In Honor of Friend's Passing        (by Niels Kunze)
It was the first hour. this darkest hour, on the twenty-eighth day of May in '96 that I awoke in the
comfort of my own bed and instantly knew that a good friend had just passed on. She had died alone
in the forest and the guilt of this sad ending was undoubtedly mine.
We had met two years ago not far from where she died. This was to be our third summer
together roaming and searching the dandelion fields" she for food and I for the whisperings of Spirit
so often heard here beneath the rustlings of the wind. In the spring of '94, the precise time when my
own journey had truly just begun, she was then only a few months old and still very close to her
mother. It had only been some weeks ago that the two of them had emerged from their winter den to
face the near impossibility of survival in their rapidly shrinking world. I can well imagine how
fascinating these first months of discovery must have been to this young black bear.
At our first encounter I was extremely cautious. Though her mother was not a particularly
large bear, I knew well enough from second-hand tales, recent news reports, and general mountain
lore that any sow with a cub could instantly exhibit a ferocity well beyond my abilities with which to
cope. I had spotted them in the open fields beneath the power lines from quite some distance away.
They were feeding on dandelions slowly making their way toward me. I quickly noted the fact that the
wind was blowing from their direction, so it was rather unlikely that they would catch my scent for
some time yet. I sat in the field for an hour that day just watching this typical afternoon in the lives of
two bears. When they got within about twenty-five meters from where I crouched I could tell that the
mother at least was beginning to pick up my scent. Every couple of minutes she would stop chewing,
and then she would raise her nose high in the air trying to make me out. On this first occasion I
allowed them only twenty meters of safety margin before I nervously announced my presence. A
simple "heh-hem" and a wave of the hand was all it took to make mother bolt to the edge of the wood.
Her youngster was always a little slower to react, and once she was safely perched half-way up a tree
she would look around in perplexity as though to say "What? What is it? What are we running from?"
For the rest of that first spring and into the summer I encountered the pair several more times.
Sometimes I would covertly follow them for hours seeing just how close I could get before they would
notice me. Other times I would just sit and wait in a strategic spot to see how dose they might come
on their own. Mother was always much more leery of me despite the fact that she and I had had a
unique encounter in the autumn before.
It had been at my home in Dutch Creek, late at night. I was watching TV when I heard a
commotion on the deck out back.My first thought was that there were people poking around in my
yard. so I went down and flicked on all the outside lights. Surprise! No people, just a smallish sized
black bear standing beside the barbeque. She was slowly pacing in front of our glass door looking in.
She could see me but she couldn't smell me. She was very curious about this. I sat down on my side
of the glass and she stood her ground on her side. She kept sniffing and tasting the air trying to figure
me out as I just stared back at her. She would tentatively take a step forward and then quickly retreat
as our eyes met through the glass.Finally the fear surmounted her curiosity and she bounded away. I
felt that something special had transpired here as I had been given the unique opportunity to look
directly within the eyes of a wild bear only inches from my own face.
And then last spring in those very same fields we met again- mother and her yearling cub.
The cub of course had grown considerably since last I'd seen her and she was now quite content to
stray some distance from her mother's side. I played the same games with them as the year before,
only this time I was a whole lot braver or perhaps just more foolhardy, I was content to let either of
them get near enough to me that I could easily hear the crunching sound of their constant chewing as
they devoured dandelions and other vegetation. By the end of last summer I considered the three of
us to be friends.
This year I have not seen the mother, but the fearless youngster, who was now completely on
her own, I have encountered several times. She has twice been in my yard. I walked with her one
afternoon through the bush and I was astounded as to how close I was allowed to come. My presence
to her was of no consequence. And this, I knew, could well prove to be disastrous. I did not know if
her lack of fear was only toward me or whether she feared no humans at all. If she truly had no fear of
man, being this close to our community, I knew that my neighbours would not accept her presence
here as easily as I. She was in grave danger and I suspected that it was my fault.
Yesterday I was walking along one of my favorite trails through the forest when I noticed out
of the corner of my eye a patch of black that wasn't supposed to be there. I don't believe that anyone
else in my place would have even seen anything, but I have walked this trail so very many times that I
could not have failed to notice this subtle incongruity. I cautiously approached the spot which was
perhaps forty meters off the trail. I quickly realized that my suspicions were correct. This was a bear! It
was her, my young friend. But she was behaving very strangely. I stood about ten meters away
observing and she just lay very still in the shelter of some bushes and fallen trees. To this point, the
day had been hot and very peaceful, not even a breath of wind. And then quite suddenly I heard a
distant rumbling and rushing sound as shivers crawled across my flesh. In the minute it had taken to
investigate what I was seeing, a storm had blown in from seeming nowhere. Suddenly the tops of the
trees were swaying and crashing together making an awful racket. The rain began to fall and in the
distance I could hear thunder rolling through the valley. My first thought with regard to the bear was
that she had known that this storm was coming and that she had merely taken cover until it passed. I
spoke to her, but she did not get up. I dapped my hands very loudly, but she only turned her head to
look at me as she remained on the ground.I knew that something was terribly wrong. I carefully
circled the area where she lay and then approached with extreme apprehension. Finally, when I got to
within about ten feet she struggled to rise. She was trying to flee but only managed two steps before
she collapsed across a fallen log, I knew then that she was dying, I also knew that I was supposed to
be there. The storm, I was convinced, had been the unmistakable voice of Spirit beseeching my
compassion. I asked Spirit if I might attempt a healing and received confirmation.
I then ran home to retrieve a few supplies. I made some tea, scooped up some honey, and
gathered some warmer clothes. Within an hour I was back at her side trying to offer comfort to my
Her breathing was very laboured, I had heard her from more than a hundred metres away
sucking in breaths in desperation. I searched the immediate area for clues as to her plight but found
nothing. There was no blood, no garbage, no sign of anything out of the ordinary. I had no answers, so
 l  just settled down beside her as I would with any sick friend. She was in great discomfort as
evidenced by her constant tossing and turning in the grass. After a short time she seemed to accept
my presence there even as I looked questioningly within her eyes from but the shortest distance away
I shared with her my tea and honey which she seemed to desperately want. But as she took the cup
between her weakened forelegs she spilled most of it on the ground. I was feeling rather helpless
when I decided to get even closer so that I could stroke her back. She looked up in acknowledgement
as I sang to her and gently caressed her. I asked in the name of Spirit that she be healed, but alas I
was over-filled with doubt. As night approached we were besieged by mosquitoes. And I was growing
very tired and hungry, in the excitement I had forgotten to eat. And so I made a very bad decision. I
decided to leave her for the night; I went home.
For the rest of the evening I felt guilty and drained of all energy and resolve, I turned in early,
succumbing to my own exhaustion. At one o'clock in the morning I abruptly awoke to the subtle but
certain knowledge that she was gone.
I am remorseful for my lack of perseverance. I allowed a friend to die alone. Spirit had guided
me to her and I had stupidly forsaken her in her hour of need. She has shown me my profound
selfishness. I did not rightly honor her life, and so with this tale do I try now to honor her passing.
Her name was Theodora. She deserved better from me It took the death of a valued friend to
show me the lesson I'd been missing when Spirit calls me out again I will surely answer with
everything I've got. I will not live just half way. Thank you my friend for all that you have been. I am very
I miss you already Theodora. Good-bye,
N.K.  May 28.1996

"We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth."
-- Henry Beston, circa 1925