The Moment After


This picture of Walter from his first stay at Mizzou after his colic surgery is one of my favorites. The play of light and shadow and the intensity of his eye strikes some powerful chord inside of me.  Perhaps because I am reminded of how much hope we’ve been pouring into this horse and his healing for over 5 months.  Perhaps because so much of my life this past year has been playing with seeing the center space between light and shadow.  And probably both of these and more.

Yesterday afternoon when Dr. Reed, Walter’s surgeon, spoke the words “He looks great. The hernia is healed.” it was as if someone had pulled a pin out of giant balloon in my chest I’ve been trying to keep inflated for a very long time.  Oh, I felt happy, so very happy for him and for Kateri, but those tears came flooding out of me in sobbing tears.  Pretty sure I freaked the vet students out a little bit.  Dr. Reed just asked if I was okay and when I replied yes said, “Okay, we will just ignore you for now then.”   That in itself was a great gift to me.  It was permission to be as I needed to be in that moment without a need for the world to stop moving forward.

As we waited for Walter to come out of his sedation I was struck by the numbness settling over me, while at the same time an awareness of great aching in my chest.  I wanted to feel giddy joy at our wonderful news. I wanted to dance and laugh and play.  But I could feel most strongly was this desire to cry and cry and cry.  The relief of finally, finally getting great news about Walter and his healing just wanted to flood out of me.

What came to me as we were driving home, my mind going 100 miles an hour trying to process everything, is that even wonderful news can leave us stunned and unable to speak much of the time.  When we’ve been walking a fine line between light and shadow for weeks and months on end there is a way we learn to hold ourselves in that center space to keep ourselves grounded and balanced.  And when we are also walking path of healing after the loss of a loved one, every path we find ourselves upon that is one of the unknown can leave us walking that center space as if upon a tight rope,  waiting for which one – light or shadow – is what will become most present along this path.

Upon our return to Avalon, I found myself listening and responding to folks as if through a heavy fog.  Other people’s joy for us and Walter would kind of send rays of light through the fog surrounding me.  I could hear myself saying to them”Yes, it’s wonderful.” as part of my mind was also saying “Huh? What? He’s really healed?”  I wanted to celebrate and float on the their rays of happy light. But it just couldn’t quite happen through the fog surrounding me.  Such a weird, weird experience.

Today, I find myself still not ready to really rejoice.  I am reflective and pondering and working to get myself rebalanced before entering the world again.  I am allowing myself to cry the tears I’d been keeping at bay that spoke of the fear I had been keeping locked away; the fear of Walter needing another surgery and months more of recovery; the fear of watching my strong daughter having to spend weeks and weeks trying to help her horse heal while she desperately wants to just enjoy them being together and happy again; the fear of being away from my sons for days on end again as we dealt with post surgery things.   I am allowing these tears and these fears to come out of my body in a gentle release of what could have been.

I also cry these tears in the peace and happiness that these are fears that I can truly let go as we move into a time of joyfully watching Walter be able to become a happy horse again.  We can watch him be able to play and jump and leap around as he so wants to do.  I can watch him and Kateri go for long walks again and eventually move back into riding.  I can watch the smiles of daughter reach deeper into her being as she begins to trust that all really is well with Walter again.   We can all, as a family, begin to imagine times of being together at home or on vacations without a constant fear of getting a call that something is wrong with Walter.  I look forward to being able to breathe deeply and clearly into trust and hope of the future.

There is great joy and blissful peace awaiting me.  As I release and let go of the tears and my fears I feel the joy and peace soaking into me like the rising of a summer sun.   I rejoice in allowing myself to step deeper into the light as I let out my breath in the deepest exhale I’ve taken in a very long time.