All weekend last weekend I had in mind what I was going to write for Happy Monday. No writers block, a myriad of fomenting ideas rocketed around in my brain, it was just a matter of which one I would constrain to paper. #9 had gone into labor when we got to the farm on Friday and I saw this as one more event that I would have the chance to tell you about, the joy of a new calf.

The first clue I should have had was when, after watching #9 for about 3 hours in the extremely hot Friday evening, her contractions didn’t seem to be getting her anywhere.  Somewhere between comforting and alarm, I thought to myself, “well she’s a heifer, she’s going to take longer.”  Looking back, there isn’t much wiggle room, no matter a heifer or a cow, if once labor has started you don’t have a calf in 3-5 hours, she’s in trouble.

Friday night I googled more about cattle parturition and convinced myself she was okay.

Saturday morning I looked at the books and marveled that her contractions seemed less at times and her udders were so big she could hardly walk.

By Sunday morning when I saw the vulture fly off as we approached her secluded place in the trees, I, looked hopefully at the membranes that she was delivering. They didn’t look like what I thought they should look like.

Neil, Bob and Mother all said all most in unison, “Is that smell coming from her?”

I told myself it wasn’t.

When I returned from church, every time her body arched in a contraction, the smell wafted across the short 30 feet we were from her. Her udders weren’t as full.

The temperature had topped out at around 103 degrees for the last three days.

It took us about an hour to locate a vet and an emergency room on Father’s Day.

By 4pm #9 was in the head gate and Dr. Noah was putting on the hand to shoulder plastic gloves.  A fetid stench filled the room. Dr. Noah had sprayed #9 down and turned the fan on her as he talked softly but matter of factly. His family, a cute little wife, with girly flipflops and a tow-haired two year old  in tow, stood with us.

To know that at some point between Thursday and today, a perfectly formed calf, ready to enter the world had turned into putrified pieces almost unrecognizable as they were pulled from its momma’s uterus was obvious.

We all watched as the horror of it unfolded.

It was me that kept insisting everything was fine. It was me that knew, as someone that has birthed three babes, knew she wasn’t getting anywhere.

I am not sure what depressed me more, as we drove home an hour later, watching the smoke billowing from a raging wildfire between the vet and the farm, my stewardship or life in general.

I couldn’t write that night and I couldn’t write on Monday.

I drove back up on Tuesday to check on #9. Her brown eyes were still liquid and alert, she was eating and drinking but slow. Depressed, I hadn’t wanted to do much for the last two days, but had made a date in College Station and I was on my way to keep it.

Bradford and I had only corresponded by email. I knew more about him than he did about me. I wondered how tall he was and I hoped that when I saw him I would recognize him from the picture I had him send me.

I knew him when he pulled up. He pulled his tall, lanky self out of his pickup and we hugged. Settling into our seats at Chuy’s, we started talking. We both asked questions and we both answered.

“Do you mind telling me what happened to Jake? I never knew the story.”

And I told him.

“I loved being a chaplain in the Corp, too,” he said, honestly.

Between bits of chips and my sweet tea, I found out that Bradford, an only child from Florida, will report to Pennsacola in October. He wants to serve, he always has. I thought about his mother and a world that no matter what politics may do or the party that dictates them, our world is different than it was before 9-11. We talked about how he came to be at A&M and about his grades. He apologized for last spring. His old lady, corp speak for roommate, died in a car crash on his way back to college. It was tough, he told me, his hands quiet on the table.

Through lunch I looked for the smile that had spoken to my mother’s heart in the picture Bradford had sent. I saw it often.

“I’ll be here all summer,” Bradford said, “anytime you want a lunch date.”

It was that good of a meeting. That scholarship committee at A&M, picked a good one in Bradford.

On my drive home, I thought about it all. About Bradford and sons and daughters, who seek to serve and always will and the constancy of those kinds of heart.

And then it rained, a mainly steady, nourishing rain most of Wednesday. And I thought about fires that nature puts out.

So today on Thursday, I wish you Happy Monday.

Because just like me, your week is full of heartache and triumph. It’s full of hope and despair. Stay the course. Learn from your mistakes. Keep the faith. God is in heaven and someday, for those who believe, there is a reality without tears.

But in the meantime, while you’re waiting and no matter your circumstances, make yourself find God’s provision, the beauty that’s out there in humanity, just waiting for you to take notice. Like rain on parched ground, they are the restoration for a sore heart and a despairing spirit.

The Jake Siefert Corp Chaplain Scholarship

Taylor Gillespie