Esther the sheep was loved like a daughter and treated like a queen.
I woke up at 3 a.m. the night Esther came to live with us. I stood at the top of the stairs listening for her bleating coming from the basement below. Esther was a day-old orphaned lamb. Bum lambs, as they’re called, only have a 50-50 chance of living through their first night. I grew anxious from silence.
“Oh no, oh no,” I thought, “Grace will be devastated.” Thought new in our home, Esther was already very established in my teenage daughter’s heart.
I zipped downstairs fearing the worst. I apprehensively approached the enclosure Grace built for Esther. There, nestled in the straw, sleeping peacefully with baby Esther was teenage Grace. No wonder Esther wasn’t bleating. She had found her mama.
Grace and Esther slept together every night for the next month. They moved from straw on the basement floor to sheets on Grace’s bed, which Grace washed daily. Grace convinced her teacher to let Esther come to school with her, and her parents to let Esther come to Las Vegas on a family vacation. Oddities are the norm in Las Vegas, but baby Esther strolling the boulevard resulted in more than a few favorite photos.
Esther, biologically a Merino sheep, considers herself a human. Grace’s human, to be exact. She’d enter the house at will, jumping through an open window if no one was gracious enough to open the door for her. She was Grace’s shadow—and echo. When Grace left (heaven forbid!), all she had to do was “baaaaa” when she returned for Esther to come running and bleating her response.
Little Esther soon became Big Esther, though she was forever Grace’s baby. Once, Grace dressed her in a red cloak and took her trick-or-treating as Little Red Riding Hood. The neighbors invited them inside, where Esther proceeded to nibble on their geraniums and headbutt their standard poodle.
A sheep lose on stage in front of 600 high school students: What could possibly go wrong? Nothing. Esther performed like the queen she was. Grace “baaa-ed” at Esther and Esther “baaa-ed” right back. The two happily met at center stage.
Big Esther became Mama Esther, and what a mama she was! Tough and tender, she was not afraid to knock any non-sheep, non-Grace thing that came too close. Still, she was gentle as a lamb when nuzzling her babies. During her second pregnancy, we almost lost her, but she rebounded the next year and had triplets named Sam, Sarah, and Sariah.
Grace moved to Salt Lake City to attend University. Esther may have been out of sight, but she was never out of mind. In fact, Grace would call me and say, “I came to Roy last night but didn’t go in the house. I just needed an Esther fix, so I went to the pasture and hung out with her for an hour.”
Indeed, theirs was a bond to remember. Sadly, in February 2021, it became just that. Their love changed from an active, hands- and hugs-on relationship to one based on heartwarming memories after Esther passed away from birthing complications.
Family is forever, and Esther is family. She is waiting for Grace on the other side of the veil that separates the living from the next life to come. When Grace passes through, she’ll “baaa,” Esther will “baaa” back, and they’ll run to each other, happily reuniting.
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