horse - stall - barn - stable

The door is open.

The Spirit of the Horse Returns

Two days ago I had to make the hardest decision– to euthanize my mare, my dream horse, Dressed for Tea. Despite a season of hope, in the end, the decision was unequivocal due to extreme pain and a dismal prognosis. Just the same, I’m fighting with thoughts of what more could have been done, how it just isn’t fair, the “if only” questions as well as the why. Years ago when my daughter was a little girl we had to assist our beloved big Thoroughbred to cross over into the peace of death. After I’d finished with practical tasks such as cleaning out his stall, scrubbing and storing the buckets, and putting his halter away, I went to close his stall door. To my surprise, my five-year-old shouted out, “No, Mom, leave it open! He wants to come back to visit.” When I managed to swallow down the lump in my throat, I swung the door back and propped it open. “There. His spirit can come visit me anytime now,” I said.

I said the words, but I didn’t believe them. At the time, my aim was to soothe her little girl sadness and lack of understanding of the permanence of death. The irony is, I was the one who didn’t understand anything. Not a day later, as I entered the barn with my mind on the list of tasks in front of me, I looked up to see my big guy in his stall, his head poking out expectantly for feeding time. In the split second it took my logical brain to catch up with what my eyes were telling it, he was gone. But it was so real. I understand the neuroscience behind what your mind conjures up and why, which would explain such a vision, but my gut–where acceptance of the mysteries of life really live–told me it was more than just a hallucination. That split second of  sight gave me a sudden gift of peace. A peace that comes with acceptance and surrender–qualities this control freak usually finds hard to embrace.

Keeping That Door Open and Your Heart Unguarded

Today, Dressed for Tea’s stall door is open, waiting for her to visit if she chooses. The open door is a symbol of  welcome–indeed expectation–for the spirit to come upon me again and give me peace. After a great loss, it is tempting to close the doors, shutter the windows, and retreat into darkness. It is likewise tempting to build a fortress around your heart and vow never let yourself risk love like that ever again. I’m never getting another horse, I’m never investing so much love, money, and time ever again! I’m there now, going through sadness, anger, guilt, numbness, and endless questioning. I can’t understand why I lost this most beloved horse, why now, why when it’s so unfair, along with a host of other questions that will never have answers. And that’s okay. In time, I’ll realize I can stop looking for answers and just wait, knowing I have to leave a door open, a heart open, and press on.

When I am pressed on every side by troubles, I am not crushed and broken. When I am perplexed because I don’t know why things happen as they do, I don’t give up and quit.   –2 CORINTHIANS 4:8

horse - mare -portrait - horse head -

My beautiful mare, Dressed for Tea, looking into the distance.