I came face to face with mortality today. On my way to work, a deer jumped in front of my car. I barely missed hitting her. All I saw was a flash of brown. Unfortunately, the deer was not so fortunate with the car heading in the opposite direction. The thud sounded like thunder. At the next intersection, I turned around and found the doe lying dead on the side of the road.
Just so you know, the other driver was fine. His car, unfortunately, was not.
Whenever I pass a dead animal on the roadside, or in the road, I always feel a pang of loss and sadness. But should I? Am I sad for the death of the animal or for the loss it seems to leave behind in the assumed life of a buck or a fawn? Mothers? Daughters? Fathers? Will this doe leave an emptiness behind? Will she be mourned by some creature beyond myself?
Some animals killed on the roadways are pets, but most deaths are deer and opossums and raccoon, animals with which I have no personal connection. Am I then mourning the death I know will come to the human animals I know?
The difference between animals and humans is, according to most sources, that humans have the consciousness necessary to comprehend the concept of death. We know the final end, know it can come at any time, any way. Animals don’t have this consciousness. Or do they?
Was the deer afraid at the last moment? Did it realize the dead-endedness of the situation; there was no way for her leap to end but in death?
Animals are not dumb beasts. Anybody who has had a relationship with an animal knows this. I know animals can mourn. They can love. They can feel anger. They feel fear. But do they see death coming? Could the doe have known that, in her wild flight, she was jumping into the end?
I don’t know. I do know that I will mourn the loss of the doe, the clash between humans pushing out, cutting down the forests, and the animals who have nowhere to go but inward in an effort to coexist with the race destroying their world. Is this then what I mourned?