When Raccoons Die

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.

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3 Responses to When Raccoons Die

  1. Ken says:

    Yes, God must know when the raccoons die.

    Lately in the mountains my wife and I were reading a story about a deer like Raffi. I don’t remember the title. A woman wrote the story, a true story, a long time ago. It was a beautiful story, like yours here.

  2. Michelle says:

    My husband and I just had a little raccoon die in our backyard yesterday. It was so sad to watch – It was feeble yesterday morning but was being helped along by a sibling with utmost care – no mother to be seen. They found a spot in the sun under a tree and it seemed they were sleeping together but the feeble one died there, the sibling laying on top of him to try to keep him warm. The sibling stayed and laid with him, refusing to part with him even though he was dead. My husband eventually took the body away and the living sibling was gone this morning.

    I ‘ve been so saddened by the death of this precious little one, and the new loneliness of the sibling wherever he is. I’ve been asking the Lord to watch over him wherever he is, and wrestling a bit with the question of eternity with animals – having been raised to understand that animals do not have eternal souls.

    I’m comforted a bit by texts in Isaiah 11 about animals living in heaven with our Lord, as well as images of horses in the new earth in Revelations… inklings of some sort of possibility that animals and eternity may coexist in some way.

    Thanks for sharing your story. The Lord has comforted me with the thought that at least this little one had someone lovingly caring for him when he died. And all in all, though there is uncertainty about animals going to heaven, it does comfort me to know as you said, that “if God knows when the mountain goats give birth (Job 39.1), then God must know when the raccoons die.” God loved that little raccoon more than I did, and I because of that I can trust Him even though I don’t always understand.

  3. Chris says:

    Michelle, it was really sad when little Raffi died. I still think about her. I’m glad my story helped you a little bit. Peace to you today.

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