The fall season brought a steady, cold rain that chilled to the bone. And with that dampness came a terrible sickness that affected the whole herd of pigs. Poor Stella and Petunia were hit the hardest, and both pigs died just a few days apart.
After weeks of doctor visits, pills, and shots, the sickness ended just as quickly as it came, and the pigs finally regained their strength. With Christmas approaching, they all counted their blessings and felt gratitude that they survived the illness. In the evenings, Herman, Harvey, Frank, and Rudy the Roosters lightened spirits by leading the pigs in holiday carols, stories, and games.
But the Christmas spirit wasn’t felt by everyone.
The loss of Stella and Petunia took its toll on all the pigs, but especially Ellie and Pedro. Even though Ellie had only recently bonded with Stella, their relationship had evolved so deeply and quickly that visitors to the farm often thought they were mother and daughter. Pedro and Petunia also shared a deep connection. They had been rescued from a mean farmer on the same day, and mutual feelings of sincere gratitude and love glued them together like two pieces in a puzzle.
To deal with their grief, Ellie and Pedro reminded each other about the wise words of Lester the Rooster. “Grief is just nature’s way of letting you know the depth of your love. The more you grieve, the more you loved.” Lester also encouraged them to express their grief. “Grief is nothing to be ashamed of. Let it out. Showing your grief is your way of honoring those you have lost.”
Lester had stood on his rock and preached about grief on many afternoons, because he wanted the pigs to be prepared for loss, especially his own. “Loss creates a hole in our hearts that never fully heals, but as time passes, the rough edges around that hole start to soften with fond memories. And those memories will never die.” The pigs adored Lester, and when he finally succumbed to his own illness, the pigs were comforted with his words.
Ellie and Pedro reminded themselves of Lester’s words of wisdom often, but they continued to mope around the farm in deep sadness. The rest of the herd could hear them gently crying throughout the long, dark nights, and a constant feeling of despair hovered over the barn. If only Lester were here to tell them what to do.
Meanwhile, way up in the sky at Rainbow Bridge, the days were filled with celebration, dancing, and reminiscing. As new arrivals, both Stella and Petunia wore lush bonnets of fragrant flowers on their heads and magnificent necklaces of gold, diamonds, and other sparkling jewels around their necks. Every animal, bird, insect, and sea creature they passed stopped to gaze at their wondrous wardrobe and give them a big sloppy welcome kiss. It was quite a sight to see!
But at night, after the celebrations, feasts, and kisses were over for the day, both Stella and Petunia couldn’t stop thinking about how things were back at the farm. They had departed so suddenly and never had a chance to say all the things they wanted. They never even said goodbye. With more notice, Stella would have prepared Ellie for all the many adventures ahead of her and encouraged her to find another soulmate. And Petunia would have told Pedro how much she loved him at least a million more times. Why didn't they say those things when they were healthy, they wondered.
As leader of the pack at Rainbow Bridge, Jenna the Dog sensed Stella and Petunia's frustration and promised to check on the herd back on Earth. She was the official messenger of the group and often reported back about happenings at the farm. One night, using her special magnifying glasses that fit snugly over her big goofy ears, she peeked through the stars and into the barn where the herd was sleeping. There, she saw both Ellie and Pedro curled up like babies, weeping in grief. They looked so sad. She knew she had to do something.
The following day, Jenna got up super early so she could grab Lester on his way to his morning chicken dance at the gym and told him about the situation. Together, they decided to make an appointment with the great horned owl Ambroos. Ambroos had lived in ancient Greece back on Earth, and some say he had been the personal assistant of Athena the Goddess of Wisdom herself. Ever since his arrival at Rainbow Bridge several centuries ago, he had served as Chief Counselor of Special Circumstances in the great cathedral. Here, appointed officials made the laws and rules for the entire animal kingdom at Rainbow Bridge. He specialized in situations that were considered to be “unfinished business” on Earth.
When the appointment day finally arrived, Jenna and Lester were escorted through the hallways of the grand cathedral until they finally reached the great office of Ambroos. His room was the tallest point of the cathedral with a great window that looked over all of Rainbow Bridge.
Jenna was so honored to be in the presence of the almighty Ambroos that she could only whimper a few grunts and snorts. Lester was also awestruck and stood at a distance behind Jenna. With his wings spread from one end of the room to the other, Ambroos looked down at Jenna and said, “Come now, oh gentle dog Jenna, what is the purpose of today’s visit?”
Jenna slowly raised her head to reveal her face of sparkling white fur, and fixed her eyes on the beautiful feathers that lay before her. “Oh great Ambroos, we are here today to ask for a wee favor. You see, we’ve just gained two new arrivals from our farm - Stella and Petunia - and their sudden and unexpected departures from Earth have had devastating consequences back home. I’m afraid we’ve got a case of such severe suffering that we just have to do something. I am asking for your permission to communicate back to the farm to let everyone know that Stella and Petunia are OK.”
Ambroos moved his splendid head to the side, flapped his wondrous wings, pondered Jenna’s words for a brief moment, and then responded. “Jenna, you are asking the impossible. Many of our arrivals leave behind grieving friends and family. What you describe seems like a typical case of grief to me. Time heals all wounds, and these wounds, too, shall pass.”
Jenna turned her head even higher so she could look directly into the glowing orange eyes of the wise owl. With a sudden bolt of courage and determination, she said, “But, oh great wise one, these are special cases, I assure you. These animals were bonded through a history of misery and suffering. Stella had just finally broken through her mistrust and learned to love for the very first time in her life. And boy did she love that little Ellie." She stopped only briefly to catch her breath. "And let me tell you about Pedro and Petunia. Those two pigs suffered before the great rescue. They had finally found paradise, only for one of them to be whisked away to...”
Ambroos pointed his great wing toward Jenna as a sign to pause from speaking. “Jenna, I hear your conviction, and for that I am truly grateful. I cannot make promises, but I will investigate this case a little further to see if it falls into our special circumstances category. Give me a few days, and I will call you and your little rooster friend back for the final answer. And Jenna, know this. Just because I have agreed to investigate does not mean that the answer will be in your favor.”
Jenna snorted with excitement and thanked Ambroos with a clumsy bow. "Thank you, oh great bird of beauty. We will wait patiently for your call." And with that, Jenna took Lester by the wing and pranced down the great hallway of the cathedral. Together they half-hopped and half-flew through the clouds, past the great bridge, and back to the pack.
Jenna and Lester had been sworn to secrecy about their visit, so they couldn’t say a word. But everyone knew something was brewing. And if it involved both Lester and Jenna, whatever it was had to be something on the order of great.
Finally, after what seemed like weeks of waiting, Jenna received word through a messenger hummingbird that Ambroos had made a decision. Jenna stood motionless for several seconds as she processed the words. Then, with a sudden flip of excitement, she reached down to grab Lester’s wing, only to grab his beak instead, and started a full gallop toward the cathedral. Poor Lester wiggled out of Jenna's awkward grasp and flew behind the best he could.
Jenna and Lester’s arrival into the office of Ambroos looked nothing short of a slide into first base at a heavenly baseball game. Jenna awkwardly stood back up on all four paws and bowed down in front of the great bird while Lester stood off at a distance. At first, Ambroos seemed like he was preparing Jenna and Lester for bad news.
"Jenna, I have investigated your allegations of deep grief for Ellie and Pedro back on Earth. I have confirmed that their grief is indeed deep. Grief is a natural consequence of dying, and it often takes a long time to heal. In this respect, their situation is not unlike many others."
Jenna bowed her head, and her eyes started to fill with tears. Lester hopped up on Jenna’s back and patted her head in comfort.
Ambroos continued, "But, because these cases are built on a special bond of rescue followed by unexpected loss, I am willing to fulfill your request."
After a few moments, Jenna smiled so big that it filled up her entire face, and she did a full flip in excitement. Forgetting all about Lester on her back, Jenna's flip sent poor Lester flying through the air. Jenna's tears glowed on her beautiful face that shone like the sun, and she rubbed them off with her big furry paw.
Ambroos continued. “Here is our plan. At the next full moon, Pedro and Ellie will be beckoned from their stalls and given messages of comfort from Petunia and Stella. For security reasons, we cannot communicate with the entire herd at this time - only the two pigs who are suffering the most. The other pigs will be in such a deep sleep during the event that they won’t hear a thing.”
Ambroos continued, “Now, Jenna and Lester, I need you to bring Stella and Petunia here to my office at midnight on the night of the next full moon. Tell them they will have exactly one minute each to communicate back to their loved ones. I cannot tell you any more details, as this mission is highly top secret, but I assure you, it will be powerful. And listen carefully, it will not erase the grief. I do not have that power. But it will bring much peace. Now go, and I will see the four of you in a few days.”
Jenna and Lester vowed to secrecy and left the great cathedral with pure joy in their hearts. And when the evening of the full moon finally arrived, the secret plan moved into action.
That night on the farm, the pigs told stories around the great rock as they watched the full moon rise through the trees. Ellie and Pedro sat off at a distance, as usual, thinking about Stella and Petunia. With broken hearts, they both sulked back to the barn and quietly nudged their spots in the straw. It would be another night of crying for both of them.
After a few hours, when the moon was high in the sky, both Ellie and Pedro opened their swollen eyes and felt an unexplained urge to go back to the great rock - the same rock where Lester preached his words of wisdom. Suddenly, the moon and stars began to shine more brightly, and stardust gently rained over Ellie and Pedro like sparkling glitter. Through the brilliant colors, the comforting words of Stella and Petunia gently reached their ears and filled them with such an overwhelming light of peace and comfort that could only come from heaven above. That night, they were truly transformed, and their lives would never be the same.
Ellie and Pedro never told anyone about their experience at the great rock. They continued to grieve for their friends, but things were different now. Feelings of loss and emptiness were replaced with gratitude and love. They especially learned not to take love for granted. And how much richer their lives were for having loved Stella and Petunia. They were on a mission to spread love, and boy did they find all kinds of ways to spread that love! They knew Lester would be proud of them, and he was.