My friend Annette has had a very painful year. She lost her husband suddenly a few days before Christmas 2007. He had been ill but responding to treatment when his heart just stopped beating. Several months later, her elderly mother, who had lived with Annette’s family for some years, was taken by a stroke.
Understandably, Annette was sometimes overwhelmed by her new life, by both its emptiness and its clutter. She had lost her childhood sweetheart, her best friend, the father of her children, the love of her life. She had gained added financial responsibilities and had to learn the odd temperaments of large, somewhat alien household objects, such as furnaces and propane tanks. She had lost the woman who birthed and raised her, and had gained the silence of yet another empty chair at the dinner table.
Annette is a kind a loving woman with a huge heart. She gives and gives. If you need her, she is there. No questions. She is most always upbeat and positive, no matter the circumstances, and she was doing her best to retain her positive outlook after her losses. Her teenaged son, still at home, and her grown children all pitched in to help, but she still too often felt she was drowning.
I hadn’t heard from Annette for some time, unanswered phone calls and emails, when I finally got hold of her and learned how overwhelmed she was, too buried in the details of day-to-day living even reach out and ask for help. I asked what I could do. Nothing, was her reply.
In addition to her primary job and several side jobs, Annette also had to, wanted to, find time to give extra care to her three horses. It was her horses that gave her, that continue to give her, a sense of peace and of balance. But when she couldn’t get out to the barn, which is half an hour from her home, she felt she had failed somehow. The joy of their presence was becoming another area of stress in her life. Finances were stretched as well, but she would not consider parting with any of the horses. One mare had been with her for years. The other was a PMU mare Annette had recently adopted from a rescue, only to find a few months later that the mare was pregnant. And then there were three, two mares and the kindest, sweetest little boy you’d ever want to meet.
I offered to care for her horses one day a week. At first she resisted; it was too much. But it wasn’t too much. I reminded her that if she didn’t reach out for help, she risked being crushed under the weight of her grief. You cannot continually spin amid the daily pile-up of tasks. You have to take time to catch your breath, to be silent, to listen.
Annette’s horses live like mine do, in as natural a state as possible, outside. One afternoon, a few months after I’d begun caring for them, I met Annette at the barn to work with the horses, to get them, especially the baby, used to being fed in stalls rather than outside in the round pen. Winter had arrived, and I was looking for an alternative to caring for them in the whipping wind.
While I was there, Annette asked me to look at her rescued mare, Nakota. She said Nakota had been moving stiffly, oddly, and seemed uncomfortable. I did not have time for a full session that day, but I did spend a little time watching her move, and I did place my hands on her.
Nakota had always been stand-offish with me. I would scrtich the withers of the other two horses as they ate, but she would move away from my touch. But this afternoon, she moved closer to me as I touched her, embraced me with her neck. When she did this, when she made this connection, which clearly was not only of the body but of the heart, all became quiet. It was as though the three of us—Annette, Nakota, and I—had been transported to another place, a bubble lined in velvet. Soft, gentle, quiet.
That evening, I called Annette to set up an appointment with Nakota. Annette spoke about what had happened at the barn in a voice almost hushed with wonder. It was as though, she said, Nakota knew that we were going to help her. This was a mare who had seen too much in her four short years, starvation and two pregnancies. She was not unkind but had no real use for humans. Today, though, something had shifted.
Annette asked me when my next Reiki class was taking place. After talking about doing so a number of times over the years, Annette, whose heart was fully opened by Nakota’s love and gratitude, committed to taking the class. She was ready, she said. And she was excited.
A few weeks later, I called to check on Annette. Christmas was coming, and I knew the grief would surface as the first anniversary of her husband’s death drew near. We talked, and she cried. She was doing well; she was making a Christmas for her family; everyone was in good health. There was much to be thankful for. But her heart was sometimes heavy, and there were days when she had to consciously determine how to put one foot in front of the other and go forward.
As I spoke with Annette, my little white dog, Elika, joined me on the bed, stretched out beside me and sighed. I said her name. Annette said, I had forgotten, but your saying Elika’s name has made me remember. Early that morning, she said, when the sky was still dark, she had awakened. When she opened her eyes, she saw Elika’s face, just inches from her own. Annette was not dreaming; she was wide awake. Elika was there. How is that possible? she wanted to know.
Elika is a Reiki dog, I reminded her. She assists with my classes and with many of my healing sessions. No doubt, I said, she sensed your aching heart and came to give you comfort. How did you feel after her visit? I asked. Much better, she said.
Later, I thought about the sequence of events, how the healing came to be. Annette had set it in motion by accepting help. She had then offered assistance to Nakota, who had opened her own heart and expressed her gratitude. This opened Annette’s heart even further, and caused her to commit to something she had wanted to do for some time, learn more about Reiki healing. Her heart now opened still further, she was able to see and accept the gift of healing that Elika offered her.
I felt blessed to have been allowed a role in this healing. I saw again that we are all one. And the more fully we open our hearts, the more we are able to receive.
Until next month . . .
*This column originally appeared in From the Horse’s Mouth in February 2009.
© 2009 by Pamela Sourelis