As I sat here this evening, surrounded by the mountainous task that is our holiday card list, I realized that it has been forever since I posted anything to my blog. There are many reasons for that, most are monumental. I'd started out the year with big plans and a lot of optimism - I was going to be able to focus more on two of my passions: horses and photography. Well, we all know what happens to the best laid plans, especially when that guy, Murphy, gets invited to the party. It's called life, and regardless of how well prepared we think we are, sometimes, it's never enough. This year has certainly been one of those. I can unequivocally tell you it has been the most trying year of my life, containing one of the most devastating losses I'd hoped to never imagine, coupled with horrible injuries, surgery, and one catastrophic event after another in rapid succession. Despite all of that, it has also brought unexpected gifts from some of the oddest places, presented opportunities I'd never expected, and put some amazing people in my life. When one door closes...
We lost our sweet boy, Echo, in June. It was heart wrenching. It was brutal. It was so very unexpected. He reminded me of his father so much (Major, the love of my life and most breathtaking stallion I've ever had the pleasure to live and work with. We lost him unexpectedly while Samba was in foal to him with Echo. I always said he made certain that he left a piece of himself behind before departing this Earth to help heal my broken heart heart. Echo did just that). I openly admitted when Echo was born that I just wanted to wrap him in bubble wrap and keep him safe until he was 50. Sometimes, we know when souls are only on loan to us, and I have always been incredibly protective of that colt. He was far too precious to be here for long. On some level I knew it, and just having him in the pasture, being able to touch him, share space with him, and love him, was enough. I was never in a hurry to get him started under saddle (I told everyone that we had the rest of his life for that, but it really was because I simply wanted him to be, and I wanted him to just be for as long as possible). Sadly, it was far shorter than I expected, and I look back on the short time that he was here and find peace that he knew nothing but love, happiness, and freedom in his life. I am grateful for every single moment I had with him, and all the days I made time to just be with him. Scratches, kisses to that sweet little muzzle, and lots and lots of hugs - bless him, he was so tolerant of it all, and I think he really did enjoy it as much as I. So much like his daddy in that respect. *sigh* On one morning in June, through no fault of his, I was hurt, badly, and he was gone. With multiple broken bones, a punctured lung, and various other injuries that aren't worth mentioning, I spent his last moments with him just steps from where he took his first breaths in my arms. I could not leave him in those final moments, not for any broken bones (not for anything). Bones, those heal. Hearts, however, are a much different story.
The days following Echo's death were dark ones. I was hospitalized due to my injuries, eventually having surgery months later to repair my collarbone, and spent over three months recovering in a hospital bed. My family and friends were, and still are, absolutely amazing. Our clients stepped in and became more than customers, they were friends in every sense of the word. We have some amazing veterinarians who did everything that there was to be done (and subsequently, helped us with the other equine events that littered the year). Together, these people surrounded Mike and I with an outpouring of love, generosity, and compassion that it is still a bit overwhelming. People came to care for our horses, others brought meals, some brought shoulders to cry on and grieved along side me. There was a lot of that. They took care of me physically, but more importantly, they helped to start healing my heart. I am incredibly blessed to be so loved by such amazing people. I cannot say that enough. My husband had to endure the same loss as I, take care of me, make sure the horses were taken care of, and attempt to also take care of the mundane daily tasks we all deal with when things are normal. How he did all of that and still had something left over at the end of the day is beyond me. I don't think either of us would have made it through this year without the other.
My bones are pretty much healed now. That collarbone is never going to be the same, and there are days when it still bothers me. I miss my Echo just as much now as I did in those first few days after his passing. There are moments when the loss is still too raw to bear. I sometimes have trouble going out to the barn. The visions from that day aren't likely to leave me any time soon, and there is an ache in my heart that I think is pretty permanent. I am finally able to hold a camera again, and that feels good. Life is returning to a new normal. It is much different, but it's good. I've learned a lot about life and myself over this past year. I've always known I was a strong person. Turns out that I'm even stronger than I would have given myself credit for emotionally AND physically. It also turns out that now that I know it, I hope I never have to have it tested again. Not like this. I would have gladly taken more broken bones and physical injuries to spare my heart this loss and keep my boy safe. If only it were that simple. It's the closest thing I think, to mothers who would gladly take on an illness or an injury to spare their child, and while some people may not understand that, and think I should be so very thankful that I made it out of that stall alive (I am), horse moms who have lived and breathed every breath alongside an incredibly special equine soul know exactly what I'm talking about. Broken ribs? Bring it, break them all. I can take that. But living without my son, ugh - far harder, more painful, and it lingers with you long after your body has healed.
Lastly, I've always told people that once our companions have passed over, you can never have too many pictures. For all of the obvious reasons - and please, take my word for this - you can never have too many pictures. For me, for Echo, but mainly for YOU, go out TODAY and get at least one fantastic, high resolution photo of your loved ones. Don't put it off. Your horses, dogs, your cats, your goats, whatever four legged, furry, or feathered creature you are blessed enough to love and share life with. Take pictures of your children and your spouse (you WITH your spouse - that one always gets overlooked), your parents, your in-laws, your siblings. Do it as often as possible. Back those photos up somewhere and turn this into a habit. You will never, ever regret it. Hire someone who is a pro to do it at least once a year. It is worth the expense. Trust me on this. Photographs are proof that we, you, they - were all there together at the captured point in time, hopefully healthy, certainly happy, and were loved.
Thank you to every single one of you who helped us this year. We can never thank you enough or feel like we've repaid the kindnesses that our friends, and in some cases, complete strangers, have shown us. We are incredibly grateful, and that comes from the most sincere of places. Now, go. Live. Find some happiness in your day today. Love everyone and everything in your life. Let them know it. Instead of making that hug a quick one, let it linger for as long as it should. They are opportunities not to be passed up.