not matter where Esther was in the pasture and no matter how long it had been since Grace had come home, when Grace “baaaa-ed”, Esther “baaaa-ed” back and came running.
Theirs was a love affair to remember. And, on February 23, it became just that….an affair to remember. Their love changed from an active, hands and hugs-on relationship to a thing to remember when Esther, sweet Esther, died of complications related to childbirth.
Grace was devastated. “There are also no words to describe the pain I feel now,” she posted on Facebook. “I am so grateful for what she has been for me and am completely heartbroken from her loss.”
Indeed, Grace had one little ewe lamb that she bought and nourished up. And that little ewe lamb, the one we know as Esther, grew up with her and ate from her hands and drank from her cup and lay in her bosom, and was unto Grace as a daughter.
Families are forever and Esther, as a daughter, is family. She is waiting for Grace on the other side of the veil that separates this life from the one to come. When Grace passes through that veil she will “baaaaa” and Esther will “baaaaa” and they will run to each other, meeting happily in the middle.