When people would ask Grandma how I came to live on her farm she would chuckle and say, "P came to ride the horse and never left."
To which I would counter, "I'm only staying till the horse is dead."
I lived for ~16 years on the farm, and ironically...I did only stayed till the horse died.
Corey and I were still just friends. Meeting up every two weeks or so to play chess. Emailing and just talking about life, his faith, my lack of faith and all sorts of things. I had started attending church with him to gain an understanding of his love for Jesus. I liked this tall man and his gentleness. I admired the peace and calmness that surrounded him. I wished for that centered peace within my shifting chaotic-suicidal mind.
Nibbon was a 1/2 Arabian 1/2 quarter horse. Dapple grey and the perfect blend of the two breeds. He had a skin cancer that afflicts grey/white skinned horses. It was slow growing and the vet said "someday it will go internal and you will know its time to put him down."
The week before I had saddled him for the kids and they rode him in the front yard. Out of character for him, he would go a little bit out and then return to the front porch and put his head on my chest.
"what's wrong with him today?" the farm kids asked.
My stomach sank as I realized he didn't know where he was, but he knew who I was. I set my gut on ice and said, "he doesn't want to be ridden today." I unsaddle and brushed him and took him to the pasture.
A week or so later I went out to feed and only Tinkerbell the welsh pony was at the gate. I looked past her and saw Nibbon trying to get up to answer my morning bellows for breakfast.
He struggled unable to rise. I climbed the fence and went to him. He looked around confused. My face and stomach tightened into twin frowns. I left his flake of hay so he could eat there.
I seemed like and hour to walk back to the house and call Grandma.
She was in a meeting the switch board wanted to take a message.
"No, please page her this is a family emergency."
I waited dreading to be the one to tell her. This horse was special to so many people, he was a beloved member of the Farm clan.
"It's P, Nibbon is unable to get up for breakfast. It's time."
We all knew it would come someday. We always hoped it would be some other day.
We lead him to the back pasture. The vet filled that 60 cc syringe and patted his neck and waited for us to say goodbye. Grandma nuzzled his face and gave the lead rope to me and backed off to deal with her own grief.
"Mitakuye Oyasin" (all are related) I whispered to him. Leaning down I blew into his nose and shared one last wuff of life with him. "I led you in this life, you lead me in the next."
The euthanasia medicine stops the heart quickly. His body fell over with a heavy thud. I held fast to the lead rope so his head didn't slam the earth. The tears came as I gently lowered his beautiful head and knelt to unbuckle his halter.
Good bye my friend. Thank you for taking me on all those wonderful rides in the trails. I bury a piece of my heart here with you today.
Grandma planted a packet of tiny flowers in the planter behind the rocking chair and next to the front door of the house that night. She told me she asked Nibbon to come with a message when the flowers bloomed.
That day came exactly 60 days later.
It was a Sunday and I was rushing out the door to head to the neighboring town to go to church with Corey.
I bolted out the door and then froze in my tracks. Turned around open the door and leaned in over the planter. Several tiny blue flowers peered back at me. I smiled at the memory of my four legged friend.
I headed off vaguely hearing Grandmas word in my ears. I asked Nibbon to come with a message when the flowers bloomed.
At church I sat down and awaited Pastor Tim to start the service. I was beginning to heal on the inside by coming to here and seeing what Christianity was all about. I also very much enjoyed the company of this man who was helping me dig my way out of the terrible rut my life had fallen into. It was so nice to have a friend who I enjoyed interacting with. Someone who didn't want anything from me but to play chess and talk with.
As we stood and sang the opening songs, I felt relaxed. I had issues in the past with abuse by "Christians" and it had taken a lot of Sunday field trips to Bethel to be able to put my guard down and not feel like someone was going to jump up and point me out and demand the heathen leave the church.
As Pastor Tim took the podium he motioned for us to be seated.
The gentleman in front of me removed his coat as he sat down.
He leadeth me beside the still waters
Every system in my body stopped functioning as I read that message on his shirt. Everything around me hushed in the distinctive dissociative heighten awareness aura.
Above the message on his shirt was a cowboy, kneeling next to a horse....a horse that looked exactly like Nibbon.
My life has been filled with many wondrous signs from the spiritual world.
But I have to say, this one tops the cake.
I tried to force myself to refocus and listen to the sermon. My mind and eyes kept returning to the man's shirt.
I led you in this life, you lead me in the next.
He leadeth me beside the still waters
My mind whirled.
Is this where I belong?
The man rose up to free his wife's sweater from underneath him and in doing so revealed the bottom on the image.
Psalm 23 it read.
I could feel my face freeze over as layer after layer of dissociation happened in quick succession. This was too much to comprehend at this moment. I turned and looked at Corey.
He glanced my way and smiled. Then for a second his eyes returned front then he looked back, this time with concern in them.
Normally if attending church spooked me he would quietly reassure me with a squeeze of my hand. Today he must have seen something deeper because he immediately scooted over and put his arm around me and held me firmly but gently.
I closed my eyes and took a big breath. Alright Nibbon, I hear you. You didn't need to punctuate your message with my favorite number, I got your message horse.