A Possum Opened My Heart to New Possibilities

In my studies of unconditional love, I find that the vocabulary of love is relatively undeveloped or poorly understood, at least by a majority. One of my most profound – transcendental – experiences of love was with a possum. A big lesson from that experience was that my previous idea of unconditional love was limited and expanded by being allowed to share consciousness in some significant way with another being who spoke a very different language than mine, but communicated love in the most profound ways.
During a horticultural therapy project, I discovered an abandoned baby possum. Not knowing what to do, and concerned for the little creature’s survival, I brought her home. She was found in the middle of a large patch of “Lilies of the Nile” (Agapanthus). When I got home, she had left some purple poo in the box. This tends to happen when you have been dieting exclusively on purple flowers.
I went on to the internet…using search terms like “what do you do with a baby possum?” It didn’t take long to find the “Possum Rescue Society”. In this particular case, the advice I found suggested I nurse her along, and take care of her, since her odds of survival on her own were slim. Her dietary needs were complex, but this was a journey that I welcomed. I found a little baby doll bottle, based upon a veterinarian’s advice.
Nursing a baby possum takes you to a place you have never been before. Possums are marsupials, the oldest living mammals in North America. They have four opposable thumbs, and a prehensile tail. They purr loudly like kittens. They nuzzle around your neck. When really happy, they drool upon you. I called her “Mars” because she seemed so strange. Later, she spoke and said please call me “Sarah”. She wasn’t strange, she was beautiful. She wanted a beautiful name, of course.
We shared life together and time flew by, years flew by, and then the time came for her life to end. She was made comfortable in a spare bathtub, warm and dry, and well-attended to. Near the end, she called to me. Thank you, she said. I love you, she said. Thank you for loving me, she said. I’m happy and I’m going over to the other side now. I cried, my tears fell on her beautiful, soft, vibrating fur.
I was never the same again.
If you want to deepen the love in your heart, look to the possums. Look to the creatures who you might fear, or want to eat, or want to put in a cage, or exterminate, or make your pets. It is your heart in a cage. Let it out. Open your heart and let that creature in. We are all creatures of love.

Opossum Fun Facts & References

Opossum Society of the United States: https://opossumsocietyus.org/

Opossums, National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/group/opossums/

In one season, an opossum can kill about 5,000 ticks. – Opossums, Killers of Ticks, Cary Institute

“By aligning 1,500 human immune genes to the opossum genome, we discovered that the opossum genome is very similar to that of humans.” – Katherine Belov of the University of Sydney in Australia, a lead author of “Characterization of the opossum immune genome provides insights into the evolution of the mammalian immune system”

Opossum Provides Insight into Human Evolution, Wired Magazine

“Marsupials are the closest living relatives of placental mammals. Because of this relationship, the opossum genome offers a unique lens through which to view the evolution of our own genome.” – Senior author Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, codirector of the Broad Institute’s genome sequencing and analysis program. Opossum genome, just decoded, sheds light on evolution, MIT News

“Marsupials are born without a functioning immune system and develop one while growing outside the mother’s body.” – Humble opossum’s genetic map sheds light on humans, Reuters