by Suzy Lowry Geno
Leroy the rooster died this past week.
At the ancient age of 11 we knew his time was limited.
For the past few months, I had been catching him every night and placing him atop an empty cage in the bunny barn because he had gotten too old to get to his roost of safety outside.
During the last week of his life, I carried him in each night and placed him in a clean bunny cage filled with hay for warmth.
Leroy was a special rooster (those who know me personally and all my sweet readers of this column are probably shaking their heads because they know ALL my animals are SPECIAL to me!).
But Leroy had an unusual beginning.
In the early 2000s, a man regularly bought fertile eggs from me to hatch in an incubator at his farm.
One week, I was lamenting to him that my broody Easter-egg hen had failed to hatch the five eggs she had been setting on for more than a month in a box on a shelf in my carport.
He returned late that afternoon with 5 day-old baby chicks. We carefully removed the eggs from underneath the hen once it became dark and substituted the day-old chicks.
Talk about a happy chicken! Those were HER babies and she protected them, taught them and evidently loved them as they traveled all over this farm eating bugs, worms and grass. Leroy was one of those chicks! A fertile egg from here and hatched elsewhere, but then brought back here to lead a happy rooster life.
Most of my hens go inside their sturdy coops every night. But Leroy was raised in the yard so he never learned to go inside.
My late husband Roy, always an extremely early riser, would go outside every morning about 4 a.m. and sit on the carport until daybreak. Leroy learned that routine very quickly!
Roy would carry a piece of loaf bread outside every morning and sit there and thump little pieces to Leroy until Leroy had eaten it all. If Roy failed to go outside, Leroy would travel from the carport to the back door and back to the carport repeatedly crowing until somebody came outside and gave him his treat!
Roy was the one who named the rooster Leroy and the name stuck.
Leroy outlived Roy by about 18 months. And while I admit I cried when I found Leroy in his cage that morning, it was hard to mourn him when I can see his offspring running all over the farm. One of his sons is colored exactly like Leroy and is so old himself he has a few gray feathers!
Living on a homestead or a farm has made me not more comfortable about death but perhaps more assured and at peace of how death is just an extension of our lives.
Most folks who know me know I am somewhat of a "prepper." And I’ve even written articles for this column about the importance of having extra food, essentials such as medication and more saved in your home (and your vehicle) to be prepared to take care of yourself and your family members if something happens.
The snowstorms in January and February of this year were good examples of why you should have a "go" kit in your vehicle (just ask some of those folks who were trapped in their vehicles on the interstate for hours because of the ice and snow) or in your homes. Even a few energy bars, some bottled water and a warm blanket can make a huge difference.
And I’ve told here before of how having food stockpiled in our pantry saved the day when Roy had his two heart attacks and I couldn’t leave him to go to the store and had little money when I went!
But there are a few other ways we should all be prepared for that many folks don’t think about until it’s too late.
I am not a financial planner and certainly not an attorney, but maybe me telling a little of my personal story will help somebody get ready and not be in the same predicament.
Most folks don’t like to think about their own deaths. We kind of want to think we’re going to live forever, don’t we?
But unless it’s the day for the Lord to come sailing through the clouds at the end of time, each and every one of us ARE going to die.
If you love your family enough to stockpile food, medicine and other essentials to have in case of an emergency, these next steps are equally important.
When my mama neared the end of her days, she thought she was pretty prepared and what she had done made a big difference.
She had signed a "Living Will" or an "Advanced Healthcare Directive."
I cared for her here on the farm until about six weeks before her death. Then she was placed in a nursing home less than a three minute drive away. I fed her lunch and supper every day.
When I walked in there to feed her lunch about two days before her death, nurses were bustling around her because she’d had a massive stroke. They wanted to take her to the local hospital. I asked why and they began telling me all the procedures they would be doing to her.
These were not procedures she wanted and she’d signed a legal paper saying so.
A quick phone call to her doctor and she was allowed to die with dignity as she had wanted, without being moved or further prodded and poked.
She died with me stroking her arm and simply stopped breathing.
There was other legal paperwork she hadn’t done that would have made the next few months a lot easier.
So Roy and I not only signed Advanced Healthcare Directives, we prepared new wills and prepared Powers of Attorney so each of us could act for the other in case of emergencies.
Less than two months after getting my mother’s "estate" settled, Roy had two heart attacks and so began our journey of 4 years of facing death as he battled a bad heart that could not be helped by an operation and then esophageal/stomach cancer.
Each hospital and doctor honored the Directives and Powers of Attorney, even though we had prepared them ourselves, since we had them witnessed or notarized as required by Alabama law.
Roy was also allowed to die with dignity here at our home on the farm. He had told them two months before he died that he did not want a feeding tube.
We had two more months of watching old Westerns on TV before he slipped away.
I know it is better to have an attorney to prepare all the legal paperwork and that is wonderful if you can afford it. But also the Will we had prepared ourselves was honored in Blount County Probate Court.
Hospices, hospitals, senior groups and the Internet all have copies of Health Directives and Powers of Attorney you can use as your guides.
When I attended Annie’s Project this past fall through the Blount County Extension Service, a wonderful farm financial planner spoke to us and answered a multitude of questions. If you have a large farm or even a small homestead and can afford the small fee to talk with someone like that, you can rest assured your wishes will be carried out legally and for the good of your family after you pass away.
I love living the simple life.
When it is my time to leave this world (which is still I hope when I am at least 103 and die in the pen with my beloved goats!), I want my affairs to be in order so my children and grandchildren don’t have to worry about last minute details.
So this week when you buy that extra can of meat (or better yet can up some of your own home-grown beef or pork), buy those extra rolls of toilet paper for your pantry and that extra box of ammunition for your gun safe, think about these final legal papers you need to prepare.
You can have an extra bit of peace of mind. And peace and contentment are what the simple life is all about.
Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County. She can be reached through her website at www.suzysfarm.com.