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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

“I Failed"

The last 36 hours were filled with immense joy, overwhelming love, and then a sudden loss that took my breath away. Those emotions reared their head in the most unimaginable ways in a matter of hours.

As Studs Terkel asked, “ What is your quintessential truth?” I think I was put on this earth to serve and care. Whether people or animals, I pour my heart in 100%.

We received a surprise call about three orphaned raccoons about two weeks old that were found to have fallen on the ground. My husband and I drove downtown to rescue the trio. Immediately I put one on my chest to warm him up, and the other two were wrapped in clean blankets next to a hot water bottle. We surprised the girls with the new arrivals, and all jumped into action. Love led the way, and we hydrated the three, fed them formula from a dropper, wrapped them in our arms, and researched for any new education since our last raccoon, Pico.

I was racing to the store and organizing the kitchen like a M.A.S.H. unit. Suddenly, the weakest one took his last breath. Tears and shock overtook us as we poured ourselves into the other two. I woke every 2 hours to feed them and, at midnight, found the second had died. Again, in the darkness and alone, my heart broke as I shifted all my efforts to the last one. I slept on the couch as I wanted him to feel my heartbeat and the warmth of my skin. He snuggled in and slept perfectly, with gentle purrs and random squeaks.

We never let him down for the next 24 hours as he regained his strength. He loved the softness of the bathrobe, so we all took turns in the sweltering warmth to keep him comfortable and safe. He was seemingly perfect. I double-checked his bedding, fed him, kept the basket at the perfect temperature, and rechecked every two hours until 6 am this morning…I found had died as well. I lay with him on my chest and sobbed. We all cried together. What had we done to fail them? What had we missed? “Should I have… could I have…”

We buried them all together under the beautiful lilac tree, and I made a small rock wall around them. We will not give up, but man, this is hard to recover from.

Trying to make sense of tragedy or failure is a difficult task. Even with the best intentions and most concerted effort, sometimes that is not enough. So how do we process this? I try to step back and ask, what if my role was not to “succeed” (raise them into adults and release them) but rather to transition them, to provide something better than they had before I was involved? Maybe the gift is to enter situations without expectation but to serve and strive for better. Maybe our role was to provide injured raccoons love and comfort for a few hours. If that was a “success,” then we succeeded. Who is to define the story?

Leadership calls for action and comes with unexpected “failure,” but maybe it is a failure because of our expectation of success. Perhaps the lesson is about knowledge and intention. Continually growing, learning, and giving. Despite the pain, show up again with an open mind and heart. Getting back in the ring and not giving up no matter how hard the fight was.

We have raised a raccoon from 3 days old, she was our pride and joy, and while this is a devastating loss, the actual loss would be not to try again.

I challenge you to look at failure as an opportunity to reexamine how you see success. Is there only one acceptable outcome, or can you succeed in the small moments?

Don’t let pride, fear, or failure get in the way. Keep centered around your truth and intentions, stand in your shoes, and take the hits no matter how difficult; it is those are the moments ​that are a success...

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