Posted on Jun 14, 2019
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
This week something very unexpected and sudden happened that took someone away from me who was extremely important to me, and to many others. One-minute Adeline was fine, and the next she was gone. Like all great masters, Adeline took her leave with no fuss, no attachments, and no resistance, she simply stepped out of her body and vanished from our barnyard, leaving us all bereft. Leaving so fast is always so wonderful for the one transitioning, but for those left behind, it is so hard!
Memories of Adeline keep flooding my head and I want to live there, in memory lane where she is smiling, cuddling, and alive. I think about when we first rescued Adeline with her four sisters, how scared they were, how shy. The staff and volunteers helped me sit with them each day, reading out loud, singing or playing music to them, and meditating with them. Once they got used to our comings and goings, they started sitting closer and closer to us until they were sitting with us and in our laps. We were then able to pet and cuddle them and welcome them into our barnyard where they made friends and became family.
Slowly they became cuddle turkeys, ambassadors, opening hearts, and changing minds about turkeys everywhere. And then they started fighting. They became jealous of the attention they were getting, and they started competing. They went from sisters to enemies overnight. The veterinarians could offer no advice other than to keep them separate. Our peaceful barnyard had become world war three with Adeline getting the brunt of it. At the same time, we had no cuddle turkey in Tennessee, and I thought it would be wonderful for Adeline to move away from her sisters to become the star and center of attention in Tennessee.
Driving Adeline across the country on our turkey road trip was one of the best weeks of my entire life and those memories will stay with me forever. Adeline sat in the back seat, looked out the window, shared snacks, and chirped along with us to music. Occasionally when she wanted to lay an egg, she would get very vocal for a while until she laid her egg right there in the back seat and resumed resting peacefully. Each evening we would stop for dinner at a predesignated location that we put out on social media inviting people to come meet us. Adeline would get out of the car, walk right in the middle of the crowds of people awaiting her, and pose for pictures and allow folks to pet her for hours until the very last person left. She would have signed autographs if she could have! Each night we would stop at a different hotel. As we walked in, the staff would say, “excuse me, you can’t come in with that… is that a turkey?! Then they would come out from behind their desks to pet her and take selfies with her. Never did Adeline get turned away from a single hotel!
The hotel rooms were magical wonderlands that Adeline loved. She walked around the room exploring every appliance and gadget. She caught her reflection in the mirrors, the toilet roll fixtures, and the microwaves and would get very upset at her own image. I’m not sure if she was thinking that there was another turkey in the room, or if she was just surprised that that is what she looked like, but she would holler at the mirror until we had to walk her away from it. Adeline loved watching television with us at bedtime, and when it was finally time to sleep, we would point to her large dog bed (turkey bed) and she would lay down, close her eyes, and with a kiss on her head, would drift off to sleep.
We took Adeline to the Grand Canyon where she got a lot of exercise, enjoyed the wonderful view, and drew huge crowds. Tourists from all over the world quickly forgot about the red and orange cliffs, and instead stood in line for a picture with Adeline. Together we taught people about the intelligence and affection of turkeys and inspired a lot of kindness along the way. We also took Adeline to The Civil Rights Museum where she got to see their entire exhibit and learn about the prejudice and hatred that people had for people only a few centuries ago. As we walked the halls, looked at the art and displays, I could not help but hope and pray that one day soon we will visit animal rights museums that will tell of the horrendous things our kind did to animals that we no longer do! There were many school groups there at the museum with us and in every room we visited, people would gawk at the well-mannered, polite, civilized turkey who strolled quietly and peacefully through the museum. Walking with Adeline through the museum was deeply poignant, where we simultaneously looked at how far we have come and realized how far we have yet to go.
When we finally arrived at The Gentle Barn Tennessee, Adeline was so delighted with the green grass, refreshing rains, bugs she had never seen before, and all her new awaiting friends. And best of all, she was the star of the show, queen of the castle, and bell of the ball. That very first Sunday we were open to the public in Tennessee, Adeline extended her wings in a cuddle position, tucked her neck, closed her eyes, and had a receiving line of people waiting to cuddle with her. She cuddled with guests for hours! She brought people to tears, inspired questions about turkeys’ personalities, rendered visitors speechless, and created a lot of vegans. It didn’t take long for all of us to realize that Adeline was going to be someone very important to The Gentle Barn Tennessee!
The day after Adeline passed away, Jay and I went to a sixth-grade graduation for one of our dear friends. As the graduation song played and the young boys and girls walked down the aisle towards their seats, with their young, hopeful faces and all their shiny futures in front of them, I thought about all the transformation that is yet to happen for them: middle school, high school, college, falling in love, weddings, childbirth, and getting older; life holds so much change. And then I wondered, what if we are looking at “death” the wrong way?! What if there is no such thing as death at all?! What if “death” is just a graduation from one situation to another? What if Adeline was somewhere fantastic before she came into our lives with all her magnificent turkey plumage, she spent four years in service to mankind and the planet, healing people and loving us all, and then graduated to the next phase in her evolution. As tears rolled down my face, I always cry during graduations and weddings, a wide smile took over my mouth as I pictured Adeline in her cap and gown. I hope she had a standing ovation and thundering applause. I hope our tears and cries of anguish upon her sudden passing translated to her as whoops, calls of congratulation, and of pride as she graduated top of her class, with honors!