When I was 13 we had a mare with a dummy foal. I can remember loading Cash in the trailer and mom and I putting the pretty little chestnut filly in the bed of the truck to rush her to the closest equine specialist we knew - two hours away. I laid next to that baby, soothing her as much as I could with touch and voice until I could barely keep my head up. If I sit and think about it I can still feel the texture of her baby fuzz against my forehead.
There, I dreamed.
She and I were in a large meadow so lush and beautiful that there aren't words capable of describing its verdance. We stood, or rather knelt, on one side of a crystal clear stream; it wasn't very wide, but it burbled and sang better than any sound machine I've ever heard. Across from us, dotting the greenery like exotic flowers, were horses of every shape, size, and color. They grazed and frolicked with joy that still brings tears to my eyes.
As the filly, Hope, tried to stand one horse peeled off and trotted up to us. He whickered encouragingly at her, with his silken black mane streaming. At the time I didn't recognize the kind of loving sounds a mare makes to her baby when it is first born, but I do now. I sat there in a stupor as she rose on her wobbly little legs and stretched towards that shining ebony stallion, but then I gathered my wits and called her back. I told her about her mama, and what we were trying to do to help her and she came back to me.
Then I woke up. I don't know why. I talked to my mom for a few minutes, and again laid my head down on her neck.
I was instantly right back by the stream. Hope had wandered closer to it in my absence, but I called her back again. The stallion stood patiently, nickering and whinnying at her in a language that, like many "horse people," I've always wished I could know.
But there I knew. He was calling her to his side of that brook just like I kept calling her to mine. He had the deepest brown eyes, so full of love and compassion. It is weird to remember them so clearly after so long.
I repeated the process of waking and dreaming three more times before I fell back asleep on her rapidly stilling body. She had crossed the stream then, while I was away and didn't call her back; she was running and playing with all the ease that she should have had in life. Many of the horses greeted and groomed her just like they would an old herd mate - nuzzling and nibbling on her beautifully arched little neck. I wanted to call her back again, to beg her to come back to me, but I couldn't bring myself to take her away from such happiness.
I watched that herd for what felt like forever, their sleek coats reflected the bright sunlight, all of them were in prime condition, and perfectly happy munching grasses amongst the wildflowers and shade trees. I came to think of it as my brush with heaven, and after that dying (which had terrified me before) wasn't so scary anymore.
I came home at lunch and found Gymmy, one of the horses, down. He had a freak accident earlier today that broke his ankle and had to be euthanized.
Gymnasium Joe, I'm going to miss your cantankerous soul and so will your herd mates, but I can only pray that you crossed that stream happily and are gamboling your giant heart out in a body that won't fail you now.
RIP big boy. Say hi to everyone for me.