JULIE MORAVCHIK: The Gift of Life
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- I held her in my arms, drying her off with a towel and praying that God would allow her to live.
I was back home, at my parent’s farm in Ino, Wis. We had been at the family farm visiting for a few days. I was about to pack up my little family and make the six-hour trip back to Grand Forks, when my brother, Jeff, called. He needed me outside right away.
It was spring calving season — a critical time on a farm. A time when my family gets very little sleep as they tend to cows giving birth to their newborn calves, day and night.
When Jeff called, it was urgent. One cow was about to give birth, and my brother needed help getting her rounded up and into a sheltered area of the barn. But what broke my heart was what I saw next.
A baby calf, born that very morning, struggling to survive.
She’d been born in the bitter cold temperatures of the early morning. Her mom had licked her off, but then somehow, they were separated. My brother said the cow may have gone to eat and then lost her baby.
Jeff now had this baby girl calf in our warm milk house. He said she needed care, but she also needed a mom. I understood. Everyone needs to love of a mother. So I told him I would do what I could to help.
I did the best I could to hold her, talk to her and I told her everything was going to be alright. And I kept drying her off with the towel, so it might feel like her mom nuzzling her. I did that while I watched my brother administer the nutrition and medicine she so badly needed.
Jeff left briefly to check on the other cows. While I held her, talked to her and prayed for her, I thought she was starting to look better. She stretched out her legs and made a lot of noise. But when my brother returned, he said she was starting to show signs of near death.
Jeff got her sitting up in a sleeping position. I stayed with her for a long time, until she fell asleep. I wanted to stay with her for the rest of the day, but I knew I couldn’t. She was sleeping now, and we would soon find out if she was going to be OK. Jeff promised me he would let me know how she was doing.
As I walked from the milk house to our family home, tears welled in my eyes. I had walked this same path 1,000 times. Our farm has been in our family for nearly 100 years. My great-grandparents settled on this farm from Slovakia. I had walked this path since I was a little girl to a teenager, leaving the milk house at 6 a.m. to get ready for school. I grew up knowing that sometimes animals don’t make it on the farm, but it’s never easy.
When I walked back into the house, I saw my mother watching my children, Joey, 6, and Josie, 2. I walked over and held them both tight. Sometimes, we take the gift of life for granted.
I knew we were in a hurry to leave for Grand Forks, but I sat there for a moment and took it all in. I watched as my son played in the living room and my daughter danced, and my mother smiled. And in that moment, I remembered to thank God for every single breath of life.
Once I had my car packed and my children ready, we went to the barn to check on the baby calf. When I walked in, I was amazed by the miracle before me.
The baby calf — who just hours before, was struggling to survive — was now awake, and looked much more full of life. She was perked up, her eyes looked bright and she looked 100-percent better. My children were thrilled to see the cute calf. They couldn’t stop petting and admiring her.
I looked at Jeff, my baby brother, who has now grown into a good compassionate man with a strong faith and love for his wife, children and family. And I watched him smile and nod and get that same look in his eyes that he he’s had since he was a child. That look of pure joy that another calf has been born and is healthy and alive.
I asked Jeff to name her Josie after my daughter, and he agreed.
After we left, Jeff told me the good news, that baby calf, Josie, had been reunited with her mom, and she was doing well. He sent me photos of her standing up and looking wonderful.
I will never forget that day or that moment when the calf nearly died. I pray every day that I never take my children, my family, my life or even one single breath for granted. Because it is all a blessing — a gift from God.
Moravchik is News Director for WDAZ in Grand Forks and a mother of two. She can be reached at (701) 775-2511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.