Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
I had to wait a couple of weeks to write this post. Despite the prayers, despite the medicine, despite a stay at the equine hospital, my horse, Trucker, died. My buddy of 15 years, my first and likely last horse died. And it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pleasant. The shock and sadness still resonates with me even though almost two weeks and a trip to the mountains separates me from the experience. This is what happened. Trucker became so weak that one night when I got home from work, I called a different vet, one with emergency experience, to come and see him. She said he needed to go to the equine hospital right away. Within thirty minutes, we were on the road with my very sick horse in the trailer. He had not been eating more than a handful of hay and almost no grain for several weeks and his body started depleting its fat cells. He stayed at the clinic for four nights with excellent care. We met some lovely veterinarians who were so kind and compassionate. He had several ups and downs in his health, and we had a serious discussion about end of life decisions. But, after a few days, he seemed to rally, so we brought him back home. Still, he would not eat no matter how much we pampered him. We even mixed medicines with applesauce forcing them in him. I had hope, but knowing that we were supposed to leave on vacation, we made arrangements to take him back to the hospital so that they could care for him while we were gone. He didn’t make it. The day we were to transport him to the hospital, Glen found him lying down in the pasture. He could not get up. He was too weak. Though a friend brought a forklift, and we were able to get Trucker to stand with straps around his belly, he was not strong enough to stay erect. He collapsed, and I called the vet to come and put him to sleep. Kind, loving hands arrived. Knowledgeable doctors reached deep into their studies, but there was no other option. Trucker was starving to death. So, I cradled his head in my hands, and they administered the medicine to end his life. I saw a cloud pass across his eyes and knew he was gone. Then, I had a choice. I could rail against God, question why He didn’t answer our prayers. Ask why me? Why Trucker? He wasn’t all that old. He had never been sick. Had always been an “easy keeper.” Why now? I won’t pretend that didn’t cross my mind. But, God was already preparing my heart through a novel I was reading by Katie Ganshert called Life After. In it, the heroine survives a terrorist attack that kills 22 other people. Through her recovery, her grief and her post traumatic syndrome, she discovers that in crisis, the question we should ask is not “Why?” but “Who?” “Who walks with us through our grief?” “Who comforts us in our sorrow?” “Who holds our future and our past?” The answer is God. We may never know the answer to “Why?”, but the answer is always the same when we ask “Who?” So I let God comfort me? I let the friends He sent my way comfort me. I remembered the compassion of the vets. The kindness of Trucker’s eyes and the suffering he left behind. I still grieve, but the Shepherd holds me.