A new star in the sky…. Our darling Naamfon

This is so hard to write… How can I possibly compose a blog entry, when I am struggling to compose myself??

Yesterday, was one of the toughest days we have ever known here at BLES… At around 6.30am, Phi Tien came running up to my house and told me he had found Naamfon lying down, unable to stand. I ran as fast as I could in to the forest and found her. She was on her side, her body was shaking. I told Phi Tien to phone all the mahouts and tell them to come as quickly as possible. As I watched him leave, I noticed Pang Suai and Pang Noi in the lake, submerging themselves in the water and enjoying an early morning swim…

I went to Naamfon and knelt in front of her. She locked her gaze on me and lifted her head as much as she could off the ground reaching out to me with her trunk.  I took her trunk in my hands and squeezed her tight. Her breathing was very laboured and I could tell she was trying to stand. I kept hold of her trunk and noticed she was gently squeezing my hands. Her eyes were still locked on me and as I whispered to her, telling her over and over how much we loved her, I noticed a bright yellow butterfly settle on her cheek. I tried so hard to stay strong for Naamfon, but I knew what was happening and could not stop the tears from falling. The butterfly fluttered up towards Naamfon’s shoulder and I realised Naamfon no longer had a tight grip on my hands. I looked down at her trunk and my hands holding on to each other. My tears had made small puddles in the deep crevices of her beautiful trunk. I squeezed her as tight as I could and begged her not to go, but it I knew it was too late. As I lifted my head and looked in to her eyes, I saw a tear roll down her face. After more than sixty years of being enslaved by humans, Naamfon was finally free of this world.

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I stayed with Naamfon, stroking her and holding her. Despite the fact I was sobbing, I kept on talking to her, telling her how beautiful she was and how sorry I was for all the pain and heartache she had endured throughout her life. We were alone, in the long grass, in the middle of thick forest – Naamfon, me and the yellow butterfly. It was so peaceful and there was a cool, gentle breeze that seemed to lift us up off the ground. I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath…

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After what felt like many long hours, the mahouts arrived. They rushed to help, but as they got closer, they could see it was too late. They gathered and stood in silence. It was incredible to sit there and feel the respect and love radiate from them, to her. Naamfon’s mahout, Phi Duery, stepped closer. I looked up at him and smiled, thanking him for ensuring the last eleven and a half months of her life were filled with care, love and understanding. He couldn’t speak. I could see he was shaking and decided to step back and allow him the time and privacy he needed to say whatever he wanted to say to her.

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As the day unfolded, the reality that Naamfon was gone came in waves. We all took it in turns to lay flowers and fruit by her body and as it started to rain, we covered in her in her deep turquoise coat, that had been specially made for her. I stood there, thinking how beautiful she looked and remembered how she looked just as stunning wearing her coat the day we rescued her. She stood in the truck, with her head high and her trunk in the air, wrapped up in her coat, to protect her from the wind and rain… It is hard to accept that we made that long journey with her, less than a year ago…

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Four monks from the local temple came and blessed Naamfon. As they chanted, I looked around at the mahouts, the housekeepers, my guests, my children and I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and gratefulness. We are a small group of people and we work together, every single day to better the wellbeing of all the animals in our care. It’s not an easy life and the highs and lows can be debilitating. But we continue on, supporting each other and loving each other as if we are family. Our elephants are just as much a part of our family and even though Naamfon’s time with us was brief, I know she knew how very loved and admired she was by us all.

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We had gathered a pile of all of Naamfon’s favourite treats, from pineapples, to longons. I noticed a fig tree close by… Naamfon would stand under the fig trees for hours, hoovering up the sweet fruits that had fallen to the ground. I caught Phi Duery’s eye and he knew what I was thinking instantly. Without muttering a word, we both set to work, collecting as many of the figs as we could carry to complete the fruit offering.

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The housekeepers had gathered flowers and once everyone was together, we stood around Naamfon’s grave and sprinkled petals into it. There was a sweet chorus of loving words that fell in to the grave with the petals and again, I was overcome with emotion. This is a BLES tradition. When we lose one of our beloved elephants, we line the grave with flower petals. This is our symbolic and united apology to the elephants. After a lifetime of chains, may they lie, forever in peace, on a bed of flowers…

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Naamfon’s body was carefully lifted and lowered in to the grave. As we watched her slowly rise, the sun shining behind her, a light sprinkle of rain caressed us in our moments of grief, which was significant as Naamfon is Thai for rain water.

It was incredible – Naamfon held on tightly to the flowers that had been placed in her trunk and did not let them go, despite being in the air and then laid down to rest. We stood in silence and a variety of butterflies danced amongst us. I look up to the sky and was momentarily mesmerised by the dozens of dragonflies… The Universe was telling us that Naamfon was free…

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As the digger truck covered her body with dirt, I laid down some roses on the spot where she died. I said a final prayer, took another deep breath and wondered to myself if the intense ache in my chest would ever ease…

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I will always hold on to the vision of her striding through the forest, reaching up and snapping off branches to fan herself down with. Her huge ears flapping elegantly, her long legs marching confidently, her devoted mahout following her faithfully…

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Naamfon, I can not find the words to express just how deeply you have touched us. Be free you beautiful lady. Be happy and be you. Walk and run in the long green grass, play in the muddy rivers and trumpet loud – you were loved and you will always be remembered. 

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51 comments

  1. Lesley Sorridimi · October 18, 2015

    I am overwhelmed by your sadness, thank you so much for all you do. Naamfon did not deserve the life she had before Bles but the love, care and respect she experienced for the last year from all of you allowed her death with dignity. I am so so sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Roxanne Brown · October 18, 2015

      Darling Katherine and all at BLES,
      Hoe can we ever thank you for the love and commitment you offer to all the animals at BLES?
      Knowing the last year of Naamfor live with in the safety of your heart is more than a dream come true for a previously enslaved majestic elephant Naamfor.
      I thank you all for all you do and for sharing you love, life and work with us all.
      Trumpet loud and free Naamfor beautiful lady
      X

      Like

    • Louisa Burger · October 18, 2015

      Thank you for sharing your deepest thoughts in this tribute of Naamfon with us. You have touched my soul sketching Naamfon’s last carefree and much loved days on planet earth. Thank you for what you did for her to erase the pain she suffered before. Many thanks for pushing forth doing that for every fortunate animal at Bles♡

      Like

  2. Andrea · October 18, 2015

    This is beautifully written. She would have known how blessed she was to be at your sanctuary and around such beautiful souls. May she now rest in peace, but I am sure sending you many barks, rumbles, and trumpets of love and thanks from heaven xxx

    Like

  3. Jan Waddell · October 18, 2015

    A beautiful tribute for a beautiful lady from a beautiful lady.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mary and Robert Saunders · October 18, 2015

    I am breaking my heart reading your words. I have not had the privilege of visiting BLES yet but look forward to meeting you all next November. I have found so much love and joy in your writing about life for your beloved elephants and feel so sorry that Naamfon had such a short stay with you but she knew the love surrounding her in her last year and I hope that comforts you all. BLES You.

    Like

  5. Sanne O. · October 18, 2015

    I am so sorry for your loss. Hopefully the wonderful memories of Naamfong will soon overcome the sadness you feel with her passing. Thank you for giving her the life she always deserved. I am certain she is forever grateful and knew very well how loved she was by all of you, and surely loved you all back in return for saving her from her old life.

    Like

  6. LuAnn0823@gmail.com · October 18, 2015

    I am so overcome with sadness… How lucky for you and this beautiful girl to have each of you in each other’s lives. You were her angels on earth and now she is your angel looking after you and the others.

    Like

  7. Lynne Marais · October 18, 2015

    Deepest condolences. Your post has made me sob uncontrollably. I feel your intense sadness but know that you made her last year a happy and pain free one. The best thing you could ever have done. God bless you!

    Like

  8. sue harrison · October 18, 2015

    THIS WAS SO TOUCHING AND HEARTBREAKING BUT SHE IS FREE AND YOU WILL HAVE HER IN YOUR HEART FOREVER , GOD BLESS HER RIP and thankyou all at bles

    Like

  9. gail · October 18, 2015

    such a beautiful and emotional account of Naamfon’s passing, sharing your sorrow, much sobbing and remembering her rescue. Beautiful soul, roam free, you were loved, we are sorry for all the pain. Only light and happiness now
    thinking of all the BLES family at this time ❤

    Like

  10. Anna · October 18, 2015

    I rembered the photo when she just arrived to BLESS with all the fruit arond here.
    And you write i stopped eat and cloes her eyes.Like a pray.

    Like

  11. Christine Evans · October 18, 2015

    OMG! Katherine,I feel your pain & sadness,this was beautifully written,always looked forward to reading how Naamfon was progressing at Bles,such a short time she was with you,but she knew she was truly loved by all.
    The tears are rolling down as I’m writing this!! So,so sad…R.i.P beautiful lady xxx

    Like

  12. Emily · October 18, 2015

    This is beautiful! My heart was broken this morning when I heard the news of Naamfon passing. I’ve cried so much already. I can only imagine how you all (at BLES) feel. Thank you for letting me come and meet her this summer, it was the best thing I have ever done and I can’t wait to come back. Thank you for making the last year of Naamfon’s life so fun, and thank you for loving her. I do too. I hope you find comfort in knowing that Naamfon felt happy and loved. Look after yourselves. Lots of love xxxxxx

    Like

  13. karen · October 18, 2015

    Tears for Naamfon
    Tears for the lost years
    Tears for those that loved

    I’ve saved Naamfon’s funeral pictures ….
    I teach 6year olds about the life cycle ..and about animal care ..I hope I can tell them about Naamfon and her friends one day .
    Rest in peace dear lady …forever free to roam …

    Like

  14. Angela Pucillo-Bjarnason · October 18, 2015

    I am sobbing reading this…she had such a short time with you, but she knew she was loved. You made the last year of her life one of comfort and love. She now able to shed all of the pain she endured all the years of her life before coming to BLES. RIP beautiful lady Naamfon.

    Like

  15. PETA jackson · October 18, 2015

    Reading this with tears rolling down my face . I cannot begin to imagine how all of you who loved and lived with Naamfon must feel . My heart and prayers go out to you all .
    I find solace in the fact that this beautiful and majestic lady was so loved in the last years of her life . Thank you for caring . My respect to you all

    Like

  16. Lorraine Moe · October 18, 2015

    I am so very sorry. Thank you for sharing her story, I’m sure this was extremely difficult for you to write. Your love for her comes out in your words… so sorry.

    “The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief — But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.” — Hilary Stanton Zunin

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Bine Grigel · October 18, 2015

    Our deepest condolences. Our hearts are one with your passion and we send you all the love and support we can offer. Please do not let the sadness overcome you; instead, take comfort in the knowledge that you provided Naamfong a life to be remembered.
    RIP sweet soul

    Like

  18. Maria Teresa Mauri · October 18, 2015

    I am so overwhelmed with grief, I dont know what to say. I will try again when I stop crying. I’m so sorry.

    Like

  19. Lori Conley · October 18, 2015

    Oh dear Katherine, Phi Duery and all at BLES, I send my deepest condolences at Naamfon’s passing. As i sit and write with tears in my eyes, I can’t help but marvel at how the soul of an elephant can touch even those of us that are thousands of miles away, your work is truly amazing. Her funeral photos and story show the love, dignity and respect that they truly are so deserving of. The love and kindness that was shown to her at BLES was surely in her mind at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Janet in Cambridge · October 18, 2015

    To everyone at BLES, I cannot even begin to describe my shock and sadness at Naamfon’s death. I send you all hugs and condolences on your painful loss, especially to Phi Duery, who loved his beautiful ele. She was beloved by all and ended her life in grace and kindness. She will always be in your hearts and mine. RIP, beautiful Naamfon. You will never be forgotten and your life was not in vain.

    Like

  21. Barbara Malburg · October 18, 2015

    While her time with you was relatively brief, she knew she was loved . She finally was able to see and experience that people can be good and loving. Thank you Katherine and all of you at BLES for all that you do.
    Dear Naamfon R.I.P. and run forever free.

    Like

  22. Mary in Western Canada · October 18, 2015

    We are all deeply grateful to BLES that the final months of Naamfon’s long and difficult life were spent in safety, love and freedom, and that she passed peacefully in the forest in Katherine’s presence.

    Like

  23. Gail · October 18, 2015

    True beauty, even in her passing. Your ceremonial and written tributes to her are exceptional. You did well by her. She knew love.

    Like

  24. Wanda · October 18, 2015

    I’m so sorry for the loss you have all had. Thank you for making the last year of Naamfon’s life happy and free. Elephants are intelligent and she knew how much she was loved.

    Like

  25. Kali Dragonslayer · October 18, 2015

    Sweet Katherine, I can see you in my mind, writing this, with tears flooding your face, as they did mine while reading it. You are such a strong woman, with such a gentle heart. Naamfon was an extraordinary lele and though her time at BLES was brief, she knew she was loved, adored and cherished. Dalen was especially fond of her and I dont know how to share this sad news with him. You have chosen this path for a reason, because you make a difference. You give a beautiful life to these abused elephants, and you inspire people all over the world. I wish I could hug you, know I will be thinking of you and know that you are loved.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Joanie Alex Gohr · October 18, 2015

    Tears rolling down my cheek, so sorry. Thank you for loving her and giving her her dignity back. She left this world loved and happy and BLISSFUL.

    Like

  27. Jackie Marsh Parsch · October 18, 2015

    I am so very sorry. Tears while I read this. Thank you for giving her these last months of freedom and happiness,

    Like

  28. Tickety Bu · October 18, 2015

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us, your pain, your love, your devotion. I wept reading it and feel such sadness for the life that the elephants endure. I’m so happy she was able to live out her last days in freedom. Thank you for all that you do.

    Like

  29. Lynn · October 18, 2015

    Dearest Kat: I dissolved in a million tears this morning, reading this sad and so unexpected news, and I had never even met Naamfon. I can only imagine how you and yours (family and mahouts) must feel. My sincerest condolences, and my sincerest thanks for giving this lovely lady a year of peace and contentment and happiness. Huge hugs.

    Like

  30. Aruna Ravi · October 18, 2015

    My deepest condolences, Katherine. Thank you for caring for this beautiful soul, for surrounding her with love and warmth, until the very end.

    Like

  31. amygeishert · October 18, 2015

    Blessings to you all at this time if grief. Thank you for loving her and allowing her to know freedom and love.

    Like

  32. Jody Stickney · October 18, 2015

    Butterflies, dragonflies and a light sprinkle of rain water.
    Naamfon, run free and trumpet loudly, your family is waiting to greet you.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Michelle Moreno · October 18, 2015

    I’m overcome with sadness. My heart hurts for all of the beautiful people who cared for her. Her last year was a blessing in her life. TRUMPET LOUD … RIP XO

    Like

  34. corey namura · October 18, 2015

    so very sorry…to hear about Naamfon….I am so sad about how she suffered over her life….but so happy that she found you over the last year….I can’t thank you enough….for offering her comfort..love….

    Like

  35. Barbara Sadler · October 18, 2015

    I’m heartbroken…sobbing uncontrollably…and I only knew her through your wonderful photos and posts. I can only imagine your sorrow. Your so eloquently worded tribute to her shows the deep love and respect and understanding you have for all these magnificent beings. Words cannot thank you enough for all you, and everyone at BLES, have done and continue to do, to make a life of peace and freedom for them. Forever grateful to you.
    RIP my beautiful Naamphon. I will always think of you when I feel light rain.

    Like

  36. erinthecatprincess · October 18, 2015

    You gave her Hope & Love & Freedom where there was none. You gave her all any human could, and for that she loved you all, and she was blessed with a good end and a passing to another forever peaceful and loving place away from the reach of hurt. May God bless you all and ease your loss.

    Like

  37. donna Pothier · October 18, 2015

    This was a BEAUTIFUL tribute to a beautiful Elephant, who must have felt your love and compassion for her. Thankfully she died there after a year of being well loved and taken care of, and being with other Elephants, and not alone as a slave. God Bless you for all you do. My heart breaks for all the ones who will never know what Naamphone knew, even for a short year. I will Think if her often.

    Like

  38. Iris Koch · October 18, 2015

    So sad that beautiful Namfoon had only just a year of happiness after her life long ordeal. I am ashamed for what my own species did to her, and deeply grateful to everybody who helped to rescue this beautiful soul and cared for her. Rest in peace, Namfoon.

    Like

  39. Linda Goodwin · October 18, 2015

    Thank you, Katherine, for having shared Naamfon with us and now for sharing your, all of BLES’, grief with us. What a beautiful lady she was, and I, for one, will never forget your photos and descriptions of her mud and dirt head fashions. She was so light and happy in her last year, truly a blessing.

    Like

  40. Diane · October 18, 2015

    Very sad, but how wonderful she spent her last days with yOr! I’m sure she is eternally grateful. Is there a rainbow bridge for elephants? I hope so!

    Like

    • Janet in Cambridge · October 19, 2015

      I’m sure there’s a Rainbow Bridge for eles! And if not, Naamfon is building one right now.

      Like

  41. Phil Silverman · October 19, 2015

    I am so sorry, how terribly sad. RIP poor ele.

    Like

  42. Jack Ward, PhD · October 19, 2015

    I am deeply moved and sad Naamfon’s time with you was not longer. I can feel your feelings in your beautifully written words of her leaving her body. Know this thought, Naamfon will always be with you and all who have taken care of her and she will be with you again in another lifetime. These animals have been with us before and will be with us again; meanwhile, may she rest in peace with her flowers and her fruit and may you remember the joy she brought to your lives.

    Like

  43. Noleen Kutash · October 19, 2015

    You loved her well, thanks to you and her caregivers she finally knew the meaning of love. Glad you made it in time to be with her till the end. My utmost respect and gratitude to all of you that feel her loss so deeply.

    Like

  44. Jill Kaplan · October 19, 2015

    Rest in peace, Naamfon…..so thankful you knew life as you did once you were free.

    Like

  45. Jerri Reddoch · October 24, 2015

    Naamfon’s soul found peace & love in the end! She’s up there looking down at Bles & cheering you & us all to have strength & love for more elephants like her🙏🏼

    Like

  46. Bonnie Harrison · October 24, 2015

    This is one of the few times I find myself speechless. What’s most prominent right now are my feelings. I feel overwhelmed with sadness, yet, grateful for the time she was able to live freely. I know something about not being free.

    Like

  47. Rogue1303 · October 26, 2015

    What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful friend. I am so grateful to BLES for giving Naamfon a year of peace and dignity. How truly tragic it would have been if she’d died in chains. Her time with you may have been brief; but she had a lifetime’s worth of love in her final eleven months.

    Like

  48. Shirley · November 1, 2015

    It has taken me several days to compose myself enough to write this, after reading the announcement two weeks ago. Even though it was a short time, that time you brought her peace, love, and surely happiness. I am amazed and in awe of how strong your hearts must be saving these abused senior Elephants, knowing this will be the outcome, and how you must sometimes feel like your racing the clock trying to get all the love, and happiness into each day that you possibly can. You have made a positive difference in her life. I feel all the way into my soul that she pasted at and in peace with her world and enjoyed the last bit of her life, and for that the universe thanks you.

    Like

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