It was Easter time a couple of decades ago and my father had a surprise up his sleeve.
My brother and I thought it was just another of many exploratory trips when we pulled up to the farm and saw the sheep milling about in the field — until Dad told us to choose our lamb.
Brimming with excitement that only little kids can feel, we bolted from the car and ran toward the fence, deciding on the white lamb with brown speckled spots.
We settled on the name Chocolate Chip and cuddled that poor lamb all the way home.
This might be a good point to interject that yes, we rode with the lamb in the car, and no we didn’t live on a farm.
Dad was ever vigilant in his classroom-of-life approach to parenting and during a stint in West Virginia, sought to show us rural life up close.
Dad has always been a bit unconventional, but loads of fun when you’re young and still blessed with the Peter Pan perspective.
In hindsight it might have been misdirected since we were ill-equipped for farm animals but the meaning was sincere.
Case in point, when we arrived home, we had to keep the little guy safe and warm… our only option being a cardboard refrigerator box in the living room.
Yes it was bizarre and no it wasn’t ideal, but it was a heck of an experience.
In childhood memories, the passage of time isn’t easily calculated but at some point Chocolate Chip was transitioned outside and began to live in the yard with the German shepherd-like dog named Star and the Siamese cat named Daisy.
It was great fun to have a lamb and we doted on him at every turn.
Then one day he was gone.
Again the passage of time is hard to quantify. It could have been days or weeks — I lean toward days — and the lamb was just gone.
The disappearance remained a mystery until one day the neighbor came and got my dad and led him off toward his nearby house.
Curious, I followed behind them.
The neighbor had found Chocolate Chip underneath his deck where Star had drug him.
And there he lay, alive, somewhat curled around his legs, his white speckled wool coated in blood and dirt.
He was covered in wounds; some healed some fresh.
The dog, as the forensic analysis went, had taken him under the porch into seclusion and gnawed on him for some time. Likely returning time after time as if he were a bone stashed in a secret place that only he knew of.
And Chocolate Chip endured it, never bleating or crying out, which surely would have drawn the neighbor’s attention in the house and perhaps saved him.
I don’t remember his death or how it came, though I know it did.
What I have never forgotten was his life.
Even at the time, through the eyes of a child, I was amazed by the lamb’s acceptance of suffering and I remember my father telling us the story of Jesus and sacrifice.
Now, looking back, I know that Chocolate Chip didn’t sacrifice his life for anything in particular but I am struck by the silent suffering that took place under our noses and we either didn’t care or simply didn’t notice.
But I do believe there is a lesson Chocolate Chip was meant to teach.
Perhaps it was that wolves are wolves and sheep are sheep and that’s just the way it is.
Or maybe it was to learn to ask for help and not lie down, resign and accept even that which seems impossible to overcome.
Or it could have been that suffering doesn’t always have a voice … that if we just look a little bit harder or listen a little more carefully…
Perhaps it was all those things.
Sharna Johnson is a staff writer for Freedom New Mexico. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org