Endurance Riding

Mar 20 2016

Another Farewell

Published by under Endurance Riding

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I will never look at the madrone tree in our field the same way again. While it has always been my favorite tree, I suddenly have a new appreciation for it. It towers above the black walnut tree, reaching the sky almost as high as one of our tallest pines. Its orange-red bark so smooth, branching out in spindles, curling its fingers out to give life to its tips. I imagine it is older than my grandparents would be if they were still alive. Much older. The way it withstands the most wretched winds and the most torrential downpours with such grace and ease tells me that tree is much wiser than anyone I know. That tree has many stories to tell, and on March 17, 2016, I watched another story unfold underneath those age-old branches.

 

A horse named Lady died beneath that tree. I watched as her sixteen year old owner buried herself in her chestnut colored neck and cried while Lady lay quietly still, letting the medicine release her of her pain. She never seized, she never heaved, or coughed, or gurgled. She left us so still and peacefully, and I watched a girl’s heart crumble as she said goodbye to her first love.

 

With Lady’s last heartbeat, I joined her and her owners underneath that tree, sitting in a mixture of grass, leaves, and the comforting sight of dried-up horse manure. I sat along her spine, in silence, as a young woman mourned, with her mother by her side. I stroked Lady’s hair, thinking how soft and warm and alive it felt. I was devoid of any concrete thoughts running through my head, but I did feel. My heart ached. I felt bad and sorry and strangely relieved and comforted and in all the sadness, I felt alive. And while the three of us sat in silence for a long time, it was a calming silence, and the three of us were connected through that silence, interrupted only a couple times by the calls of a single bird, sharing the sky with that great madrone tree. I began braiding Lady’s mane, tying each braid off with a colorful band, knowing those braids, once cut, would later become treasured keepsakes.

 

It was some time before I made us lunch, or rather breakfast at lunchtime. A feast of scrambled eggs, warm tortillas, salsa, yogurt, bagels, and juice. I carried it all outside, and we ate under the shade of the madrone tree, with Lady right there, in her resting state. I wanted to pretend we were enjoying a relaxing, joyous picnic at the park on a leisurely Sunday. But an air of grief surrounded us in all that beauty, as we stroked and stroked Lady’s neck, her soft ears, the tuft of her forelock, and the just-braided mane.

 

Another hour passed with few words before good-byes, hugs, more tears, and kisses were exchanged. I promised I would stay with Lady’s body until it was carried away.

 

I bedded down into the soft ground, stretching my legs out and burying myself into Lady’s neck to wait. It was then that I realized the shade of the madrone tree had left us. The sun had peaked in the sky and was directly overhead, warming me to a state of discomfort. I removed my long sleeve shirt to reveal my tank top underneath, and used my baseball cap to shield my face from the sun’s rays. When the flies came out, I fly sprayed Lady. I lay in the sun with her, as if we were both tanning on a summer day at some exotic beach. I could hear every buzz of every bug, and suddenly realized I could distinguish between the buzz of a fly, and the buzz of a mosquito, and the buzz of the bees pollinating each flower on each branch of that great madrone tree. The bees gave off a hum, more than a buzz, harmoniously going about their work, their purposeful, useful work that was crucial to life. I watched as they moved about, flying with tiny wings from one white flower to the next. When a breeze kicked up, little white round petals rained on Lady and me, there in the comfort of the great madrone tree.

 

As I lay there with Lady, intermittently reading a book I was more than half way through, I thought of Forest. I imagined Lady meeting up with her old friend, and the two of them running through endless green pastures, up and down soft hills, kicking up their heels, both of them free of any suffering. Memories flashed through my head as if I were watching an old home video, each image bringing me back to a moment in time that sometimes I wish I could relive. From where I lay with Lady, I could see the beautiful flower garden that was planted a few days before, a remembrance garden planted in memory of Forest and Lady, their very own manure feeding those flowers. As I stared at that garden and the plaque my husband had hand painted, I caught sight of ZaZa just beyond the garden, drinking from the water trough. Everything was quiet, the buzzing of the flies, and the mosquitoes, and the bees had left us, and I was suddenly chilly, the shade of the madrone tree beginning to again creep over Lady and me. I thought I might cry, sitting there watching ZaZa drink and hearing the sounds of the other horses alive on the property, but I was instead filled with gratitude, and this overwhelming sense that everything was just as it should be. While a small part of me was terrified of the next time I will have to say goodbye to a beloved horse, I knew this was my life. My life is right here, under this madrone tree, with these horses. It was then that I knew, regardless of why, Forest left me when he was supposed to. He gave me the knowledge to recognize when it was time to let go. He gave me the strength to hold a girl while she grieved over her own horse, her very best friend. He showed me that love exceeds boundaries, in so many ways, and that sometimes the deepest bonds aren’t made through words, but through time — time and just being.

 

The sun continued to move throughout the sky, and in the cool evening, I had to put on a sweater, and then a jacket. My youngest son joined me, placing himself on top of Lady, spanning himself across the length of her side. He talked and talked, filling the air with happy stories, commenting how “warm and soft and comfortable” Lady was, saying he wished we had had Forest this long after he had left us. We stood watch over Lady’s body, until her owners rejoined us with dinner, another picnic, but this time in the setting sun, to a loud chorus of frogs.

 

When the big black rendering truck roared into my driveway, it was past dusk. Lady’s owners had left as he was arriving, hours later than we had expected him. It was then that the calmness that had surrounded me all day suddenly left. The engine noise was disruptive and rude, and the finality of it all suddenly overwhelmed me. I had spent the last 7-odd hours with this horse, this horse named Lady, leaving her only to tend to my own horses. I had stayed with Lady, under the madrone tree, watching the sun rise and fall, feeling every minute temperature change, as the bees went about their daily work, until they were done and the frogs came out to welcome the night. And now, so abruptly, it was all coming to an end and Lady’s physical form was leaving us too. I began to cry, real big tears, one after another, the kind of tears that are difficult to talk through. I kissed and kissed and kissed her, saying childlike nonsense over and over about how she should say hello to Forest for me. I felt young and exposed when I handed the check to the man from the rendering company, the man with the big black disruptive, rude truck. I ran into the house, yelling at the boys to blast some music, as I jumped in the shower. I didn’t want to hear that big black disruptive, rude truck.

 

I stood in the shower, the warm water soothing and cleaning my body, as I cried exhausting tears, singing along at the same time to Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk. I laughed and cried and laughed and cried, and the next morning when I went outside to feed the horses, Lady’s body was gone. The field looked so still and empty, except for the great madrone tree.

 

tree

Dedicated to the memory of My Fair Lady and the girl who loved her so.

 

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Another Farewell”

  1. Ann Byrnson 21 Mar 2016 at 8:31 am

    Beautiful tribute to a great Lady.

  2. Arlinda Blackon 21 Mar 2016 at 1:43 pm

    Beautiful, just like Lady

  3. Renie Burnetton 21 Mar 2016 at 3:00 pm

    My heart is aching with the reading of your lovely story. Loving our animals is so hard, sometimes. the hoofprints and paw prints remain on our hearts always. RIP, dear Lady.

  4. Kat Mullanixon 21 Mar 2016 at 10:25 pm

    Wow. This is so beautifully written.

  5. Shasta Samuel Hawkinson 22 Mar 2016 at 6:02 am

    JayaMae, I too will never look at the madrone or the field the same way ever again. The time that we spent together that day was horrible and beautiful, heartbreaking and healing. Together we helped a beautiful, strong young woman give her best friend the ultimate gift…peace. Nyah, I am in awe of the love you have for your Lady and the depth of the friendship you had with her. It was an honor for me to be part of both her life and her death.

  6. Lynn Costaon 22 Mar 2016 at 7:28 am

    So beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  7. Mallory Jayneson 22 Mar 2016 at 9:56 am

    Absolutely beautiful! I am so sorry for your loss.

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