We are two years on now, since the day you suddenly left, but our separation is a much slower process than the dying of your body. Two years, and my memories of you are slowly and inevitably decaying, and that process is the source of its own, specific grief. The knowledge of our time together is something that I will alway have, but it’s the feel of it that is becoming more imagined and less remembered. And I don’t want that. I reject it and refuse to let go. I hoard the memories in a hidden stash that I guard tenaciously; I take them out to examine them one at a time when I’m alone, turning them over carefully, handling them like precious, delicate things, savoring their ability to just warm the edges of my grief, while at the same time embedding it even more deeply. It’s a habit that brings me a confusing mixture of comfort and pain - pain that is not lessened, but in fact worsened by the passage of time. I resist the urge to demand answers that I know won't come. I resist the urge to beg for relief that I know will require forgetting.
I hate that you died. I hate that you died the way you did. I hate that you suffered those last hours before I was brave enough to give you relief. I hate thinking of you, lying there in the sand, with the path of each hoof tracing the arc of your pain as the toxin spread through your body, paralyzing your intestines first, and then the rest of you too, so that your tongue hung limply from your mouth and your eyes looked so confused and I didn’t have an answer.
I wish I would have held you more that last night we spent together, but I couldn't accept what was happening. When my vet checked on us at 3 am, I cheerfully told him that I thought you were improving. I thought you were going to get better right up until you weren’t. I thought the sun would rise and you would be ok. When you finally laid down, I thought that resting would restore you. I didn’t cry as the doctor gave you the injection; I pet your face and told you that all was ok. Quite quickly, the pain lost its grip on you, and there was moment of tranquility before it fully took hold of me. Later, I was aware that someone came and took your body, but I stayed in my room with the curtains drawn and a pillow over my head, trying not to hear the truck. I paid extra for you to be lifted onto a glider and loaded gently into the trailer, rather than dragged by a chain around your foot. After that, the shape of you was still there in the sand for awhile. I laid down in the impression from your body and wept for hours. Three days later, I would ride on the back of your best friend past that spot, and she would throw me down hard onto that sand in a violent and angry reaction to what had happened there. I’m grateful for her honesty and I'm grateful that there is another being who knows what it felt like to lose you. We are your widows, the two of us.
I still don't really know how I'm going to go on without you, and yet here we are. I'm aware that I need to find a way through the sadness, but that is a relatively recent realization. I've been waiting for the sadness to leave me, but it seems that it will require some doing on my part. It is an uncomfortable surprise to consider that perhaps I have some control over the sadness, rather than the other way around. It's uncomfortable because the sadness has become the strongest way I have to connect with you. If I let go of the sadness, it seems that then you really will be gone.
It occurred to me not long ago that going on without you means becoming a person who does not need you. But how is that possible when so much of what I know about myself was learned from you? It's true that I've grown since you've left, but this new person is not fully formed...she is like a spoiled two-year old who cannot comprehend that the thing she wants is impossible, throwing herself flat on the floor in a tantrum.
The herd that came together after you died is one of the greatest joys in my life. Last year, on the anniversary of your death, I made this video to remind me of the joy that grew from the loss. There's a little bit of you here, with these four. This family wouldn't exist if you hadn't died. Thank you for this last of the many gifts you gave to me. I promise to give the best I have to offer to each of these beings.