it poured down rain last night and in the guest room of this house i could hear the water rushing through the gutters. by morning the worst of it had passed and it was just gray and drizzling when the backhoe arrived and started digging the hole in the front paddock. and then the vet pulled in. i got the bean set up with gramps playing in the sand by the barn and put the pea on my back in lse and walked with my mom and the vet and dylan all the way to the front edge of the front paddock where the backhoe was digging. the pea was being relatively quiet and the rain had mostly stopped so i felt calm.
we have been preparing for this passing for weeks. the idea that he would not make it back up north again, talking it over with him and the other horses, calling the vet to discuss with her, supporting my mom as she wondered if it really was the right thing. last thursday was set to be the day we put him down but huge thunder storms rolled in and it was too wet to dig. we rescheduled for this morning. on saturday night he rolled in a red ant hill and was attacked but we didn’t know until the morning when we came out and saw his swollen neck which he had rubbed to a bloody raw mess in spots. my mom was heartbroken that he was suffering on his last day but each time i checked in with him he was just the littlest bit upset. he was already so detached from his body there was very little suffering going on.
we treated the wound as best we could, made him comfortable, and at his request we focused on his passing. we got a copy of the song he is named after (storm warning by bonnie raitt) downloaded it to my mom’s computer and we thought about what else we might want to do to honor his passing. and we cried a little bit and we also just said, “we are ready.”
my mom has had dylan for about 15 years give or take and if there is one thing he has been it is her horse. through and through to the bottom of his soul and beyond he had been deeply devoted to her and her to him. he has been like a rock in her life. and although i feel connected to him, this time, saying goodbye, the crossing, has been for me about helping my mom say goodbye to a true soul touching friend.
so out to the field we go. the storm has cleared. and the vet asks me if i know what a horse is like going down and of course i do because we have been here before. as she is injecting dylan i close my eyes and i call out to springy (an old horse of ours who is on the other side who told me before he would help dylan cross) and i tell him the moment is here and dylan is leaving his body any second so can he please be ready. and then i can see him standing there waiting on the other side of the river. he is round and full and healthy and his mane sticks straight up and he has the shortest little tail that stops right as his hocks. he looks fantastic. and then dylan, here in ordinary reality, takes two tiny steps backwards (that is so dylan) and falls to the ground. his eyes are still open but the light is gone just like that.
i close my eyes again and i see the two of them now. dylan is fat in the belly and angular everywhere else, a thoroughbred in his prime with a rich shiny summer coat and he is galloping and kicking out. and i feel, not sad at all, but joyous. absolutely weightless, joyous, free and alive. so in crossing, in dying, i feel life.
we say goodbye to dylan and i am smiling because i know how he is feeling. he is in the land of perfection and he is freed from the trials of an aging body and he is with his herd over there. later my mom will read what she wrote about their time together and cry a little. then we will turn on his song and dance around the living room smiling and crying at the same time. and the wind will pick up and blow like mad during the sunny day and my mom will say the weather is perfect for the day he passed. but at the moment he crosses there is nothing in my heart but joy and that is the teaching he last gifted us. the running free bucking galloping tail high gift of goodbye and thank you.
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.