I hardly know how to share this news, it is shocking and I know it will bring tears to all. Our dear Queenie passed away unexpectedly today. There were no warning signs, no sickness, no shift from her adventurous playful self. In fact, Queenie spent a good portion of her day on Friday in the upper pond for all of our EleCam viewers to see.
Queenie was the diva that knew how to play and she knew how to love. She was fine with caregivers but she gave her heart to her sister elephants, all of them. She was best of friends with the mighty Minnie and loyal Lottie; the three were inseparable.
Queenie was the cutest squeaker you will ever hear. Her vocalizations grace our new Our Girls DVD; she had the most unique elephant speak imaginable.
Queenie left us abruptly. No, we were not prepared. We feel like we are in a stupor, wondering what just happened. One thing these girls teach us is that without a doubt they make the decision when to transcend this earthly life. Obviously, as demonstrated by her hasty exit, Queenie’s work here was done. We can’t yet consider life without Queenie, she simply left too quickly, and we are still processing and shedding lots of tears; we love her, we miss her, we wish she would not have left us so soon.
March 30, 2008
It was a gray dreary day, the cloud cover never lifted and the air felt as heavy as our hearts. Lottie and Minnie swiftly moved from the pond yard out to where Queenie’s body lay waiting for their arrival.
Lottie moved gracefully across the pasture, serious yet tentative, and things felt quietly primal as she moved straight towards Queenie. When Queenie’s body was in sight, Lottie stopped and waited for Minnie to catch up. They both stood close, still for several seconds, then Lottie made the first step and Minnie followed. Again they paused and this time Minnie proceeded no further, while Lottie, as if on tender tiptoes, closed the gap between her and her beloved Queenie.
The look on Lottie’s face was heartbreaking; it was as if she did not yet understand what she was seeing or what had happened. She reached out to smell, and then a few steps later reached out to touch Queenie’s face as she lay on her side in the pasture. Minnie slowly made a wide circle around Queenie, fiddling with twigs and grass, glancing at me and then the dogs for what appeared to be a welcomed distraction from something much too painful to consider, something she desired not to acknowledge just yet.
Lottie tenderly touched all over Queenie, not rushed, no urgency, no panic or confusion, just loving kindness, the heartfelt touch of a dear friend. She wore a knowing, yet foggy, look on her face; the two were in a powerfully radiant dance, in slow motion.
Minnie watched from a distance.
As Lottie continued her tender recognition of her friend, she was one with Queenie, almost like the two were actually breathing together, like Queenie indeed was only sleeping and Lottie was her protector while she dreamed.
As Minnie continued to make her way around Queenie and Lottie, not an audible word was uttered. Minnie entered the woods and pulled at a few low branches; you could see she was apprehensive, she was unsure. As Lottie continued to caress every inch of Queenie’s body, Minnie silently approached and began to scent Queenie and was now sharing in the dance. She and Lottie circled Queenie’s body, touching, looking soulful—and then Minnie stepped closer. She tested the area directly around Queenie’s tummy and then, ever so gentle, in a manner never before observed of Minnie, she entered a new world, the world of her ancestors. She painstakingly and gently lifted one front foot and then the other over Queenie’s bloated belly and placed both feet centimeters from Queenie’s back, arranging her hugeness protectively and completely over Queenie’s body.
Minnie breathed deeply, and as she exhaled it felt as if the air was being sucked from my lungs. Minnie was letting go. There was a charge of energy in the air, and I would almost swear that in that moment Minnie had been transformed. Her love for Queenie allowed an opening in her heart through which all of her long-denied compassion, empathy and grief rushed in; she is now fully in the moment, the emotional moment, and she is standing confident with her dear friend facing her fears; she is not running away.
As tears flow down my face I can hardly contain my heart in my chest for I know what this tragic turn of events means for Minnie. No greater gift could any one of us receive then the opportunity to find our true loving self underneath the piles of defensive barriers we build. Queenie has given Minnie the ultimate gift.
As the dreary day wore on, Lottie and Minnie kept their vigil. Without strain or words to the outside world, these three dear friends lived as they had each day in the past two years, in each other's loving company. Lottie slept touching Queenie while Minnie slept a few feet away. Their meals were delivered as usual with Queenie getting her fair share. Each time hay was delivered, Lottie would leave Queenie’s side, but Minnie did not. She looked in my direction, soft soulful, a Minnie that she has kept hidden or perhaps that she herself never knew before this time. Minnie did not cry tears but she was mourning in a real way, needing to be close to her friend.
I respectfully approached and laid hay down in front of Queenie and Minnie; she watched me, and not even the invitation from playful dogs gave her a reason to leave Queenie’s side. At 10pm Lottie and Minnie remained in the pasture with Queenie, receiving their meals and extra hay. If the cloud cover had lifted, the moon would have illuminated the precious love that radiates from these elephants, sharing the midnight hours together in the place they found together, a place of sanctuary, their true home.