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Remembering Mr. Lily

Monday, February 11, 2019

Last Thursday, Mr. Lily passed away. I arrived at the Sanctuary on Friday knowing I would never get to sit in his yard again and have him come into my lap. When I started at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in July, I expected to bond most closely with cows. I went vegetarian at a young age because a cow friend of mine, Parker, was killed for meat and fed to me. When I heard Parker’s name as we said thanks for the food we were eating, I knew I could never eat animals again.

My connection with cows has always been strong. I love pressing my face into baby cow foreheads, sitting down with them on fresh hay, running in fields as they chase me, and laughing with them. I think it’s easier to connect with cows. Some people call them grass puppies. We see the way they look at their young, cry out for their babies. This year, a law in New Jersey was proposed to stop sending pregnant cows to slaughter, a story went viral about a cow too big to be slaughtered, and that old photo of a 4-H competitor napping with his dairy cow was all over my Facebook feed again. Cows are similar enough to us to evoke a strong response of compassion. It makes sense that people bond with cows–we can see ourselves in them.

These experiences were the strongest ones I have ever had with farmed animals, until I met Mr. Lily.

Like all good love stories, I wasn’t looking for love when I found Mr. Lily. I was sitting in his yard trying to bond with his turkey friends and he ran up to me and pecked at the bracelet on my wrist. Then he pecked my actual wrist, which hurt, and left a little bump. I had a gold zipper on my sweatshirt and he pecked that. He pecked the eyelets in my shoes. I bent down and he grabbed my earring. Then I tried to pet him and he ran away, coming back after a few minutes to start all over again. It made me laugh really hard and I stayed in the yard a long time. I gave Mr. Lily his space. I let him peck me all over and I sat there, feeling joy and connection.

I started to go see him most mornings, before work. I brought my coffee with me and sat with him, bonding with the turkeys and letting him flit about. Some mornings, he wanted nothing to do with me and so I gave him space. Other mornings, he ran up and pecked at my bracelet for 10 minutes while I used my other hand to sip my coffee. I got excited every time I got a new piece of jewelry and I learned that Mr. Lily really liked rose gold and doesn’t like silver so much. He really liked a locket I had, so much so that I sometimes put it in the grass so he could peck at it without hurting my chest.

In September, I went to go see Mr. Lily in the morning and he ran up to the gate. It was the first time he ran up to see me. Immediately once I got into his yard, he started pecking at the eyelets in my shoes. I sat down like normal and before I crossed both of my legs all the way, Mr. Lily crawled into my lap and started pecking at my sweatshirt while sitting on my legs. It was the first time he sat down on me–sometimes he would crawl on me, but only for a moment, and then he was off. This morning, he laid in my lap, lazily pecking at my sweatshirt zipper. Every so often, I had mornings like this with him, and I knew that I had earned Mr. Lily’s trust. By giving him space, by being curious about his likes and dislikes, Mr. Lily learned that I was someone who would respect him.

On Thursday, I got a new piece of jewelry: a bracelet with the word vegan on it. I’ll never know if Mr. Lily would have liked it or if he’d have pecked it a couple times and run away to do his own thing. All animals have their preferences, their likes and dislikes, their friends. Mr. Lily was no exception. All guinea hens like Mr. Lily deserve compassion, space to choose who they want to spend time with, and the sun on their backs. But most guinea hens never get to choose if they want to spend time with turkeys, people, cats, cows, or other guinea hens. No one cares what type of metal they like. Their deaths are not honored with moments of silence. They were never given names to be mourned by, remembered by.

Mr. Lily touched a lot of lives. He was extremely popular on social media, with people on tours at the Sanctuary, and with staff. To me, he represents a beacon of the better world we are trying to build at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary: a world where all animals are able to have their preferences respected by people. I believe in us, as a species, that humans are good deep down and want to build a more compassionate world. This world must be slaughter free, so guinea hens like Mr. Lily and all the other animals out there are able to experience sun, human compassion, and chosen relationships with other animals.

Today, I honor Mr. Lily’s death by taking a moment of silence for all the lives his presence has spared. For Mr. Lily touched lives. He made people realize they could connect with guinea hens, that guinea hens are worthy of the same compassion as all other animals., and through that, they were able to see that all birds, all farmed animals, are worthy of that, too And he made people laugh. My favorite part of tours was bending down and showing children how Mr. Lily loved my bracelets. Their laughter lives on in me, as a sign that a better world is possible, that the work we do at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary is impactful, and that veganism is our future.

Mr. Lily, I’m drinking my coffee this morning thinking of you. Thank you for all you taught me, all you taught us. We will always remember your name.

For the animals, for a better world, for Mr. Lily,

Kirstie Kimball
Development Director

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