by Laura Crum
Be warned--not a cheerful post.
Since my husband died I have had several well meaning people tell me to take comfort in my horses. These comments range from the woman who never owned a horse in her life telling me that horses were powerful spiritual beings and I needed to go to them and rub their velvety muzzles and …etc, to kind fellow horse owners mentioning that a ride through the trees on a good horse can be soothing. I have no doubt that all these things might be true. But I cannot muster much interest in them.
My life right now is an endless round of getting things done that must be done while I am so sad. I feed the horses three times a day, I cast an experienced eye on them, noting that they are sound and bright eyed and seem normal. I have their feet trimmed, and I run my fingers over them to be sure they feel right. I would know if anything was wrong. I have owned horses non-stop for over forty years. The horses are fine.
They may be a bit bored, but the youngest of them is nineteen, and they all run and buck and play when they feel like it. So I think their life suits them well enough. They are certainly doing better than I am when it comes to having a happy life.
Do I get comfort out of them? All I can say is I don’t wish them gone. I smile sometimes when they gallop up to greet me. I don’t want to betray their trust. I told them I would keep them and take care of them and I plan to do that. Sometimes I sit in the barn and watch them eat. Maybe I take a little comfort from them.
The truth is that there isn’t much comfort for me in the world right now, and that’s just the way it is. I look at other people discussing the normal matters of a “normal” life and I feel that we don’t live in the same world. Quite frankly, I feel their world does not exist-- that it's an illusion. That world where hair color and sporting events and social engagements have some meaning—that world just isn’t real. In my world I stare straight on at mortality. Anyone can die at any time. The only constant is change and impermanence. This is the real world. Those other people live in it, too, but they don’t want to see it. I don’t blame them. I wish I could be like them again. But I don’t have a choice.
I can still feel love for my son and our animals; I can smile when the corgi puppy is cute, and see the beauty in the wild birds that come to our pond. I can tend our garden and think it is the right thing to do. I can be glad the horses are healthy. But the kind of comfort that comes from feeling content and secure in the world, happy with the illusion of stability—no I don’t get that kind of comfort from anything. And I have to say that I’m pretty damn sure I’m looking at reality.
My hope is to become peaceful with that reality. Not to close my eyes again and suppose that things of no meaning are important. But to see the world in all its constant change and mortal loss and be aware that I’m part of it, I’m connected to it. And that love is real.
The world is not stable, and there are no guarantees - of love, long life or comfort of any kind. But what there is, is the now of things - breathing in and out, seeing the trees move in the wind, and yes, the gaze and actions of horses.
Nothing in this takes away any pain or loss - that is still there - and it isn't a consolation, either. It's just what is - our portion in life, good and bad. Sometimes just being there - even if it means feeling bad, or sad, or angry, or discouraged - is what there is.
Sending best wishes to you.
Sending you love, Laura.
I confess I would be someone guilty of encouraging those enduring strife to spend time with their horses. Not necessarily ride them, I think all that you typed, that you feed them 3 times a day, check them, smile once in a while, is hugely valid and valuable in a totally terrifying world where people absolutely can and be torn from us in a moment. There's a little bell tolling in fear within me at all times, knowing exactly how impermanent it all is. I completely hear you on seeing the ambivalence, ignorance, naivete, whatever it is that allows people to conduct themselves in a certain manner, leaving me both appalled and envious. Still, I think living with our eyes open to the harsh realities, and sowing and harvesting what beauty we can from it is all we can do. You don't have to be happy, or riding, or anything, except You, in pieces, dealing, and still needed by those who love you.
Thank you for three very lovely comments. I appreciated them very much. Love to all three of you.
Love is real, and so is the pain of losing a loved one.
I wish I had better words to offer you.
Hugs & prayers to you and yours.
Thank you Stilllearning--you have always been a joy
My younger sister and only sibling passed away when I was 24. I was hit with an immovable sense of mortality. I felt that I could die at any moment.
I am still thinking of you and your son. Thank you for continuing to connect with us.
Thank you, Val.
I hear you, & I think I can empathize with you.
I also lost the Great Love of my Life this past September.
There hasn't been a single day yet go by that I haven't thought about him.
Some days he only crosses my mind a dozen times, those days are almost as light-hearted in comparison.
On my dark days (3-4 times a week) I can hardly get him off my mind all day...
I go about all my chores carrying my deep sorrow like a millstone around my neck. I cry & I talk a steady stream out loud to him while I'm turning out horses, cleaning buckets, mucking stalls, setting out feed, and swiping at my tears with soggy mittens that smell of horse shit & sadness.
I've heard it said that the human heart has infinite capacity for love. In my experience, it also has infinite capacity for grief.
I do not know that I will ever be "over it", & nor do I wish to be. Because as much as I would be afraid to say it out loud, rightly or wrongly, I equate being over "it" to be too much like being over "him". I think maybe the best I'll be able to do is "get through it".
I can't even imagine letting go of him yet; he's dead & gone & I am set adrift.
Today I allowed myself only an hour to cry & dwell, and I told him that I really am trying to honour his memory... that each day I am trying to recognize, & reach out for, & trying to hold on to moments of happiness (when they come) for even just an instant longer.
My Great Love gifted to me 3 very important things:
1. the precious knowledge that I was lucky enough to be the one Great Love of his life,
2. his example of eternal optimism (I've long worked to follow his example, and I will again someday, but not just now), and
3. horses in my life every single day. I'm so thankful to have 'his' last horse in my barn every night.
I swear that while I go about my daily chores I sometimes think I can hear snatches of him singing in the shedrow, & I can almost feel his breath on the back of my neck when his old mare snorts.
The sound of that mares' wet & emphatic snort & the ghost of him that it carries for me, that's a moment of happiness I wish to hold onto forever.
Best wishes Laura.
Venom, your comment about not knowing if you'd ever be over it. I've dealt with a fair amount of death over the last 2 years and I keep coming back to the quote below. It's a chunk of dialogue from NCIS and it helps me.....some.
Lydia: I'm sorry I'm no help.
Ziva: Don't be. What you're going through, I would wish on no one.
Lydia: You've been there?
Ziva: Loss is a part of life. But I would never claim to know exactly how you feel. You lost your father, I lost my siblings. But how we each respond is a very personal thing.
Lydia: Was it hard to get over?
Ziva: One gets over the loss of a wallet or a watch. But a loved one they never leave you. You never get over; you only get through.
Ziva: By leaning on others. The comfort of friends.
Thank you Venom. I feel for your loss. And I appreciate your kind thoughts and words.
Sarah, I have found the comfort of friends to be great help. Thank you.
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