For a moment, I’m convinced we’ve been left here on our own. Our creator left us on a dying, cold, dark and broken rock alone. I want to reach out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment in the crowd, but where is it? What does the tattered and dusty homespun hem feel like, through desperate and despairing fingers?
Instead, my own fingers found the mare’s pulse in her neck. Frustrated with the stethoscope that didn’t fit and I couldn’t hear anything with, I fumbled around for her juglar. On the other side I could see it, near a batch of dirty fur. Thub, thub… lub.
It’s what slowly dying feels like, pressed in, warm under a soft coat.
She looked weaker today. She isn’t drinking much. That eye. She came 2 weeks ago, the eye bulging grotesquely out of her head. I’ve seen a lot of gruesome stuff, poked abscesses, rubbed ointment in wounds that smelled rotten, daily cleaned a wound I could have stuck my fist in. This was scary. The swelling went down and if you looked carefully you could see the puncture, a white dot round as a pencil. She hit something hard enough to rupture her eyeball. Over the following days the eye shrunk and tissue died, hidden behind half-closed lids and thick white pus. The first day her heart arrhythmia was blindingly obvious in her neck pulse. Antibiotics helped bring it down, I mistakenly thought it was gone, until Heath came again Tuesday. He listened with his stethoscope, sighed almost imperceptibly and handed it to me. He avoided my gaze as I listened.
I know what it smells like. How it feels under my fingers. I have body memory of suffering. Picking out thrushy feet, holding a halter to administer drops in painful eyes, working to get the thick antibiotic solution into the neck muscle. Walking horses to behind the apple tree and bringing just the halter back. That irregular, broken heartbeat pulsing. The heaving body of a horse struggling for breath, who will never be healed, who is slowly drowning as she stands.
Let her go.
There is a horrible kind of cruelty in allowing suffering to continue. In dragging it out. In siphoning hope from truth and pouring it into falsehoods.
Why can’t it be seen? Why can’t I do anything but watch? Why am I supposed to be okay with that? How could I walk away?
What happens in the breath after I say I can’t do this anymore?
This is supposed to be where God wants me. While I watch the devil pick apart my friends, turn my church against itself, while I watch another horse die slowly, while I can’t do any of this anymore, can’t even sleep. So God can take over.
How? I want to scream. What are you going to do about it?!
How can I breathe this in, look at it every day, throw hay to it? How can I not do this anymore, but still do it? Where does God step in?
Or does he just walk with me?
At Bev’s funeral, there was no way I could stop the hot tears, the whole time. At one point I couldn’t wipe them away fast enough. Grief can be pure, and it can be cleansing. There was simply sorrow for a great woman of God lost, sorrow for all of things I felt, washing it all away, and in it: relief. She, after fighting cancer for over two years, was free. Healed. No longer in pain. No longer suffering. Lost, but in God’s economy, not lost. She was now wholly found in him. Complete and perfect. Gone from this place of pain and loss and suffering.
There was part of me that was jealous. The part that has been fighting tears randomly these last several weeks, as I taste the word despair. I want to go with her. I am a coward and broken and tired. I’ve seen enough, done enough, lost enough, carried too much.
I want answers where there are none and I am not permitted to ask, I want to heal the fresh, terrible wounds of my friends, I want to swallow the old and mighty fears, I want someone to help me save this horse by letting her go. I want to be seen. I want to be heard. I want to be held. I want the suffering to stop, or at least let up, or have someone to share it with and take the bite of it off.
In that breath after I know I can’t do this anymore, there is just another breath.
My grace is sufficient for you, he says. My strength made perfect in your weakness.
Somehow there is glory and light in this. In holding Bev’s hand and her smile days before she was gone. In cleaning the mare’s face. In graining the old, stiff gelding. In checking and re-checking and endlessly filling water and simply showing up with my eyes open. In encouraging and loving both sides of the church as it tears apart slowly and quietly.
In each breath, there is the chance to surrender to the suffering or surrender to the grace. To surrender to what I see or to what I know. In the breath I can surrender to praise or dispair. I can be overwhelmed or I can overcome.
Do I dare cling to the whisper that says, I am enough. I have overcome this. I am greater and stronger and love more deeply than the darkest night.
If I am still breathing, I must listen.
And cling to it.