Your ashes arrived in a small cardboard box a week or so prior.
I thought there would be more.
I thought the box would be bigger, heavier. But there just wasn’t much of you in there.
The box sat on my desk for a while. Then, I moved it to Michelle’s desk. One morning, someone moved it to the coffee table in the office.
I’ve been looking at that box. So small. So light.
I don’t want to open it.
I don’t want to scatter the contents.
I don’t want to bury them.
I want them to stay in my office, moved carefully from table to table, unspoken and uncomfortable.
I’m not ready to say good-bye. I’m not ready for it to be over.
I posted your photo on Instagram. It was a picture that Martina took of you in January last year at the farm in Wellington. It was not fancy—just you hanging your head out of the stall window. You looked beautiful, but then you always did. I changed the filter to make the photo black and white—as if that would somehow communicate the gravity of what had happened.
I’m not sure why I posted it. Maybe to get sympathy. Maybe to remind the world of how you looked. Probably because I feel guilty; because I am so, so sorry about what happened to you. I’m so sorry I had to make the decision I did.
I hope you forgive me.
My groom was bringing you in from turnout, and you slipped. Your hind end went out from under you, and your whole body slammed onto the cold ground. You got back up, and after some coaxing you walked back into the barn and into your stall.
The vets came out. Several of them. Multiple times. We did ultrasounds, x-rays, rectal palpations. No matter what we did, what position or angle we tried, the results remained inconclusive.
You would never jump again—that much was obvious—but maybe you could live in a field.
I had visions of you running across a luscious green pasture—nickering at your new horse friends. There was even a stream where you would drink cool water while daisies and dandelions danced in the breeze.
It was going to be fine. I would make you better.
“Euthanasia has to be on the table,” the voice said. He said it softly, my vet. He’s kind like that. But that word—euthanasia—caught in my lungs, in my heart, and hung there ugly and cold.
Because that’s what reality is: ugly and cold. There are no fields of flowers and babbling brooks. The world is simply reduced to decisions and judgements that no one should have to make.
The life I believe you deserved—and who was I to pass that judgement—was not going to be possible. The reality, the ugly, cold reality, was that you would live in pain. There would be no cantering in a field. Perhaps a lame trot step or two every now and then, but that would be it. There would always be medication. There would always be fear. There would be no laying down to sleep for risk of slicing open your femoral artery and bleeding out.
The reality was too horrible to bear.
So, I didn’t ask you to.
I said thank you. I said “I love you” many, many times, and then I said goodbye. I stayed with you as they laid you down, and I prayed that you forgave me.
I still pray that you do.
The autopsy results showed that your pelvis was shattered. It’s still hard to believe. You slipped. While walking.
How could that accident have led to this?
Grief is a peculiar thing. It doesn’t come all at once. It seeps into the corners of your mind when you are drinking your morning coffee; when you are mindlessly searching the aisles of Whole Foods; when you are about to drift off to sleep. It trickles in slowly, carefully. Then all at once it floods in and reduces you to a sopping, wet mess of sadness and loss.
There is a photo of you on my desk. It’s from Halloween, and my friend’s sons came to visit you. (They still ask about you.) You are nuzzling the younger boy’s costume, and you and I are both looking at him. It’s a silly photo—snapped on an iPhone and meant to be forgotten.
But it’s not forgotten. Because this happened. And because this happened, I lost you.
I lost the hopes I had of showing you this year. Of taking you back to Europe (you were a Rushy Marsh mare, after all) and competing so my Mammy could meet you.
I lost that partner who gave me confidence. I lost that horse who made me laugh—who I was positive wanted nothing more than to wear red lipstick, heels and gossip about boys.
I lost my friend, and I miss you.
I’m not sure if I’ll be able to post a photo of you again. It feels like another loss; like the images of you on my camera roll will stay fresh and vibrant because they are all mine. I worry that if I share them that they will fade—that you will fade from memory.
Maybe that’s why I’m writing this—to keep you alive. Words have always seemed more permanent to me than photos. I need to remember you, and maybe that’s what the ashes are meant to do—to provide a place to remember.
When I’m ready.
I miss you.
Photo by Martina Gates.