I have been given a very special mission by a very special family. Two years ago I met the Middletons when they came to buy five silkies: one each for dad Neil, mum Amanda, and children Prue, Felix and Gretel.
Gretel named her dearly loved golden silkie hen Lily and it was one of Gretel’s greatest pleasures to care for the chickens and collect eggs each morning for her breakfast. Keeping silkies, growing vegetables, school and home filled her happy world. Gretel had a disability but she was a happy, healthy child and it was a devastating shock for the family when they lost their vibrant little nine year old to epilepsy one night in June 2015.
Cherishing and nurturing the things that were dear to Gretel has become a vital part of how all those who knew and loved her are coping with her loss and keeping the link to her beautiful happy spirit alive. Her school, Loftus Primary, established the Gretel Middleton garden and commemorative chicken pen, for which it gave me great pleasure to donate a little group of silkies.
When asked at school what she wanted to be when she grew up, Gretel was most definite that she was going to be the Tooth Fairy. The gate into the garden is bright purple, Gretel’s favourite colour, and a tiny purple door has been added to the chicken coop to allow the Tooth Fairy to come and go as she pleases.
On the evening Gretel died she gave her family two living bean shoots she’d grown with her class. Those beans became a vital link to Gretel’s memory and a horticulturist was consulted to ensure the crop eventually harvested from them was very carefully picked and dried at just the right time so that the seeds can be saved and replanted year after year.
The very special mission I’ve been assigned is to take care of Lily for a few weeks and do everything I can to make her a mum so that a line of Lily’s descendants can be nurtured and continued into the future, one generation after another. We have selected a very handsome and highly fertile young rooster, Hero, as Lily’s mate and I was relieved and delighted when it was love at first sight between them. She is treated like a princess and offered every special treat I can think of to maximise her health and comfort and the success of the project.
After an anxious week or two of inactivity, there was cause for celebration when Lily began to lay eggs. I feel like I’m carrying the most delicate crystal when I pick them up. Every one of those eggs, and the potential chick within it, holds a precious connection to Gretel and a powerful gift of healing for those who loved her.
The next step is to incubate the eggs. Will Lily’s eggs be fertile? Will our mission succeed?