This morning our little paradise lost a young warthog. Two weeks ago he first showed up in our garden with a buddy. He had a very bad facial wound, clearly inflicted by the tusk of a much bigger adult. Then, he was in good condition and ate well – so, I was hopeful he would recover. Over the past year, I have been consistently surprised (and impressed) by the resilience of warthogs. This morning, he returned to our garden.
Half of his face was rotted away and I could see deep into his head. It was a horrific site. The wound was seething with tiny maggots and this poor creature’s condition was seriously deteriorated from two weeks ago. My heart broke. He approached me and rested his head on the short fence around our house, with pleading, exhausted eyes.
I called the rangers and as I waited with him, I brought him a last meal of chopped apples and birdseed. His eyes implored me to do something. In my helplessness, I comforted him with my words – afraid of violating the fragile privilege of respecting the space of a wild animal. He closed his eyes and allowed my voice to lull him into brief moments of rest, in between unimaginable pain. The ranger’s compassion was evident and his bullet was a swift mercy.
The African soil on which he was born, and on which he finally found relief from his pain, soaked up my tears as I buried the small puddle of blood. He died in my favourite spot in our garden, right under my bird feeder. A place that is frequented by little birds and butterflies – a place where I will never look again, without remembering the courageous warthog who rested his head there for the last time.
Why am I sharing this with you? Simply because that young warthog impacted me in a profound way. As we waited for the ranger, he tried his best to carry on living as best he could despite unthinkable pain and suffering. He ate despite the immense effort it clearly demanded. I am challenged by his courage. In the face of the inevitable – he kept on keeping on. His message was not, ‘woe is me’. It was, ‘please help me!’. As humans, we tend to complain and give up when the going gets tough. How often don’t we whine about the smallest aches or difficulties? I complain about my headaches all the time. But I don’t have half of my face rotting off! Sometimes, I get discouraged and I confess there have been times in my life when I wanted to give up.
A Reminder That Was Not In Vain
Next time, I will remember the example of the warthog who shared the last hour of his young life with me. It will be an encouragement to keep on keeping on when I feel like I can’t. Life in the wild is harsh and often unfair. Life can be the same for humans, but giving up is never the answer.
Tonight I am nursing a monumental snot headache – the result of many anguished tears over the suffering of an innocent animal. However, I am thankful that tonight his pain and suffering is not being prolonged. My heart is full of gratitude to those who helped him find relief when I could not. And I am indebted to the courageous warthog who reminded me to never give up and to always give my best until the very end.