Burying Clover


Clover, Buried

A small cow is still a big animal to bury. One man with a shovel might spend a full day or two or three at it, depending on how deeply he dug the hole, or how many rocks he hit. With a medium-sized tractor and backhoe, the same man can do the job in half a day– which is a mercy, because a dead cow is not a pleasant sight, and there’s no prospect of the situation improving over time.

Clover was our family cow, and she died last Friday, 36 hours after having her second calf.

I grew up in suburbia, with no connection and little understanding of natural processes, so that my apprenticeship year on a small farm in England, in my early 20s, was a continual epiphany. Chickens lay eggs according to daylight: fewer and fewer as the days shorten; more and more as late winter moves through vernal equinox towards summer. Who knew? Not me. I learned this, and a million other things, in my year on the farm.

I learned resurrection, too. I don’t mean that I learned to believe in a doctrine of resurrection; I mean that I formed the habit of seeing resurrection everywhere, and that I began to inhabit the resurrection rhythm: life rising from death–death taking life down into the earth–earth giving rise to life again. Living through the moons and seasons on a small, human-sized farm is a good way to become rooted in the fundamentals.

My wife and I wanted to raise our children to know where food comes from, to learn the responsibility of farm chores, and (hopefully) to have their character developed by daily contact with what is close to the earth. Clover was part of this life we chose for our family, and she played her part well: the children fed her hay on bitter winter mornings; they mucked her stall; and now they– we– mourn her death. She was a gentle, good cow.

The problem with the kind of resurrection that nature practices, is that the life that comes from death is not the same life as before. Clover’s body will nourish new grass in the field, but I want my cow back, not fertilized grass. My grandfather used to joke that one day he’d be “pushing up daisies,” but it’s him that I want alive anew, not a bunch of flowers.

Maybe the resurrection we see in natural processes on earth is only a copy, a facsimile, of the great resurrection promised in Christian scripture?  When all that is and was love– all that held love, spoke love, drank love– will be renewed and restored in the bodies we knew? God, I hope so.


9 thoughts on “Burying Clover

  1. Chris – amazing tribute to Clover… we will miss her too. I worked and played on farms all my young life, from maybe 4 years old until I was 18 or 19. Herding pigs into the truck to take them to slaughter, chickens to kill and de-feather, all were a part of it as was larry, the bull; gentle and oh so large and strong.

    Anyway, I think in molecules, rather than daises… so my dad’s molecules are in some living thing somewhere… science and religion joined.


  2. Chris, I hope so, too. Daisies are small comfort in the face of loss, no matter the shape or species. I’ll take the small stuff over nothing. The still small voice over no voice at all. Thank you for this honesty about resurrection.–Emily A.

  3. I am so sorry for you and your family, as you know, Clover inspired our family in Oregon and because of her, we have our own Clover that we love. She lives on in Oregon! Cows are magical companions, I am so sorry for your loss.

    Shandy and Hans Moller

  4. Old friend, as life becomes death becomes life, most of us are so far removed from the process on a daily basis as to almost forget the reality of resurrection. I’m both envious of and moved by your connection to those rhythms of nature, and particularly to Clover, the center of whose name, I note, is formed by love. There is absolutely no question for me that we learn more deeply about creation and creator through the creatures around us, whether human or cow (or in my case, cat). May your family find blessing and comfort in your mourning.

  5. Pingback: More Resurrection | Religion in the Balance

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