The encounter was brief; but memorable. I stopped and beheld the majesty of this creature for several minutes. It returned the stare with evident disdain; but I like to think that we parted ways with equal respect.
I saw it again and again over the next day or two, before eventually losing track of it. Though we parted company after only a few encounters, I never forgot the experience. In fact, I remembered it so well that I found myself in hopes of another meeting or two this spring.
This is exactly what came about this past week; though not nearly in the manner in which I had anticipated. While out walking a few days ago, I came across this same turtle, not 50 feet from where I had done so a year ago. Only this time, it was not in the pasture, but in the road. And this time, it was not alive, but dead. Its shell was crushed, and it lay in pool of blood, obviously as a result of being struck by a car.
Needless to say, I was saddened by the whole experience. Granted, we are only talking about a reptile here. But the demise of this magnificent creature still left me feeling somewhat saddened.
Snapping turtles, it seems, grow their whole lives. Thus, the larger they are, the older they are. For this reason, from my estimations of its size – with a shell somewhere around 15 inches – I have concluded that this particular animal was of an advanced age – perhaps several decades. It was likely in the prime of life, and quite healthy.
Nonetheless in spite of all this, it was apparently in the wrong place at the wrong time; and sadly, by its very nature, simply too slow to get out of the way. Alas! Life sometimes works that way. Despite our best intentions, the cards are stacked against us, and we come up short. I accepted these facts and went on with my walk, slightly saddened but somewhat sager by the acknowledgment of these facts.
Fast forward to the next day, when I once again set out on my morning walk, when what to my surprise did I encounter but another snapping turtle! Only this one was not crossing the road, but our driveway. And this one was not large and mature, but small and not fully formed. In fact, its shell was barely two inches long. It had obviously been born this very spring.
As it too appeared to be headed for the road, and the inherent dangers entailed, I chose to pick it up and carry it next door to my son’s house. I knocked on the door; and when, as I anticipated, my little grandson answered, I showed him the turtle. Suffice it to say that he was enthralled by what I had with me.
With the little turtle in my left hand and his hand in my right, my little grandson and I walked together to the back of our property, where we proceeded to place the small snapping turtle in the creek. As it quickly acclimated to the water, and then slowly made its way underneath a log, my grandson was fascinated. I, however, was given pause for further reflection.
I do not know if the large turtle of the day before was in any way a progenitor of the small turtle of that day. Given their close physical proximity, as well as their size differential, it is likely that the two were related in some fashion. The larger could have easily been an uncle, an aunt, a cousin, or a sibling. It could also have been a parent, a grandparent, or even a great grandparent.
Needless, to say, this latter realization had special significance for me as I stood there holding the hand of my very own grandson! You see, I have been blessed to live what many might consider a full life - if in no other way, then at least in the number of years. As to whether or not I have actually reached maturity in this process, others will have to judge. Either way, as turtles generally live long, full lives, I hope to do the same.
At the same time, I fully recognize that I am more than likely nearer to the end of my life than the beginning. And it is the recognition of this very fact that makes the blessing of grandchildren all the more special.
While the two of us stood there watching this little turtle swim boldly off into its future, it is likely that only one of us reflected on the events of the last 24 hours. Or on the parallels. Yet, I know that each of us will have some part to play in the living out of those parallels.
For my part, I hope to come to the end of my life one day with the satisfaction of knowing that I have been used of God to provide this grandson (and six more like him) with life and all the possibilities that entails. For his (and their) part, I hope he (and they) will one day venture boldly forth into the world and live that life to the fullest, in the process becoming all God intended for them to become, and accomplishing all God intended for them to accomplish!
I do not know if the mature snapping turtle referenced above died with any such satisfaction. But I certainly hope I will do so whenever that day comes for me!
The Old Testament Book of Proverbs (chapter 13, verse 22) affirms that: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…” I, too, hope to leave an inheritance to my grandchildren. Only I hope it is one of more than mere material substance. I hope it involves a legacy. And I hope that legacy includes a good name, and a set of values, and a passion for life with all that entails.
Above all else, I hope it involves a spiritual component! I hope they will have seen in me a man who chose to live his life in a manner consistent with Biblical principles and in pursuit of the overarching will of God. If so, then I will know that I have been in large part the very person who God created me to be and done in large part exactly what God created me to do!
SCRIPTURE SOURCE: https://biblehub.com/proverbs/13-22.htm.