Yesterday was strange. Jilly was all about the place. Not weird, not spooky nor particularly sad – she just was about the place. I caught imperceptible flashes of her out of the corner of my eye, saw a glimpse of her moving alongside the bobcat by the cow palace, heard the rustle of her in some leaves on our walk and, strangest of all, I felt and heard her whiz past me into the truck, her most favourite spot of all.

I was not the only one. Skye and Ness seemed to be aware of her too. Ness crouching low to the ground, took up her stalking pose (something she constantly annoyed Jill with) at the corner of the house ready to pounce on…nothing? Skye – ears pricked, eyes bright, tail up and wagging – ran up to greet something near the pole barn (the dogs often make themselves a cosy bed in the hay and straw there), stopped short, looked perplexed, and ran about sniffing and searching.

Come their dinner time I called out for Jilly and in unison Skye and Ness looked round, barked and bounded off in happy excitement…
“Oh, it’s because you called…” Could be, could be. But I tried calling today and there was no such reaction, just a look up at me and a quizzical gaze as if to say “Are you okay?”

Many years ago when I was farming at Hayne, Blair, a cousin of mine who fled Rhodesia, came for tea and ended up staying. One year we were experiencing a hot, humid, wet sultry summer which had been impossible for hay making. A window of better weather had opened and we were taking advantage of the evening to carry in bales. Blair, happy, hale and hearty, suddenly collapsed, dying of a massive heart attack. A complete shock. We were totally unprepared.

Over the next few weeks we became acutely aware of his presence around the farm. My sons, who were very young then, could be found in earnest conversations or in hoots of laughter with no-one and when asked who they were talking too they looked at us if slightly mad and said “Blair. Why?” The most peculiar and bizarre incident was that his stick, a hazel one with a simple horn crook belonging to his father before him, was found up against the gate he always used on his daily rounds of the farm. I know it had been in the stick rack after he died, as I had checked. It was so much part of him. I now use the same stick.

Strange, or possibly not strange? Maybe beings that die suddenly and unexpectedly are given time to adjust to their new dimension, to learn their bearings and to say goodbye to those people and places they loved. I like to think so.

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