A year is not enough time to make sense of how I lost you. After Tim died, I threw myself into grieving. I wanted to see his face everywhere. Talk about him, explore all of the different facets of his illness and death. I went through his belongings like an archeological dig, excavated anything I could. Completely surrounded myself with him to try to make sense of the loss, to find answers to all of my questions.
I guess when you died, 3.5 years after he did, I realized that my questions around his death were still unanswered. All of that digging led to nothing but a cold toxicology report. A scientific answer to my broken heart.
So when you died, in a way just as cruel and sudden, it didn’t feel like I could survive that level of grief again. I drove the ten hours from Jackson to Austin sobbing the entire way. People at Sonic were frightened of me when I finally forced myself to eat. On the dark highway, I tried to come up with reasons to live because everything was just too much at that point, too unfair. Honest to god, Buc-ee’s was my first reason to keep going (Texans will understand). Then I realized I had to publish my book, eventually I remembered how many people love me—even if I was (still am on the bad days) convinced they’re all going to slowly die off and leave me all alone.
There are images of you everywhere in my house. I’m staring at your painting above my fireplace right now, and there’s a picture of us doing the jumpers on the wall next to in. Behind me, there’s a bookcase filled with your ribbons, snapshots of us smiling together. Even a year later, you are still what I am most proud of. Not many thought we’d amount to much and, well, I don’t have to tell you all the things that we did.
But even surrounded by the shrines of Simon, I have to be honest—I can’t think about you much right now, even after a year. Sure, I can tell a quick story here and there, but I can’t swim in the depth of our memories. I can’t think about how much you meant to me. Because when I do, like right now, I sob on my couch. I have to stop every few paragraphs and messily blow my nose (on Tim’s old handkerchief) and I am completely, devastatingly, overrun with loss.
So forgive me, my friend, my partner, because it still hurts too much to touch your spirit in the way I want to. I hope some day it won’t.
I didn’t get a new horse to replace you, or even try to replace the hole you left in my life which is still wide and gaping, but because I need something to get me out of the house, active and looking forward to the future. When I started shopping, I said that I wasn’t looking for a horse to do what you did for me. I just wanted a hunter. 12′ stride, calm demeanor and a pleasant way of go. Simple. It was very objective.
You’d hate this horse I have now, this mess of a horse. He is so opposite of you. No work ethic, so lazy. I’ve recently learned that you actually have to leg away from the jump, because I guess it isn’t a guarantee that a horse will just naturally canter away like you did. He doesn’t have the complex emotions you did. It’s ironic that he’s a gray, because his world is pretty black and white. But it’s actually nice, how different he is. You are both Thoroughbreds, but that’s where the comparison ends. I can’t make him try to be you. It’d be comical.
I’ve been hiding my heart from this silly new partner. It’s still quick to remember how quickly things can fall apart. But today the barn was windy—I mean really windy—kind of day I wouldn’t have hesitated to ride you in, but I wasn’t sure how he’d react. I threw him on the lunge quickly, but I didn’t need to. Once I got on, he loped around the grass ring as steadier than the other horses that are much older than him. I realized that, even though it’s early, I’m building a partnership again. It won’t be like the team we were, but him and I will have our own celebrations. And, because of you, I know how special that is.
When you died, I felt guilty about a lot of things, but the biggest was not being there to tell you goodbye. Medicine lulled your heart to stop while I rocked myself and tried not to scream 1800 miles away.
I’ve thought about this a lot in the past year, and I know myself. If I had been at the clinic, the vet would have tried to shoo me away once they got you stable because owners are not exactly helpful lingering in the halls of an animal hospital. If I had been there in the clinic with you when you went into surgery, I would have channeled all my optimism for a successful surgery. I would have given you a quick stroke on the shoulder and let the vets do what they needed to as fast as possible. There wouldn’t have been a tearful goodbye.
Instead, sometimes I think about the future you deserved. We would have kept showing a few more years, for sure. Though you would claim untapped Grand Prix potential, you’d happily cart me around the 2’6″ hunter ring (perhaps a bit too enthusiastically at times) with the occasional lead change or two. There would be a few ribbons, and a lot of bareback, bridleless hacks at home.
When your hind end started to hurt too much, I’d cut the work back. You were a soldier. I know you’d never claim to hurt too much to do what I asked, so I’d ask for less and less until it was just your friendship, nothing more. My plan for my mid-40’s was to buy you a small farmette outside of Austin. Nothing fancy, maybe 5 acres of pasture and a good shed for you and a miniature donkey. I know it sounds ridiculous, buying a farm for a horse, but I wanted to know I would always have a place to keep you safe. When your red coat bleached out beyond recognition in the Texas sun and your mane hung down over your wide shoulder, I would look out my window and know that I fulfilled my promise.
And in this future, one day your body would start to fail. I’d watch for the signs closely, telling myself a month too early versus a day too late. When it was time, I’d greet you alone before the vet came. Lay my cheek on your neck, place my forearm along your ribcage to feel it gently rise and fall with your breath.
I would tell you that every dream I had as a little girl manifested in you. No horse could have taken better care of me, and kept me more safe. You made me feel confident when I didn’t believe I could accomplish anything. When I was too sad to walk alone, you carried me. When my world fell apart and I didn’t think I could trust anyone, I knew I could trust you. I am better in every way, because you choose me as your person.
Hands up, leg on, you jumped anything for me. I still remember what it felt like. Even if I go on to jump a thousand more horses, I always will.