I had to put my horse down yesterday.
I awoke this morning and looked out back at the horses, and she was not there. Every morning for the past couple years, I would look out and see her butt sticking out of the shelter. The other two (horse and pony) would be nuzzled inside and Marcy (my horse), being the last in the pecking order, would only get to stick her head in the shelter. Today, there was an empty space in that shelter.
Yesterday I had to make the painful decision, on her behalf, and thankfully it was an obvious decision (it was not easy). Her injured eye had given way, requiring either expensive surgery to remove the eye or the need to put her down. The vet came out to check the eye one more time to be certain whether or not the eye had a chance. We had to sedate Marcy for the vet to look her over because it was so painful for Marcy. The vet confirmed that the eye had ulcerated and the ulcer had burst. That is when it hit me. It was time to say goodbye. Up until that moment of truth, I still held out hope that there might be something we could do to help her heal. Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do.
We had to wait a while for the sedation to wear off enough to walk Marcy to the place where we would lay her body to rest. I had to hold her head up while she was sedated in her stall in order to help her stay steady standing up until the sedation wore off. It was a precious time of hugging and kissing her and saying good bye. But her head was heavy. Today my arms literally ache. But my heart aches more.
For 18 years, I have had the opportunity to see my horse and spend time with her. Today, I no longer have that opportunity. When I awoke yesterday, I did not know that it would be the last day that I would get to have with her here on earth. Today, I wish I could see her again.
It is such a painstaking reminder to make the most of every opportunity. God reminds us over and over again of how short life is. He reminds us that our lives are a mere breath.
“You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure” (Psalm 39:5).
“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
We are not guaranteed another moment. Each moment that we have on earth is a gift. It is a gift to spend time with one another. It is a gift to learn and grow and mature. It is a gift to see and experience cool things.
I am guilty of wasting too many days living naively, assuming that things will not change, assuming I have plenty of time. I have recorded many ill-spent days lamenting the way circumstances have turned out. I have wasted many a day caught up in the busyness of life.
Make the most of every opportunity. People are what matter. Knowing the God of the Universe is what matters most.
Ultimately, we were not created for this world alone. We were created to live in a place with no suffering and no pain.
Until God releases us from this world and invites us into his eternal presence through the blood of Jesus, we will experience pain. The pain of losing a horse does not compare with the pain of losing a child or another loved one. But pain is pain. Any measure of it stinks. Loss is loss. Loss leaves us with empty, aching arms.
I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Maker of heaven and earth grieves with us when we experience pain. I know that he hates to see his children suffer. He hates to see their (our) pain. (See my previous blog post, “Worst Weekend,” for an explanation for why God can not stop our pain.)
My good friend, who experienced the unbearable loss of her daughter at 34 weeks gestation shared something she had read that said, “You don’t ever get over a loss, you get through it.”
Whenever anyone experiences a loss, there is an emptiness that can never be satisfyingly filled. No one and no thing can fill the place that a loved one used to fill. God, however, can fill us to a measure that does not leave us wanting more. When God offers himself – his presence – nothing can compare. The loss still leaves a hole, but God soothes the wound and fills in the hole. When we experience a loss, an opportunity is created for God to fill us with more of himself.
When life leaves us with empty, aching arms, we have a choice. The easiest choice is to dwell on the emptiness or look to fill the emptiness with things that wear off or ultimately leave us feeling more empty. The best, yet most difficult choice, is to be brave enough to consider moving forward, one step at a time, holding hands with the God who loves you dearly and is strong enough to hold you up when you feel you have no strength to continue.
The Footprints Prayer
One night I had a dream…
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, and Across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before us, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life, There was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, You would walk with me all the way; But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, There is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why in times when I needed you the most, you should leave me.
The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child. I love you, and I would never, never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.”