"How's that beautiful mare doing in all this horrible winter weather?" she asked me, as I walked towards the counter, to pick up the pizza that I had ordered. My eyes started to water and my throat started to tighten. It was the last place on earth that I expected to confront the sadness that I have been trying to outrun this winter. It's been 2 months since Mimi died. 2 months. What a brutally hard word...D-I-E-D...followed by Mimi, in the same sentence. I didn't think it was possible. Not for her. At least, not now. I shuddered, as if I wanted to shake off the very word and all it meant from my being. I started to feel the desperation building and consciously, I summoned every bit of strength that I could muster, in order to answer her, "I, uh...she died on New Year's day." There, I said it, without making a crying fool of myself, in front of all these people. She had been smiling just a few seconds before she asked me and now, her face looked shocked. "Oh my gosh, I am so sorry. What happened, was it a colic?" she asked me. You know, I didn't want to talk about it. Especially, not there, in the middle of a busy pizzeria at lunchtime, with people I don't even know all around me, a million conversations all going on at once, phones ringing, people shouting pick up numbers...ugh. It was really busy. I should have just lied and said she was fine. It hurt too much to recall the images from Mimi's final moments on earth. It happened so fast. I was so unprepared. My heart and soul were wounded from meeting the inevitable, head on. Yet it would be awkward not to respond and I knew she meant well and that her questions came from a good place. And so, I told her about the neighbor's dogs. Gosh, the irresponsible neighbor who can't seem to keep his dogs under control and on his own property. How Mimi slipped and fell on the ice, trying to get away from the dogs and how the hock injury she suffered, was just too much to ask a 23-year old mare to recover from. I told her how it took her two and a half hours to stand up on her last day. I felt so helpless. I wanted my mare to live! I did everything the veterinarian told me to do and I still lost. I was so angry and hurt. I felt cheated and I was reeling from the overwhelming grief. I can't get past a day without some kind of memory, taking me back to the sweet days when she was alive and healthy. Did I fully realize how precious those days were? I think I took them for granted, as if they were owed to me. I loved Mimi.
WAIT...What did you just say? Love?
What does it mean to love horses anyway? Most people see a picture of a horse and say, "what a beautiful picture, I love it." They might be driving in their car and pass a pasture with horses grazing and say, "Isn't that beautiful? It's just like a painting, I love it." Or, how about a Budweiser television commercial, playing within a favorite television program and the person will say, "that was so touching, I love it." You never really know when a horse will turn up and cause something big to happen inside of you. For the people who are lucky to own horses like Mimi, we know this to be true. For dyed-in-the-wool horse lovers, it goes beyond appreciating a pretty picture or an image that is pleasurable on the television set. Horses have always dominated our thoughts while we are awake and during our sleep, horses have run wild and free, calling us. Thoughts, feelings and dreams of horses are at the very core of the proverbial "training ground" of life experiences that make it possible for us to recognize the horse of our dreams, when that horse becomes real for us. Mimi was all that and more for me. She was beautiful, she was kind, she was everything I ever dreamed about, whether I knew it or not, present in one horse. She was the incarnation of all the books read and pedigrees studied. She was the living proof of all the theories and philosophies written about the desert horse. She was a "science lab" that proved how those revered characteristics we cherish, enable survival in the harshest of climates. She was a gift from another dimension that surprised me day after day with a different treasure. On the day I said goodbye, one of the last things I remember doing was burying my nose deep into her silky mane, inhaling the very essence of who she was, hoping that I could hang onto her scent for the rest of my life. So, here I am in the beginning of the "rest of it" and well, I really miss her. “Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up."-Neil Gaiman