How are you with death? I'm not so good. Maybe because I'm an atheist. Maybe because I believe that this mortal coil is all we have and when we shake it, well, then we're just space dust again. I haven't had the best trip so far, yesterday morning we had to euthanize a horse. Yes, she was old but she wasn't that old, and she seemed quite healthy and full of life. Until she wasn't.
I found her when I went out to feed breakfast. It was just after 7, I was leading Solstice into the barn when I looked up and saw Laponia, she was laying down in the field. When she saw me she tried to get up. She got her forelegs under her and struggled, they buckled and she went down again. Laponia is Eungene's old Lusitano mare. She's been a wonderful horse, kind, sweet well mannered. The kind of horse you could put a tiny child on and they would be perfectly safe but then if a competent rider got on she would pick herself up and do all the Grand Prix movements. The kind of horse we all wish for, the once in a lifetime horse.
I ran to the house to let Eugene know and then went to her. Her eyelids and gums were scarlet and I knew she was fucked. She had rolled and rolled she had crashed thru part of the fence and I knew she had twisted her colon. She was exhausted and sweaty and bleeding from some cuts around her eye and her nose. I tried to get her up and she looked at me blankly. Eugene came out and when she heard his voice she made a monumental effort to get up, she struggled to her feet and staggered to him. We walked her down to the barn.
She was so shocky that we couldn't get a vein to come up to give her IV pain killers. We had to give them IM. Eugene wanted to believe that she'd be ok, but she was in really bad shape. We called the vet. He wanted to put her in her stall, I told him it was a bad idea. If they go down in a stall you have to disassemble either the barn or the horse to get them out and it's quite unpleasant. So he kept walking her outside, then she collapsed. We covered her with blankets and he held her head until the vet arrived. By that time, I think even he knew she would have to be euthanized. The vet came and it was very quiet and peaceful, the painkillers had helped her, all her people were around her, she was a gentle soul till the end. No thrashing no hysterics, she just closed her big soft eyes and let go.
It was upsetting, but death is part of life. We're all going to peg out at some point. But the thing about horses is that they are really big. And there are no horsey undertakers, unless you want to call the rendering plant and have them hauled off for dog food. Laponia is buried here on the farm under an enormous Live Oak tree. But that in itself was an ordeal.
First the backhoe came and dug a huge hole. Then comes the unpleasant part. I didn't want Eugene to watch. He told me, "I'm there for my friends to the very end, and Laponia was my great friend". He tied her hind legs to the back of the truck himself and dragged her up the hill to the hole. He helped the backhoe operator position her so they could push her in. And I stood there with him. I didn't want to, but I did. I'm there for my friends, even when it's awful, even when I'm crying and I want to throw up. Because I believe that this is all we have. We have this one chance to live life and experience the good, the bad, the ugly and the inexpressibly wonderful, and if we cop out because it's more comfortable then we miss the most important part. The part where we connect with each other on a base and visceral level, where we are so vibrantly alive or so painfully dead.