The Deer In the Graveyard

There are no deer where I live. At least, I've never seen one in my neighborhood. But in Marin County, deer roam the hills freely and pop up in the oddest places.

One afternoon a full-sized doe and her baby hopped over the fence into my parents' backyard. My mother's reaction was delight: "Oh look! A mommy deer and her baby!" A young visitor to the house saw the duo slightly differently. Little Joey corrected her, "That's not his mother. That's his babysitter!"

Little Joey's in college now, but his babysitting deer story has become a classic in our family. It's been told around the dinner table for years.

One magic Christmas morning I looked out my parents' kitchen window to see a small herd of deer clattering up the street. I couldn't be sure, but I like to think there were eight of them.However, all I could see were their cotton-tailed rumps, no shiny red nose leading the pack.

Still, I knew that seeing deer on Christmas morning was a good omen.

Deer as Celtic Symbol

In Celtic symboligy the deer is associated with the The Willow Tree, I find this incredible, as the dominant tree right by my parents' grave marker is -- guess what -- a stately willow!

Here is what whats-your-sign.com/celtic-animal-symbols.html says about the Deer:

"Deer walk gingerly and gracefully into our consciousness to bestow a quality of gentle reassurance. They are reminders of spiritual evolution, and the patience required to allow our spiritual unfolding (at our own pace). If you've ever encountered the deer, you know they'll wait for an eternity until they are quite sure it's safe to make the next move. The deer asks you to do this same in your spiritual walk."

A year ago I wrote about an egret. I saw him and knew this was the day my father would die. And he did.

In honor of my Dad, this weekend I visited the cemetery where he and Mom rest side-by-side.It's always peaceful there. A road winds up a hill lined with family plots and mausoleums. We always make a point of driving to the top. That's what we always did with Dad when visiting Mom. It seems only right to keep the tradition going.

Celtic deer
Celtic deer

As we ascended through the canopy of trees and crumbling crosses, we thought we had the cemetery to ourselves. Suddenly, a lone buck casually crossed our path.

We stopped. He stopped. He looked at us.We shushed each other and looked at him. He seemed nonplussed by our presence. Not quite curious, but quizzical.

We stayed that way for what seemed like a long time. Of course, in "cemetery time" it was a mere blink. And after the blink, off he went, scuttling up the hill and out of sight.

By the time we got to the top he was nowhere to be found. He vanished as mysteriously as he'd appeared.

Our little bud with the little buds
Our little bud with the little buds

This was a young buck. His horns mere buds, not yet antlers. A teenager, perhaps. Too old to need a babysitter, but there on this day for a reason.

Thank you, Mr. Deer, for reminding me of so many fond memories. Oh, and for watching over my parents in your graveyard.

Rest in peace, Jack (5/3/23 - 11/24/08) and Lee (6/19/24-4/24/05). Your loving daughter, Susan.

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Comments 38 comments

dohn121 profile image

dohn121 6 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

What a great tribute, MM. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. I don't think I'll ever be "ready" to say good bye to my parents.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

I love the way you described this experience. After my father passed away in 2002, a woodpecker came to my parents home. He was frequently perched on the den window. One day he just left and never returned. This may not mean anything but it felt very strange at the time. We missed him.


wsp2469 profile image

wsp2469 6 years ago from Alta Loma, Ca

Yeah, it's nice when we have moments in life that remind us about the parts that are NOT total crud.

I recently visited an assisted living home and saw the sister of someone I know looking like she may not make it past the new year.

it pretty much convinced me that I don't ever want to see my parents in one of those places and that even if I have to quit a job when I am in my 50s, move back there and start all over as I am heading towards 60, I will DO so just to make sure MY parents have a better chance of spending their last minutes in their own home or at least with me--their only child--at their sides.


wsp2469 profile image

wsp2469 6 years ago from Alta Loma, Ca

Yeah, it's nice when we have moments in life that remind us about the parts that are NOT total crud.

I recently visited an assisted living home and saw the sister of someone I know looking like she may not make it past the new year.

it pretty much convinced me that I don't ever want to see my parents in one of those places and that even if I have to quit a job when I am in my 50s, move back there and start all over as I am heading towards 60, I will DO so just to make sure MY parents have a better chance of spending their last minutes in their own home or at least with me--their only child--at their sides.


advisor4qb profile image

advisor4qb 6 years ago from On New Footing

What a sweet hub!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Very nice story, MM, thank you for sharing something so personal.


Forest 6 years ago

What a lovely story. Thanks for the read.

I opened my door yesterday (4th floor apartment in Cairo) to find two fully grown rams outside my door! They hadn't wandered they were taken up there for an upcoming feast!! I am already attached after one day and am sad they will be eaten!


pgrundy 6 years ago

What a lovely story. Rocky (our Malamute) and I often encounter deer in out walks in the woods. It always amazes me how afraid of us the are NOT. They usually watch us a long time before moving off.


Jaspal profile image

Jaspal 6 years ago from New Delhi, India

Very nice hub MM ... reminds me of my days in the midst of an animal loving tribe in Rajasthan, the desert state of India, called the Bishnoi. They revere all types of deer (antelope, chinkara, black buck, etc.) These animals walk in and out of their homes freely, and are respected, believing them to be their own dead ancestors returned to earth.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

Those of us who fought to keep deer out of our gardens don't see them in quite this mystic way. Twenty years sharing my country acreage with deer, antelope, foxes, skunks, coyotes, rabbits and so on, keeps me pretty grounded when it comes to wildlife and unable to see them as incarnates of anything spiritual. They are simply the other species I share my world with. But a very nice thought here, and I wish I could share the view.

Just a note, reading your experience in saying that final goodbye to your parents took me back in time to my own parting with mine. Somehow, until your parents die, you really don't believe in your own mortality.


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

The appearance of 'unusual' animals in our lives has always been of great interest to me-thanks for this moving story, Mighty Mom, and touching on the Celtic myths!


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada

My parents grave is about an 8 hour drive from here so I unfortunately only get to do my pilgrimage once a year. This year marked the 25th anniversary of my Dads passing. November 14th I left at 4:30am for the long drive. I always take the peaceful scenic route up along the shores of Lake Huron to Georgian bay. A couple of hours into the drive not quite light yet two big adult deer stood in the middle of the road. I had to come to a full stop and as there was no traffic behind me I just waited and admired that gorgeous pair. I was stopped there for almost 10 minutes when the two finally slowly sauntered away into the tree line. Not even 5 minutes later I got to were a car had slid into my lane and was flipped onto it's side. There were all kinds of swerve and skid lines on the pavement. The driver was pinned in the car. It turned out that the driver, drunk as a skunk was speeding and swerving with the police patrol car behind him... The police officer motioned me to stop. Within seconds it seemed there was another patrol car there and an ambulance. I got to talk to the officer and we firmly believe had I been driving and not stopped to admire those deer I would not be around to tell the tale because that car would have hit me head on.

I since call them my guardian deer... Were they the spirit of my parents or was it just coincidence? I'd love to believe that they were there for me. It was quite an emotional drive for me after that as my imagination can be way tooooooo active.

Sorry MM for this comment being so long but I wanted to share with you as these feel like such similar encounters.

Once again a beautiful hub.

kindest regards Zsuzsy


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA Author

Death and animals -- they seem to be on my mind these days and it's gratifying to see my themes strike a chord with other hubbers!

@dohn -- I hope you have many, many more years with your parents. Be sure to tell them how much you love and appreciate them!

@Pamela -- I think the woodpecker absolutely means something! Don't know the symbology of woodpeckers, tho!

@wsp -- You are a good son. We are doing exactly that with Hubby's mother. It's hard,but the right thing to do. Our elderly deserve respect and honor.

@advisor4qb and alekhouse -- Thanks. Glad you enjoyed!

@Forest -- That's a tough one. I would not want to get attached to an animal like that. Can't imagine living with cattle, sheep or even chickens for that very reason!

@Pam-- They know who is safe. You and Rocky obviously have "the vibe."

@Jaspal-- I LOVE the visual of the deer living among the people so harmoniously!

@Immartin -- I know that deer are anethema to gardens. I do like your attitude about "sharing the world" with this other species, tho.And yes, agree completely about facing one's own mortality. It's front and center for me now!

@lorlie -- There are animal symbols in many cultures, but since my parents are/were Irish gotta go with Celtic. Now that I've looked into it, I think another hub on Celtic mythology will follow sometime!

@ZsuZsy -- Please do not apologize for a long comment.Your story is very powerful. I absolutely believe those guardian deer were your parents' spirits watching out for their daughter.Obviously they wanted you to make it to visit them -- and to be here with us as a vibrant Hubber!

Thanks for sharing that. MM


wesleycox profile image

wesleycox 6 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

This is a lovely story Mighty Mom, its good for the soul and heartwarming. Also a very nice tribute hub to your parents. Thank you for sharing this story.


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA Author

Hey wesleycox -- Thanks for taking the time to visit.Although I cried a lot that day (needed to -- the tears were backed up in my eyes), overall the experience was positive.And I always like sharing it with my hubber friends. Seems to validate it for me, you know? Glad you enjoyd. Take care. MM


Nancy's Niche profile image

Nancy's Niche 6 years ago from USA

A beautiful story on family traditions, loving parents, and deer where you least expect to see them. I photography deer every chance I have. They are such amazing and graceful creatures. Thanks for sharing this heartwarming story with us.


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA Author

Thank you, NN. Deer are graceful, beautiful animals. Unless you are a gardener:-)!


ehern33 profile image

ehern33 6 years ago

Mighty Mom, you have the ability to leave me thinking profoundly, not something I do often..LOL What a great story with so much meaning..


jimcain207 profile image

jimcain207 6 years ago from HUMPHREY, ARKANSAS

Wow, what a great hub. Times like this you never forget.


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA Author

ehern -- That's one of the best compliments I've ever received. Surprising, tho, as I tend to think of you as a profound thinking kinda hubber. Seriously. But thanks.

jimcain -- You're right about that. I will not forget the deer -- all of them!


TheSablirab 6 years ago

Isn't it great, when life just lines up in perfect little moments? Or even big moments, if we are lucky. It's times like that, that make life worth living, just so you can see that again.

Great hub!


Pachuca213 6 years ago

That was beautiful...and touching. I am sorry that you lost your parents in death...glad you could share such a precious moment like that with all of us...hugs!


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA Author

Hello TheSablirab (cool name).Thanks for putting the moment so lyrically. Life lines up in perfect little moments. Exactly!

Chica mi amiga!Thanks. Sharing moments like this with all of you is what makes being a writer worthwhile! Hugs back!xoxo


fastfreta profile image

fastfreta 6 years ago from Southern California

Very heartwarming. Thanks for sharing.


Cindy Letchworth profile image

Cindy Letchworth 6 years ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

Lovely. It's interesting that you've written this piece because a couple of weeks ago my dog starting barking at the front window. She's a barker, but I decided to look at what caught her attention. Across the street was a buck! With beautiful antlers. I couldn't believe it because I live in an suburbian area with not a lot of woods around. I have no idea where he came from or where he was headed. I just hope he made it safely there.


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA Author

That's a cool story, too, Cindy. Gotta wonder what that means? Something. I am convinced!

Perhaps just a little magic in our otherwise humdrum suburban lives! Thanks for visiting. MM


Cris A profile image

Cris A 6 years ago from Manila, Philippines

what a bittersweet hub. i guess it's that time of the year when we lower our defenses. thanks for sharing :D


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

A beautiful story. Kind of magic, as if someone was trying to send you a loving message.


krissie 6 years ago

odd i visited my Nanny same thing happened, I asked her to show me a sign, A buck appeared, odd, i was scared, the trees stareted to moves leaves fell, odd


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA Author

Hi Krissie.

Nature does give us omens -- when we pay attention!

Thanks for visiting,

MM


bladesofgrass profile image

bladesofgrass 6 years ago from The Fields of Iowa

Great story and Zsuzsy experience was a nice insert here too. :) Looking forward to reading more..take care


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA Author

Hello bladesofgrass. Thanks for visiting! MM


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

So very sweet. I know what you mean about animals being signs for something, i.e., your egret.

I am going to reread your Empty Nest hub friend. I have need of it.


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA Author

Interesting how we gravitate to animals when feeling lonely, isn't it? My kitties are very intuitive. They can tell when Mommy (or Daddy) needs love.

I visited the graveyard just last weekend. Can't have any expectations of seeing my deer (like I would know it's the same one, right?). But I can't go there without thinking of that magical meeting.

Hope you are feeling better, Storytellersrus! MM


Greenheart profile image

Greenheart 5 years ago from Cambridge

Thank-you for this heart-felt hub.

I saw my grand-mothers grave in Cape-Town in 96 when i was last there. With my dad, her son. sShe was from Poland and died of a sudden heamorrage in 69. I waved some light and incense around the grave and said a prayer. My dad shed some tears. I wish i had known her more in later years.

My grand-dad died the same year, of cancer. He was from Lithuania. I was very close to him as a 5 year old.

Life and death are much closer to each other than we usually believe.

I think that the deer is a positive sign, a sign of the spirit...

If you like,have a look at my hub about my spiritual teacher,Adi Da.

Love,

Gavin


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA Author

Hello Gavin,

What a beautiful post you have written. I hope you got some nice memories of your grandparents by writing here.

Interesting that I should log on to Hub Pages today and find your comment. I just visited the graveyard yesterday! I hadn't been since August. We did our usual drive up through the mausoleums and really old graves. Alas, no deer this time.


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 2 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

A wonderful, heart-filled connection between deer-your life-and your parents, really well done. I like the spiritual evolution connection, never thought of deer in this way before.

Best,

Ben


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 2 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA Author

Thank you, Ben. I like and appreciate your comment a lot! MM

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