As I mentioned, I've spent a lot of work breaks out on the nature trails behind Airtight Games. One day as I was strolling along, I saw something on the trail ahead. It looked almost a like a small leaf blew up in the air for a moment before settling back down. I kept my eyes on that spot as I drew closer and saw that it was a tiny, gray mouse. I realized later that the movement I'd seen was the mouse hopping into the air after being stung, flashing its white underbelly.
The little creature was slowly walking along the path, bold as you please. As I drew closer, I waited for it to scurry off, but instead, the mouse ran in a logy loop, falling over every few steps. It was clearly dazed. It looked like it was trying to run away, but something was wrong with its rear right leg and it could only go in ever-more-erratic circles. I knelt down next to it and shooed away some hovering yellow jackets. I wanted to help the poor little mouse, but I didn't know what to do for it. I finally decided that just getting it out of the way of foot traffic would help, so I used a big leaf to scoot the mouse over to the pathside. It squeaked in a terrified way when I did this, but seemed grateful for the shelter of the bracken there. The mouse was in a very bad way by now, huddling there and panting. Something was very wrong.
I got on Twitter and Facebook to see if anybody knew what to do.
Facebook wasn't much better.
This is how I learned that most of my friends are unfeeling jerks.
But really, that's the distancing effect of social media. There I was, kneeling in the fading light of an autumn day and watching this tiny scrap of life suffer and die, while people all around the world—in all their varied circumstances—offered commentary with no real context. How could they possibly understand what I was going through? Know that I was crying as I typed robot jokes? And it seemed unfair to pull them into my sorrow.
As mentioned above, I left some food and water for the mouse and went back to work. At the end of the day, I walked back along the path, praying that the little guy had recovered and scampered off. He hadn't. It was getting dark, but I could still make out his little huddled body, still in the same place. He was all curled up now, with no signs of life. I thought he was already dead, then I saw his eyelid area move the tiniest bit. Alive, but anyone could see he didn't have much time left. I stood there helplessly and watched him for a while. I couldn't do anything for him except witness his death. To notice that this little creature had lived for a brief time on the same earth as I. And I realized that ultimately that's all we can ever do to fight against death. To make our time here count and make people around us know that it matters that they're here. That they will be missed when they are gone. Nobody else on earth saw that a little gray mouse went out foraging for food one day and died a pointless, painful death on the path by the river. Only I saw. And I will never forget.
I also mourned the mouse in more…material ways.
Exactly, my friend. Exactly.