Tag Archives: Grief

Confession Number Twelve: The Bear Is Sleeping…For Now…

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An Unexpected Peace:

“It was then that Tristan came into the quiet part of his life.  The bear inside him was sleeping.  It is hard to tell of happiness.  Time goes by and we feel safe too soon.”  – One Stab (Legends of the Fall)

For better or for worse, I have, for many years, been fascinated with the movie, Legends of the Fall.  This movie has irresistible sweeping landscapes, sweeping music and sweeping passions.  The story takes the viewer beyond the internal “…and they lived happily ever after…”,  and shows what happens to the characters in the “ever after”.  It reflects the way real life ebbs and flows, albeit with far more dramatic storylines.

More dramatic than my life storylines, at least :).However, I do relate to the concept of the sleeping bear. Ah yes, the bear of hope, anxiety, yearning, fulfilling potential, being driven and my pesky inner “demons” that need healing.

I am in one of those times right now.  The bear inside me is sleeping and I am enjoying a wonderful period of rest, renewal, release and regrouping. (Yep, the truly essential 4 Rs)

By making the difficult decision to bring myself and my three horses back to Florida for a time, I have been shown very clearly that there were underlying issues that needed to be addressed beyond my own exhaustion and stresses.

First of all, my horses.  My horses are very content not to be constantly blanketed and un-blanketed!

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Serenity, in particular, is enjoying the balmy, breezy warmth of Florida

They are enjoying respite from the challenging winds of Wyoming.  They are very peaceful at the beautiful barn I’ve found for them.  Even finding that barn was a miracle.

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I had been making making inquiries about boarding barns in South Florida on a  barn-resource website, and this particular barn owner was the first to reply.  It was the first barn I visited when I got here for “reconnaissance”.  The beauty and peaceful energy, seemingly coming up from the land itself, were all I needed to know.  Although I visited a couple of other barns after this one, there was simply no comparison.  The barn decision was easy and has turned out to be better than expected.

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Spirit and a masked Baby Doe (protecting her eyes from the sun) who had recently had a lovely roll in the dirt ūüėČ

Second of all, I was able to get a farrier to see my three within a few days of arriving.  He’s been with this barn for 20 years.  He actually looked at the x-rays of Baby Doe’s navicular arthritis and spent a long time pointing out things in the images that no one had showed me before.  He has made a plan of action for her best pain management and to help her be a sound as possible. Yes, he’s actually a farrier who “shows up” on many different levels!

He then recommended a trainer that he and the barn owner have known for many years.  I had  already begun interviewing trainers but my “spidey sense” was sending red flags of “No”.

This trainer was open and listened to what I was hoping for for my three.  Each of them has a different personality, background and issues.  She heard that.  As we’ve begun work with them, I see more and more that she really does “get” that each of them is on a different path.  As for my own training ūüôā well, she sees to it that I’m understanding what she’s doing and gives tips and instructions on how I can also do these techniques…in time…

She also made me aware of a new treatment for navicular disease and I’m having the new vet, who understands navicular, out to the barn to implement this treatment this week!  Oh, to see Baby Doe out of pain…!

Then there’s getting back to my riding training…in time…

That’s another huge part of my sleeping bear.  I am consciously choosing to only do one thing at a time…I am resisting the ever-present pressure to take on more than I can handle.  I am taking care of my slightly fragile psyche right now. (By the way, in my way of thinking, it takes a lot of strength to let oneself feel fragile…)

I am also giving myself the gift of time….time to grieve Hercules’ death; time to grieve the loss of some of my dearest, most private hopes; time to sit on my balcony and just watch palm fronds blowing as the sun sets; time to sit in the pasture where my horses peacefully graze and allow my inner time clock to meld with their time clocks.

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Spirit and I having a “discussion”…while Serenity occupies herself in another direction ūüôā

Their clocks move very slowly… I watch each move, each ear flick, each eye expression change.  I watch how they’re chewing their grass or hay.  I watch each interaction in the wordless dance they weave together.

I am also giving myself permission not to know. Not to know what’s next.  Not to know when I need to do the next thing for the ranch.  Not to know who is going to be part of my life there, whether as staff or visiting friends.  I really don’t know.  And, surprisingly, I don’t care that I don’t know.

I am enjoying things that I had not given myself permission to enjoy for a couple of years now.  Yes, indeed!  Things such as shopping, not for tack, but for sparkly high heeled sandals.  Things such as actually putting on a cute outfit for the day; something other than jeans, boots and a cotton shirt, since my days, before this respite, had always ended up at the barn, and any clothing gets muddy, torn and faded with barn work ūüôā Things such as taking naps, reading good books and seeing friends I hadn’t had time to see in the past while.

The horses are just fine. More than fine.  They are getting what they need.

Ah yes, the bear is sleeping. But time will go by.  I may indeed be feeling too safe, too soon.

I accept that.  For now, however, this is good.  This is very good.

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Confession Number Ten: I Am Very Bad At Grief

 

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The Wyoming Winter Sky Echoes The Sadness Within Me

An Unexpected Death Watch:

I tried, I really tried to make him well again!¬† I knew my boy cat, Hercules, wasn’t well.¬† He had dropped a lot of weight in a short period of time. His little spine felt like a dinosaur skeleton.¬† He was lethargic and vocally¬†complaining a lot.

I took him to the wonderful vet, Dr. Brenda, and we did everything. Some things we did twice.  She was very accommodating, even though she knew by palpating the mass in his abdomen, looking at the x-rays and the blood tests, that, in all likelihood, he had lymphoma.  But she bore with me as I asked for yet another round of antibiotics, for more tests, for more ex-rays, ANYTHING to somehow make it not so.

Finally, this past Wednesday, we both realized she needed to open up his abdomen to see what this was, if it had spread, if it was removable.¬† She sent me on errands around town rather than have me drive back up to the ranch.¬† But in just a few minutes,¬†by the time I had filled up my truck at the gas station, I had a call from her asking me to come immediately back to the vet’s office so I could see the mass for myself.

Most vets wouldn’t have invited the patient’s “mom” into the operating room, but Dr. Brenda had already observed my ability to watch surgical¬†cutting, gore, and spewing blood when I remained present for Baby Doe’s leg “boo boo” surgery.¬† She knew I wouldn’t faint at the sight of Hercules’ open abdomen ūüė¶

What I did see in my precious boy’s abdomen was the largest, ugliest, most grotesque, hateful mass imaginable.¬† It surrounded his intestines, it made viewing some of his other organs almost impossible.¬† For me, it was “hate at first sight”.¬† Dr. Brenda was right there with me, hating this hideous monster of a mass in my boy’s belly.

She gave me the choice whether to sew him back up and let him live out what was left to him or to give him the meds that would let him gently drift over the rainbow bridge.

After ascertaining the pain management options available to him, added to the fact that he had still been eating, drinking, trotting around with his tail straight up and cuddling with massive purring, I had her sew him back up.

Many might disagree with this decision, but as long as he wasn’t suffering in pain and he was still vibrant enough to get all the love and goodbyes that we all needed to give him, I would wait with him for when he decided it was time…

And so, now, it is just a matter of time.  At the first sign of no appetite, hiding out, and pain in his eyes, I WILL do what is necessary.

In the meantime, there is one room in which he likes to hang out by his water fountain.¬† I’ve been putting a blanket and pillow on the floor at night¬†to sleep next to him for¬†the few nights I probably¬†have left with him.

My grief is almost unendurable.  He has been an amazing companion.

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Grief….pure grief….

I tell his story on my other website Christine Hendler’s Blog in¬†a May 2014 post titled A Tail of Four Cats as well as a description of what I now realize was the beginning of his cancer in an October 2014 post titled Try To Remember The Kind Of September

In most of my posts, I try to find the lesson to be learned in the experiences I have.¬† In this experience, here’s what I’ve learned.

First Lesson:¬† My neighbor, who is a tough Wyoming cattle rancher, and who checks in on me regularly ( I think he can’t quite believe a petite, blond girlie girl¬†is managing and living on¬†80 acres all by herself), actually reacted with kindness and complete understanding when he came by the other day and all I could do was sob (ugly sobbing, believe me!)¬† He actually¬†praised my ability to let out my sorrow rather than hold it in.¬† Who knew that even the toughest cowboys “get it”.

Second Lesson: In horsemanship discussions, it is reiterated endlessly that one has to be the leader that one’s horse can trust.¬†Being herd animals, horses look to the leader (whether horse or human)¬†they can¬†confidently follow.¬† For me, this has been an ongoing challenge in learning about “true” leadership.¬† I often berate myself and feel like I will never get to that point that is so prettily written about¬†in the articles and books I read.

On the night I realized that Hercules is indeed dying of cancer, I was having a heck of a time removing the eye mask that Baby Doe must wear daily, since her light eyes could be severely damaged by the sun.

She was in one of her mare-ish Princess/Diva Doe moods and having none of it.¬† Finally, in my anguish, I said to her “Look, Baby Doe, Hercules is dying and I can’t handle you and your f—ing Diva ways tonight so f—ing let me get this f—ing thing off.”¬† At which point I broke down sobbing and couldn’t stop.¬† She slowly turned her head to look at me, took a step closer, bowed her head and touched my shoulder with her nose and invited me to get the mask off without any trouble whatsoever. (By the way, any horse person who tells you they’ve NEVER dropped the “F Bomb” with their horse is not exactly telling you the full story…:)

I learned that leadership equals honesty.  Horses never lie and one can never lie to a horse.  They know.  My anger and grief were my truth and she responded to that truth.

My worry about Hercules, the horses, the ranch and my loved ones,¬†is so intense these days that my forehead needs botox! ūüôā¬† But I still have tremendous faith in God.

I choose, now, to¬†sit in a place of ¬†love and gratitude for my beloved Hercules.¬† I choose, now,¬† to¬†wait with him for the moment he tells me, “It’s time. I’m ready.”

I choose, now, that he and I will watch for death…together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confession Number Eight: The Novice Horsewoman Bids Farewell To Florida…

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An Unexpected Grief:

Days away from departing Florida and beginning a new life in Wyoming, the plethora of emotions are profound and dizzying.  When writing to a dear friend in an attempt to untangle some of these emotions, he suggested that some of what I am feeling might be grief.  The minute he wrote that, I knew that was IT.

Florida might be hot, humid, overcrowded, populated with some less than patient or polite people, with traffic that just won’t quit…¬†BUT…oh how I love this lovely state!

It is here that I experienced unprecedented personal growth, had loads of fun, knew love, loss of love, laughter, sadness and yearning.¬† It is here that I enjoyed a certain “off-the-mainland”, unexpected wildness.¬† It is here I learned to dance some amazing flamenco, found peace in kick-ass yoga classes and learned to be a somewhat proficient markswoman ūüôā

It is here that I found my two beloved equine “partners”¬†and heard God’s unexpected calling.

Yes, I will always love Florida.

I say farewell with a gallery of pictures and memories.¬† In this case, these pictures are each worth a thousand words…

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Each morning brought a new artistic creation with the sunrise over the ocean. I never left home without my trusty camera ūüôā

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Sunrise in a different light.

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Morning walks on the beach often brought companionship ūüôā

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Observing pelicans was endlessly fascinating. From physical structure to hilarious personalities. they were superb!

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And then there were the boats…

...and boats...

…and boats…

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…Old Florida, cheesy, fun, tourist boats like the Jungle Queen…

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Gorgeously lit boats for the Christmastime Boat Parade, celebrated in the “Venice of America” – Fort Lauderdale

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The ancient surviving canopy over the Loxahatchee River provided breathtaking canoe trips.

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And some not-so-breathtaking muddiness when porting canoe over drier spots ūüôā

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Swimming with the dolphins. Pure JOY!

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And more sedate outings to the historic Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach.

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Christmas season at The Breakers is magical.

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I never imagined I would have the opportunity to get up close and personal with a giraffe! Thank you Florida for this!

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These pictures barely scratch the surface of the wealth of memories and emotions that I will carry with me in my heart as I now turn my eyes West.

Thank you, thank you Florida!

I say farewell.

This novice horsewoman will continue her confessions…the good, bad and the silly…in Wyoming!

Baby Doe and I take a walk (2)