The deer, they tell us, come right up to the windows.

My parents did, after all, build and operate the Deerland Motel. Deer have always been a part of our lives in some form.

So we move Mom into the room with the view.

I see a doe the next day, hidden way back in the tangled trees, but Mom can’t see it. In reality, sightings over the next few weeks are few.

The deer, they tell us later, “usually mean something.” We see one the day John goes home—presumably to die there.

My dad doesn’t know the legend. He becomes frustrated, determined that Mom will see. So he buys a bushel of apples and tosses a few around outside every day, hoping to entice. Then he carries the tired pumpkins out. One day he comes back from a walk. He sits on the bench, breaks a branch apart, pokes “antlers” in his stocking cap, and walks around outside the window.

He doesn’t know that he scared a pumpkin-munching deer away as he approached.

But Mom is not awake to see. I don’t think she ever did see a deer during those days.

On the day she rallies, she feeds herself some breakfast, and we wheel her recliner outside to watch birds and breathe in the crisp fall air. The aide takes her and her rubber duckies down the hall for a last over-bubbled jet bath.

As they transfer back to bed, Mom seizes. It’s her only seizure. Sissy and I stand opposite each other, hold her hands, stroke her arms, and murmur, “It’s okay, Mom. It’s okay.”

My dad is reading a book. He’s oblivious to what’s happening in the room. He’s oblivious to what’s looking in the window.

“Deer!” I hiss to Sissy.

“Gun!” Sissy hisses to the nurse.

“What’s next?” we ask when it’s over, and Mom’s sleeping.

The nurse shrugs. “We wait. And watch for the deer.”

So we wait. And leave nose prints on the windows, hoping to see—and not see.

We see them outside the morning before the last morning, before the mourning.

All this runs through my mind when I see them on the side of the road after we leave the beach.

Do I look away? Pretend I don’t see? Like we do sometimes when we sense the sacred?

Do I recoil, like we do sometimes when we come near the heat of the holy?

Or do I do what I do? “Stop!” I plead as I fumble for my camera.

And he brakes right there in the middle of the road.

I see through the glass dimly, and as I put my hand on the door handle, he warns, “They’ll run.”

But they don’t. There are five of them, including spotted babes, and I cluck and smooch the air and sweet talk. They just lift their heads, perk their ears, and gaze at me with soft brown eyes while I zoom and snap.

And I wonder…why are they here? Why now? What do they mean or portend?

I shake off the legend and decide it’s just a coincidence, a sign of His love and of His creativity, an opportunity to shift the focus from myself. I remember Susan‘s comment on this post. She’d “heard it said that deer represent God-seekers in scripture.

I’m seeking to see God deeper.

I could stay until they leave and longer, but we have to move on. The car that’s stopped behind us, their occupants are impatient.

They see—but they don’t see

The next day, I get a call with news that makes me shiver a bit. And, silly or not, I make a note to remember to record these sightings.

when we see the deer

by Sandra Heska King time to read: 3 min