Once upon a time I thought I loved animals. Before my first child was born, we had three dogs, two rabbits, and a large aquarium of fish, all at one time. It was beautiful chaos and I loved it.
But then one of our rabbits killed the other, and the surviving rabbit died after giving birth to a litter of then-orphaned bunnies. We tried for all we were worth to tend to those babies but they died one by one. It was tragic and I didn't want bunnies anymore. Slowly my love for animals was replaced as, year after year, my little brood of humans grew.
Years later, our family got the sweetest Great Pyrenees and my love for furry creatures was briefly rekindled. I surely did love that oversized, oaf of a dog. But when we left for Thailand we couldn't take him with us and so I returned to my pre-pyrenees disdain for creatures that made my life messier and more complicated.
But as so much of life seems to get the last laugh, my love-hate (hate is a strong word that feels inappropriate here but un-love isn't a word, is it?) relationship with animals was no exception. Because we now run a home for at-risk children. And what do children love more than most anything?
I'm surrounded by them. Dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, iguanas. We're working toward building outdoor enclosures where the caged variety of animals can have large amounts of space to enjoy and also serve as exhibits so that we can invite the children of our village in to see and learn about these animals from a creation perspective with our many kids acting as the tour guides.
But there is one animal I have always put my foot down firmly about. No amount of hoping, or even the sweetest petitioning from the dearest little faces, can move me. I will not live with snakes on purpose.
I'm far too sensible for that.
However, the flood waters during this rainy season were the worst they've been in many years and with all that water came a whole host of, you guessed it, snakes. All sizes and varieties. These horrible, slithering creatures have even been so bold as to camp out, uninvited, within the walls of our houses. Literally everywhere.
Yesterday I was walking in from the back porch and as I crossed through the doorway, a medium-sized snake fell from above and landed on my neck before falling to the ground. Rather than the scream I would have expected to come forth from my fright, something more of a guttural cry emitted into the air. Like someone who'd been mortally wounded and was having a last shake at verbalizing, only to find the sounds wouldn't form words or even a scream.
The kids in the house came running and when I told them I'd been hit in the neck by a vigilante snake, they ran to the back porch, IN BARE FEET, to find the suspect and bring it to justice. Nothing could have shaken me from my own agony faster than to think my poor, small people had intentionally run into harm's way to protect me. I did the only reasonable thing to do when children are being so kind.
I yelled at them to get back in the house immediately.
Dejected and disappointed that they'd been pulled so abruptly from their role as heroes, they scurried back in to safety. I calmed myself and determined that life must go on. Missionary women through the ages have set the bar high and I knew I must not soil their legacy. I, too, must be tough. And so I carried on with the day as though I were fine, even though I most certainly was not.
About an hour later everyone was gathered for worship outdoors under the roof of the dining area. Abi was in the middle of telling a grande story to the children (about snakes, no less) when one of the children suddenly gasped and pointed up at the rafters. I turned to look, expecting to see one of the many lizards who make themselves cozy around here. Instead, what I saw was the most massive python I've ever laid eyes on.
And it was above me looking out over our group.
I'm not going to lie. At this point I was feeling targeted. Chased. Pursued. I was feeling all of it. That enormous reptile was perched, flicking its tongue in and out as though taunting me. He knew what he lacked in venom he possessed in strength. Strength enough to kill a grown man.
But he didn't have the last word. Because the men wrestled him down an hour or so later. One got bit in the process but the snake was eventually hauled away because my shouts of "kill it. kill it!" fell on deaf ears and he lived to see another day, albeit far from our property.
I'm still shuddering over the horror of nearly two months of snakes. Over the cobra that was found last week in our tool shed. Over the snakes that lurk, coiled, in every unseen corner of everywhere. And I'm here to tell you ...
... the legacy of the tough and courageous missionary wife and mother ended with me. I killed it.
My sincerest apologies. The end.