Saying Good-bye

My friend Mia’s voice ached with grief. Her message said that Jake, the horse who had been part of her life for 28 years, was failing and would be put down that evening. What made it especially difficult was that Jake lived in Michigan; Mia lived in Minnesota. I had heard stories about Jake over the years, but had never had the pleasure of meeting him. When I returned Mia’s call, she reminded me that he had come into her life when she was 10 years old and he was 7. In two months, he would be 34. They had grown up together. “He’s the benchmark for everything,” she said. How was it possible that he would be gone from this earth.

I met Mia 10 years ago, when she moved from Michigan to Chicago. While Jake had gone to college with her for two of her four years, he didn’t make this trip. Instead, she decided to turn his care over to her mother, who had been bitten by the riding bug. Jake was the perfect horse for a slightly cautious, mature woman. Patient and endlessly tolerant, he graciously took on the role of teacher once again.

But now Jake had stopped eating; he lacked energy and seemed depressed. He was having serious bouts of diarrhea. The vet came out and scoped him. Jake’s stomach was slowly disintegrating. He wasn’t in any pain, but Mia’s mother did not want him to be, and so the decision was made.

Mia agreed with her mother’s decision but felt helpless so many miles away. She was saddened at not being there to say good-bye, to comfort Jake, to thank him. I told her that she could do all of these things and urged her to try. I told her that I would check in with him, would send Reiki, but that she could do the rest.

Go sit with him, I said. Tell your sweet husband that you need a little time alone. Sit quietly, calm your breath, open your heart, and call Jake in. He will come. You can talk to him. He will hear you.

When the hour of his passing was near, I connected with Jake, to help ease his transition if I could. He immediately started to speak:

“Tell her I love her. Tell her I loved watching her grow up from a lanky little girl to a beautiful woman. Tell her I am grateful for her love. No matter how silly, she was always tender. The love was in her fingertips, her breath. She is a very special person.

“It is hard to leave. I have loved this life. But I do not want to be a burden to those who love me. I do not want them to be forced to watch me decline. This is best. This is a courageous and noble gift, and I am grateful.

“Ask her to lay her hand on my brow . . .”

At this point, Jake’s voice trailed off, and he seemed to disappear. I held the space where he had been, not quite knowing what had happened. After several minutes, he returned. “Thank you,” he said, gently ending the communication.

When I read these notes to Mia, she cried at the part about her hand on his brow. She said that was the only place he’d ever let her scritch him, high up on his forehead, under his forelock.

I asked her if she had connected with him before he passed. She said that she had.

Mia had sat quietly in her room and closed her eyes. She calmed her breath and opened her heart. She asked Jake to come. And there he was. She was back in college on the trails near school, galloping Jake bareback and helmetless with her friend Maureen. (“We were so stupid then,” she said; “We did the dumbest things.”). Blasting down a trail with her two best friends, blasting down a trail with nothing but her future in front of her.

Mia said her good-byes, said her thank-yous. She held out her hands in the darkened room. “Go,” she said. “Go. Be free.”

Until next month,

Be well,

Pam

*This column originally appeared in From the Horse’s Mouth in February 2008.

© 2008 by Pamela Sourelis