I’m not sure how to begin this, or how to bring it to an end. The raw emotion of the morning is making my heart muddle my brain and words seem too hollow; a sieve that won’t allow me to capture Lisa’s Ride. And Kerby, an English teacher! How can I ever measure up with words that are just perfect?
Lisa was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor over a year ago. She and her husband Kerby have fought the good fight, given every option a shot, held out hope for time. It is coming to an end. She has entered the Hospice stage of her journey. Her wish was to have a final trail ride on her mare Bridget with a few of her equestrian friends. The list of potential attendees was long as she has spent her life in the company of horses and students. It was an honor to find myself among those she chose.
Perhaps I should start with the animals and the day. By 7am it was close to 80 degrees for the third straight day. The nights have not cooled off much and it is that quintessential 5 days of summer in NH when you really could use air conditioning, even on my side of the mountain. I slept poorly, getting up every few hours, sitting outside with a cool drink to look at the stars. This ride was planned a month or so ago when the doctors said time was short. Weather conditions and Lisa’s physical state couldn’t be accurately predicted.
Lauren (Blessings “mom” from earlier posts) and Heather’s team at Mountain Lane Farm, had already set up the picnic in the big field when I strolled into the barnyard. There was a flurry of tacking up horses before the rest of the group arrived and calculating who to pair with which animal. Twelve horses were saddled and dozing the shade from the blistering mid-day sun when Lisa and Kerby arrived. The drive from home had been difficult, the heat wasn’t helping, but she rallied and insisted she would ride. We were all mounted and ready to go when she stepped out of the indoor arena on Bridget, slightly shaky but determined.
From there, it was onward and upward!
Lisa’s horse is a stout mustang. She can be opinionated and stubborn, making her transformation with Lisa, even more remarkable. I have watched her from behind as she sets each foot down with care, never tripping or bobbling over roots and rocks. If Lisa begins to lose her balance, the little mare side-steps instinctively to steady her. Perhaps Bridget knew this was a special day for she and Lisa. Usually a slow-poke, buried far back on the line, she marched to the front, settling in near the lead as if it were her right. Night, my “dancey-pants mount”, stepped aside to let her pass and followed at a respectful distance. (This is the horse who always leads the trail rides and makes her displeasure known if she is asked follow behind anyone.) Today, the brush closed in around us as we meandered up the wooded trails in perfect harmony. Lisa was happy and all was right with the world.
The picnic spread was spectacular and though it was obvious a huge toll had been taken on her energy, she sat for photos with her former students, giddily acquiesced to a request of a shot of she and Kerby kissing, and joked about the past. The horses were loosely tied and stood in compatible clusters, probably also discussing the ride.
The demon was never far away. At one point we all wandered off to busy ourselves with unnecessary horse-related tasks, giving Kerby and the nurse privacy with Lisa. Dying is a delicate affair and one should know when to withdraw. When she recovered from the hell that persists in her head, we mounted and headed back down the trail. She and Kerby rode side-by-side ahead of me and I felt like an intruder overhearing their quiet joy.
Yes there is concern for safety, an ever watchful eye trained on the slightest imbalance, but those brief glimpses in between, when you know there is nothing but this moment, makes the risk worth taking.