I’ve been wondering now for a while if my posts have been too peppy or superficial (adjectives I’ve never been accused of in my entire life); and if, maybe, in wanting to be entertaining and world-changing, I’ve forgotten that most real change comes on the heels of pain.
As you may have guessed, making people laugh is not only pure pleasure to me, it’s how I cope. I’m scared to let the laughter stop, to reveal the crying parts; worried I’m one post away from becoming the sappy OneArmGirl downer, losing all my readership.
But the real tragedy would be somehow leaving you under the impression that I popped out of the womb, thought to myself ‘Who needs two arms, anyway?’, and have been downhill skiing with lollypops since then. Those who really know me, know better. So I’ve been wondering how and when to go deeper and, unexpectedly, today happened.
I’ve been nursing a sick horse that, today, I watched get put down. Luna (‘moon’ in Spanish) was donated to the farm about a month ago. She wasn’t in great shape when she came to us, but easily won goodwill with her maternal patience and delicate grace. I decided to call her my ‘little deer’ from her disproportionately large ears, long legs and head-bobbing jaunt. It was nice to have a mare in the barn for a change. But we soon discovered a serious ulcer on her tongue, and after working with her for a month, still couldn’t get her to swallow enough food to gain weight.
I started calling Elsie, who I’d never met, but is reportedly the woman vets call when they get stumped. She sounds wise and grounded on the phone, and I decide I want to be her friend. Because of a recent shoulder injury, she explains she can’t use one arm very much, but still wants to come see Luna. I wonder if I should mention our additional handicap, but decide not to discourage her. We’ve got two good arms between us, right?
I meet Elsie at the farm the next day. She’s shorter than I expected with gray pigtails, but I’m probably not what she expected either. She laughs later at her apologies for only having one good arm. It’s decided that Luna should go to Elsie’s place for more attentive care. This morning I went out to visit and waited at the gate with a sign reading, Old dogs, young dogs, and some stupid dogs: please drive slowly. Inside, we discover Luna’s taken a turn for the worse, the vet is called, and less than two hours later, a beautiful animal living for over 30 years, lies on the ground. We’ve done everything we could. I tell myself to emotionally disconnect and become the get-the-job-done farmer my relatives have been for generations, but the tears come anyway because the fight is over, and the loss is palpable. Luna’s heart stops, but the last to leave are several heaving breaths.
Weeping down the highway, I decide I need a Dr. Pepper despite recent stern words to myself about quitting. But pulling into the gas station, I discern a foundational peace, identifying my tears with the reminder of our universal shitty situation. I’m not the kind to run from death, but still I know something is wrong, and despite how much better it may be on the other side, life really is beautiful. I feel a quiet, but strong gratitude coming in...for Elsie, for my vet, for another chance to be out in the barn, and for Luna and everything she’s shared with me, even in her dying...for life. The Hebrew scriptures wisely say, ‘Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord.’* Confronted with death, I've remembered, no matter what your handicap, even if it seems all quality has gone out of life, if you’re still breathing, you have reason to celebrate. If nothing else, I hear it’s International Beer Day.
Welcome to my serious side.
*From Psalm 150