I'm the choir director for a tiny rural church. This summer, a member of the church, and my strongest tenor, graduated from the Salvation Army Adult Recovery Center, clean and sober after 6 months. Everyone celebrated. So the church threw a big potluck, complete with bounce house and pony rides for the kids.
I agree to bring the pony.
Meet Randy, a 20-something Haflinger gelding who loves carrots and tummy rubs:
I don't have a trailer, so I ride there -- a little over six and a half miles one way. I give pony rides to all the
kiddos, give Randy a little breather, and head for home.
It's hot. About 2 miles of road has recently been tarred and chipped, which doesn't do any favors for Randy's bare feet, poor guy. We mosey along, taking our time, but I find myself wondering, Was it worth it? It was a long ride. Took up most of my day. My butt hurts. Blah blah blah...
A few miles from home, Randy whinnies.
No one is outside. There are no other horses for miles. He just stops still on the side of the road and blasts the air with a full WHEEEE-eeeee-heee-heee.
At the noise, a dog starts barking and a woman comes outside. She asks if it's OK to introduce her dog, a recent rescue, to the horse.
Randy is cool with dogs, so I say, "Sure."
The woman and I chat a bit while the dog grapples with the reality of this new creature.
"My mom would love to see him," the woman says. "She misses her horses so much."
Turns out, Mom and Dad live nearby.
Dad is on hospice with advanced liver cancer. He cannot get out of bed.
Mom takes care of him, but is quite unwell herself. Both are, essentially, housebound.
I know about having someone you love on hospice.
The days all run together as you watch them die by degrees.
So we wander over so Mom can see Randy through the kitchen window.
Mom is stunned.
Mom heads outside.
She ditches her oxygen tank at the door.
When I meet her, she's yanking the tubing from her nose.
Nothing will stop her from meeting Randy.
She holds his muzzle in her hands and leans her forehead on his.
For a moment, she is just a girl with a horse.
I try to pretend this is totally normal: Randy loves having people pet him. No big deal.
But I'm a mess because it is so precious and pure and perfect.
We exchange phone numbers. I promise to text the next time I ride over
there, so Mom (who used to have a gorgeous American Saddle Horse back in
the day) can have some horse time.
And I will. I totally will.
But here's the thing...
I've lived here almost 30 years. I have never ridden on that road.
And Randy isn't a chatty boy. He never just whinnies for no reason.
That day, though...
On that day all norms were off. I believe Randy and I were pawns in a little divine intervention. When things like that happen, they happen so fast, often you don't recognize the moment for what it is until it has passed. That day there was a woman who needed some sunshine in her soul. She needed to have some horse time, to reconnect with one of her first, best loves. I'm just glad I went along for the ride.