Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

She Trotted Like a Fairy

On balance, 2021 hasn’t been all that much different from 2020 thus far. At least for me and mine. We had very few real, quantifiable losses last year. It was more of an emotional beat-down given all of the uncertainty and all of the loss of control. As the new year came out of the gate I, like pretty much everyone, had some hope ahead. The promise of a vaccine and the freedom it (should have) meant. Survival for my little business and my family and friends, with reasonable hopes that we would return to something that felt like normal.

Instead we’ve suffered the steady drumbeat of loss. Here at work we lost our friend and colleague of 25 years. A college buddy, a newly minted empty nester, laid his beloved spouse to rest 2 weeks ago. A young in-law has suffered the loss of three classmates to suicide. Somewhat separated by degree but all too close for comfort, a friend told me that a woman we’d both dated had just lost her husband to cancer. He was 61, our age exactly. Reading his obituary in my hometown newspaper was a gut punch even though we’d never met and I haven’t seen our mutual once-upon-a-time girlfriend in decades.

There have been others as well. Beth’s beloved filly, Renzi, lost her life to an unremitting, unrelenting infection in her head. One that affected her life for at least 2 years before it became clear that she would not survive. Over coffee yesterday our friend offered a tearful condolence to Beth and then shared a most extraordinary thing. After reading of Renzi’s death he was so overwhelmed with sadness that he cancelled a major meeting and took the rest of the day off. This friend of ours, who has known Beth for almost 40 years (and me for 45), who’d just lost a dear friend to suicide himself, shut down over Beth’s loss.

With all of our collective losses, why was the loss of a horse he’d never met the final straw? I have to admit that I literally cannot think about Renzi and the arc of her short life without tearing up. It’s hard to type through my tears. What is it about her, about how Renzi lived and how she died, that caused such strong emotions? Beth, so stoic and rock solid through the deaths of our parents and our friends, struggles with this loss as much as any. Why is the loss of this horse, a working animal, a loss that has caused each of us so much sadness?

Perhaps it was her story. More probably it was Beth’s story and how Renzi fit into that story. Beth outgrew her mare, Lyra, and found herself without a horse that could take her to new levels as a rider. She needed a new horse, and quite frankly we just couldn’t afford what she needed back then. No problem. This is Beth White we’re talking about here, right? Can’t afford to buy a new horse? Beth decided she’d just “make” her next horse by breeding Lyra. In July of 2015 Rapunzel was born into Beth’s lap. Renzi took her first earthly breath in the arms of her loving human.

We had such high hopes for Renzi to become what Beth needed; under the tutelage of Holly, her trainer, things looked pretty good. She won all kinds of honors at the shows for young horses. One judge was particularly taken with her: “She trots like a fairy!” But something was always just a little bit off. Beth always remarked that life seemed “hard” for her. A little over a year ago her personality changed and her training stalled. Very long story, short, Renzi was found to have a severe infection that involved most of the right side of her sinuses. After two major surgeries failed to resolve the infection she remained unable to work and in constant pain. With no hope in sight Beth and the veterinarians made the only merciful decision they could, and Renzi was put down.

She took her last earthly breath in those same loving arms, at rest and at peace in the lap of her human.

Why am I still teary-eyed each time I think about this? Heck, I can barely see the screen right now. I don’t ride horses or particularly like anything horsey about hanging around Beth’s barn or the stables at a horse show. I like Beth. Why is my childhood friend so stricken by this as well? It’s possible he’s never seen a horse outside of an occasional glance at one on TV. With all of our other losses, the people we’ve lost and how we’ve lost them, what is it about this horse that has affected us so profoundly?

It’s not really about the horse, of course. It’s about Beth and how much Beth means to us. It’s about not getting a chance to help the people who died. For 2 years now there’s been something wrong with Renzi. Everything was just so hard. Stuff that once came easily–lessons, trailering, being groomed–all of a sudden was challenging. It seemed like there was something wrong, something that was hurting, but many months and multiple trips to the vet failed to shed light on her darkness. Beth suffered right along with her “little” girl, aching to find whatever it was that had changed her “fairy” into a tempest.

In the end it was all too much, wasn’t it? An infection too serious to be cured despite two major surgeries. Too much pain all day, every day in a beloved animal. One of our own, our Beth, suffering as well. She tried so hard. Each effort to save Renzi came up short. We all grieve not so much for a horse but for what that horse meant to one of our people. We shed tears for all the love that went into that horse. For how hard Beth had tried. All those people we lost, people we never got a chance to help.

Perhaps we cry for Renzi, and for Beth, because we feel the pain of their struggle. Because we wanted Beth to triumph. Because it is safer to cry for her, whether or not we knew her, than it is to let ourselves cry for all of the people we wanted so very badly to help but couldn’t.

Our little filly will forever trot like a fairy in our hearts.

Rapunzel “Renzi” White July 2015-April 2021

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