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Little Miss under her tree getting lots of needed rest. It’s been her most challenging time of her whole life other than her first year when she was left to die. That is when I found her 34 years ago.

Sitting by my Little Miss while she lays under her big, comforting oak tree, I find myself pondering and reflecting on so much. Mostly, our life together – 34 years and counting – and the true commitment of love… a “marriage” of sorts… and in particular, the phrase, “In sickness and in health…till death do us part.”

As my Little Miss struggles with some health issues these days – a bowed tendon, a majorly bruised foot from a wicked abscess, a small bout of colic and dehydration, in addition to a newly found discovery that she may have stomach ulcers from her pain medication – I can’t help but taste an inevitable reality… something we eventually face with all of whom we love deeply. Lately it’s been more in the forefront than usual, and this is one of those moments.

Little Miss is now 35. That’s approximately 105 years old for a human being. It’s safe to say, “she’s up there” and the truth is, could I be any more blessed? I have been gifted with this magical animal for the past 34 years when somehow my 13 year old heart was taken captive by an emaciated little filly who then was just struggling to hold onto life after a first year of abuse and neglect – a year she somehow, miraculously, survived through a Minnesota winter on her own. How was that even possible for one so young, so naive to the world, and with no mother or human to protect her? (Her mother died when she was just three months old and the owners just threw her in a pasture to fend for herself). Apparently her desire to live was strong as she pawed her way through the snow, barely getting enough nutrients from the dead grass below. I always felt that she must’ve known if she could just stay strong, good things would come her way and she would never have to be alone or unloved again.

It was her humble, kind and loving innocence that clearly called for attention from my rambunctious early teenage self, causing me to step out of my original fantasy of finding a horse similar to The Black Stallion — the dreamy steed portrayed in the book and movie of the same title. THAT was what I was looking for, but Miss was what I found.

What seemed like a stark contrast to my initial vision, my heart said “yes” to this special little girl who’s eyes reflected the huge love that beamed straight from her heart and infused into mine – even at that ever so “wet behind the ears” time of our lives. Needless to say… she didn’t just change my life, she changed the course of my life… forever. And here we are, 34 years later. Who would’ve ever dreamed this? Certainly not me and maybe not her, but then again, maybe she did. I don’t know. I’ve learned Miss knows a LOT of things that I didn’t/don’t know… that she has kindly, and with the utmost love, is always teaching by showing through her example… time and time again.

We’ve been through everything together and there’s no question that she has been my sanity in what often times has felt like an otherwise “insane” world… or at least a world skewed by the somewhat off-kilter and often out-of-balance human drama. Animals do that for us – remind us of what is real, of what is truly God – amidst such unnecessary chaos. That’s their gift… the love and forgiveness of our collective misguidings that often veer us from our heart and soul, and often each other.

So, with that, I ponder so much of our life together as I sit here with her on this hot morning in 2016. Thank God for the shade from her beautiful, old friend, her tree, as it’s been a tough summer for her. For a horse that has had robust and vibrant health for 34 years, other than her very first year on this planet, she has done incredibly well. But this summer has been, by far, her biggest life challenge since her infancy. Actually, for both of us and for all who love her so much. It has not been easy.

Never do we like to see our loved ones hurting, in pain, or struggling – physically or emotionally. Never. And yet, I’m intrigued by what part of us shows up when they are? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with our emotions of sadness, as well as our fear of loss and change. It’s easy to want to distract ourselves to avoid those profound feelings of discomfort.

I remember when Miss was in her mid 20s and it suddenly dawned on me that she was officially an “older” horse. Up until that point, she was so healthy and strong and had carried me through so much of my young adulthood and so when her first signs of arthritis started to arise — which meant there was more to consider than me just hopping on her back and running through the fields or up those hills – I, honestly, didn’t know how to handle it, emotionally. I wasn’t even aware of it at the time but I even retreated from her a tiny bit, not because I loved her any less or that I didn’t want to be with her, rather more because our relationship was changing and I wasn’t sure how to feel or be with that; I wasn’t ready for it to change. I just wanted the strong Little Miss that I knew for so many years. I know that sounds selfish, but I also know it’s also a part of being human. We may be able to understand things from an intellectual and spiritual perspective, but our emotions often have their own journey and timing and it isn’t always easy to embrace. But life moves. Everything and everyone changes with time, whether we like it or not. Stevie Nicks sang it best in her famous, soul touching song, “Landslide”:

Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too

Years, sometimes decades, go by without us noticing until something brings us to this shocking and somewhat puzzling awareness. Wow. How does that happen? But this was reality and my girl really was “older” and she (and I) were entering a whole new phase of our life – unknown and uncharted territory. I will be the first to admit, it can challenge our hearts and emotions. Again, what part of ourselves shows up when someone we love so deeply starts to struggle with the withering effects of time? Who do we become? I openly admit to experiencing feelings of anger that Miss was getting older… that “she” was changing our relationship. Of course this is not a rational feeling and/or thought and I wasn’t even conscious of it for a long while. And, of course, I wasn’t really angry at her; this was just my own uncomfortable feelings bubbling up and not knowing what to do with them. We don’t like when life rearranges our comfort zone without our permission. I mean, we’re comfortable there; that’s why we like it! It’s familiar. Life change means we have to change too. But this is reality. Time passes. The sun rises and the sun sets many times as the years come and go.

Miss and I have had many sunrises and sunsets and the disbelief of this truth feels like a gaping hole in my chest and at times, I wonder if I can take in another breath. Jesus… life is not for the faint of heart. Not if we really want to be in it, fully. Not if we want to feel the beautiful and glorious experience of loving another and receiving that love in return. We can’t have that without the inevitable. It’s just the way it is.

So again, the question: Who do we become when life presents this to us? And in this specific case, who do I become?

Here’s what my heart tells me; here’s what my heart knows: Love stays. It endures. Regardless. And it calls us to do things for those we love even when we, ourselves, might be crumbling in silence with our own emotions and sadness from pondering the path we are on – that day when she finally chooses to step out of the physical and fully into the spiritual. Yep… it’s hard to imagine as she has been a part of my whole being for most of my life — that steady, unwavering constant where I could always find “home” in a world that can oftentimes feel unsettled. But what I know is that these are not the times to be selfish, even if it feels like it’s more than our heart can bear because that loved one needs our presence… in good times and not so good. “In sickness and in health…”

We stay because love endures.

I think about all the amazing STRONG years we had. Those memories live within my cells and hers too; they are shared between us bonding our souls into eternity. But, this time in life requires a different kind of strength, not the physical power that she embodied for such a “small” horse. She could run like the wind, up hills and it didn’t even matter if it was just me on her back or with a friend riding double; it never phased her. Her long strides were just as fast and powerful. How was that possible? It’s still a mystery to me. She is a mystery to me. But today’s strength is something totally different. The strength I am experiencing today is the power to stay present even when the heart flutters with a bit of fear that it all might be too much. Yet, what else am I to do? Because love does stay and it does live forever. She is still my teacher and even now, she is teaching me more. And just like our whole journey of life together, I am certain, too, that we both will do “this” part of our journey — whatever ups and downs it entails – with absolute grace and honesty… and a wide-open heart. Because there is no other option, but the right one…

The truth is, Miss may get through this all and at Christmas time we’ll look back and say, “Wow! That was a rough summer, but here we are; we got through that.”

Or?

I don’t know. Not wanting to presume anything because life has its own idea; I’ve learned enough to know this. So… I stay open, present and conscious of all possibilities. If nothing else – and Mom and I talked about this after her colic episode when we both felt a peaceful acceptance (for the first time) that this might be her time – that Miss is showing us…. giving us a glimpse of that eventual reality… and gently preparing our hearts. She wants us to “try it on” in little bits for now… just to slowly adjust. She doesn’t want it to be sudden. She knows that would be too much on our hearts, so I just keep getting a sense that she’s allowing us some time to feel it, a little bit here and there. But it’s not just us. She, too, is dabbling, so to speak… traveling back n’ forth to the other realm, “trying it on for size,” as well. It’s not just us that needs to adjust and prepare… It’s her too. And her dear companion, Josh.

So, what do I know for sure? That this is a journey that is sacred beyond sacred, and I don’t want to miss one moment of it simply because it might be hard to feel. Especially with one who has given so much to my life and in many ways has shown me who I am through her unconditional and otherworldly love. Again, not for the faint of heart. This is what it means to be alive and we don’t always pick and choose the experiences life gives us, but we certainly get to choose who we are in relation to them. So I guess I am choosing the heart and a love that is much bigger than me… the love that Miss has taught me.

Marriage is a bond of the soul that was birthed from the love of the Divine. Through this unforeseen relationship I have had with this special horse, clearly, it isn’t defined by any rules, ideas or limitations of this physical realm. Love is love. Connection is connection. And a true marriage loves the beloved through to the supposed end… “… till death do us part.”

And yet, two beings who share the same soul can never be apart. That was one of Miss’s lessons to me many years ago already… all to be shared in her upcoming book, The Ride of Our Lives.

So, as of the time of this posting, it seems that Miss has taken us both to the edge of the known and the unknown — that veil between this world and the next — and has since chosen to stay on this side of that edge, at least for a little while longer. She knows her heavenly pasture will come in due time as I continue to walk side by side with her on this never-ending, but forever changing and heart-opening journey. Every day, every moment, and every step is a gift.

Miss looking spry

Little Miss choosing to keep going… determined to still be here. This is her on Sunday, August 7, 2016.

I love you till the end of time, my sweet, sweet girl.

Your forever friend and companion,

Lisa

 

P.S. I can’t thank all of the angels who have stepped in and shown up with their love and care for dear Little Miss during this time. Whether it’s been through their actual presence, through their love and prayers, and even monetarily to help with her vet bills and special care at this time, all of it has helped so much and we are beyond grateful. Thank you all.

Special thanks to my mom, Judi Brisse, for Miss’s daily care, Susan and Mike Shillinger for their years of care and their property that Miss has called home since we moved from Minnesota to California 26 years ago, and so many of the neighbors who have chipped in to help in their own unique way…  Dana & Craig Stewart, Katherine Boone, the Hallworth girls, Gabriella Valsecchi, Morris (Josh’s owner), Sue Hopple (our animal communicator), Ben Bramsen (her vet), & Rick Ibarra (her farrier). Thank you, also, to Gigi Sutila and Stacey Whittle for their constant love and care as well.

Also, for anyone interested, Stacey has set up a gofundme page for Little Miss’s care, in case any of you feel called to help in that way. As I said, it does help as expenses have been high lately, but I am committed to giving Little Miss and her companion, Josh — who has been SO important for her well-being in these last couple of years — the best care possible (within reason). Thank you to all of you who have donated. It has helped tremendously during this challenging time.