The grass is green again. Our yard and pastures gleam like emeralds in an otherwise still-brown landscape.
With any luck (and by luck, I mean rain), the pastures will soon be ready for the cows. The cows seem to know that their favorite day of the year - and mine - is quickly approaching. They're reaching through the fences to nibble off the new blades of grass.
Sadly, though, when we open the pasture gate this spring, we'll have one less cow kicking up her heels as the herd gallops out into the grass.
Lucy died last week.
Lucy was Dan's favorite cow, the one he befriended after he said good-bye to his first favorite cow, Love. That was four years ago, when he was in kindergarten.
For the past four years, whenever he was in the barn, Dan could be found in Lucy's stall.
Lucy's stall was a favorite spot for lots of kids. Monika often hung out there with Dan, the two of them curry combing Lucy, laying on top of her, or playing on the stall dividers. I have pictures of Lucy lying in her stall with our kids and their city cousins all piled on top of her. Lucy never moved; she seemed to love the attention.
It's never easy to lose a cow, but losing a favorite cow like Lucy is especially hard - for all of us.
There were lots of tears when I told Dan that Lucy had died. There were lots of questions, too, about why the medicine couldn't save Lucy and why prayers couldn't save her. We talked about all the good memories and how special it was that Lucy got to spend her whole life on our farm.
The last time I wrote about Lucy, she had just been dried off. Glen had found Dan sitting across the fence from Lucy. Dan said he had been talking to Lucy about the baby in her tummy.
That baby arrived without incident a couple months later. We found Lucy in early delivery during a late night check of the dry cow pen. Our anticipation was too high to leave, so Glen and I napped on a big square bale, waking up every so often to check Lucy's progress. After the last catnap, we woke up to find Lucy had delivered a pretty little heifer calf.
Nobody was more excited about Lucy's baby girl than Dan. He named Lucy's baby Lego and took Lego to the fair that summer.
Lego was Lucy's only heifer calf. For Dan, the hurt of losing Lucy is tempered some by knowing that Lego will calve in June. He is looking forward to welcoming Lego into the barn and hoping she will be as kind as her mother.
One life ends and another will soon begin. One of the greatest gifts of growing up on a farm is an appreciation for the cycle of life. It doesn't make the grieving any easier, but it helps to understand that death is an inevitable part of life.
A couple days after Lucy died, I realized that maybe Lucy wouldn't be as sad as I was that she wouldn't be going out to pasture with the rest of the cows this spring.
Lucy didn't seem to care for grazing. When we turned the cows out of the barn after milking, Lucy would stay in her stall until someone chased her out. Then, as soon as she walked out the barn door, she'd turn around and try to come back inside. Midway through the day, Lucy would often come back in from the pasture to lie in front of the barn door.
Lucy's heaven isn't a pasture full of knee-deep grass. Lucy's heaven is a stall in the barn full of laughing kids, all clambering over her as she lies there chewing her cud.