Saturday morning we woke to find a raccoon in our front yard, lying in the myrtle at the edge of our property. It was asleep. Not knowing what to do, we called the sheriff’s office. They told us raccoons are nocturnal animals, and in the daytime they can lose their bearings and become disoriented. “Let it be, and see if it goes away later.”
By evening the raccoon awoke. It was unstable on its little legs and couldn’t move far. We gave it some water and a few over ripe bananas, which it ate with gusto. We also gave her a name, Raffi. (With discussion later on the proper spelling.)
Raffi with a bit of banana on her nose.
I put on my coat and went outside periodically through the evening to check on Raffi. Her breathing grew more and more labored, and she couldn’t move at all. It looked like she was in the last hours of life. During the night, Raffi breathed her last. We found her lying dead on Palm Sunday morning. Her little body had slid down the myrtle to the sidewalk.
Raffi’s death put a sad spirit in me during Palm Sunday festivities. I thought about her as the children paraded around the sanctuary waving their palm branches. During the sermon I remembered a scene from M*A*S*H where Major Houlihan cries over a little dog in camp that’s died. And a strange thought came to mind: before Jesus’ death was memorialized, ritualized and analyzed endlessly, it was simply a death that made someone sad. They happen a lot — to humans, to horses, and to the little creatures that wander unexpectedly into our lives for a few hours. At least Raffi had someone to care about her when she died. It comforts me to believe that if God knows when the mountain goats give birth (Job 39.1), then God must know when the raccoons die.
Sunday night my wife dreamed about Raffi. “I dreamed she was playing in our front yard. That must mean she’s okay.” I smile now to think of her out in the myrtle munching on bananas.