And at other times we wonder how life can go on, how can we pick ourselves up from the ashes and fly away again?
Artemis has died.
Without really knowing how to put this all for now, I will share with you the letter I wrote to my little niece, the one who was here on that first week when things were so touch-and-go, the one who named Artemis.
It will be as hard for her to read as it is for me to write, but it is important that she read this, and important that I tell her.
There is no right in this. There is no goodness I can find or understand from this. But it is a part of life. A terrible part.
On the ranch, we are so close to life, and so close to death. Around us every day, we see new life, and we have to deal with death. Nature has proved to us it is a package deal, though we do not like part of it. We have to accept it. We have to know we will be dealing with death if we are ever to be lucky enough to experience the irreplaceable beauty of life.
I have told myself this so many times before, too many times recently, and I know it is true, but it does not make it easier for me, ever.
First, I must tell you what we know, so you understand. For the past week, she has been strong, feisty, fiery. So much kicking and bucking and energy that I had taken to walking Mama around the ranch while Artemis ran circles around us. We’d do that every morning before putting them out in the yard for the day, and again every evening when bringing them back to the foaling shed for the night. A bundle of fire. A perfect beauty.
I had such plans for her. As soon as all this snow went away, I was going to start taking her out the front gate as I rode Tres. Then up the trail. Maybe even to the ditch job with us by the end of Summer because she’d be so used to following on the trail by then. And I had secret hopes that she’d turn grey, because grey horses to me look so magical and beautiful. And who knows, maybe she would have. And I would not sell her, no, not a horse that we had saved from death already like we had!
Yesterday morning, Bob and I went to town. She was perfect. Likewise, when Forrest put her to bed at night, she was perfect. This morning, she wasn’t right, Forrest said. But it never crossed our mind it could be this bad. She was, as he said, just slow. Not quite right. Who would have guessed?
At 11:30 Forrest wrote us a text message and said she was down in the yard, and wouldn’t get up. That’s not good. Forrest knows horses as well as I do, and knows what to look for. Sometimes, we see things we aren’t even expecting, like having the foal “slow.” She just recovered from a near-death experience, right? Surely she will be OK… But a horse that is down? Forrest knew, we all knew that was more serious that we could possibly imagine. I had Forrest write us with exact signs and symptoms, and I called the vet to confirm. We agreed it sounded like pneumonia. And the vet said if she was already down, it was probably too late. Forrest had to give her a shot in her little rump, and then some medicines in her mouth, and moved her to the warmer, drier shelter of the foaling shed. By the time we rushed home by 1:30 with even more medicines, it was too late.
I have since talked to the vet on the phone a couple times to try to learn from this. I need to know. I have life in my hands. His feeling is that she was so weakened internally from the original infection she had two weeks ago, that the pneumonia was able to get her. Fast. The weather certainly has not helped – the terrible storms and fluctuations have been continuing daily.
There was nothing more Forrest could do, and she was in his arms when she died.
Forrest has lived on ranches and in the mountains just about his whole life. He has seen death as much as he has seen new life. I believe he can handle these things far better than I ever will. For him, it is an unfortunate part of life. Things do die. We do all we can, but can’t always succeed in fighting off nature. It is an integral part of our life. We help each other through those hard times, he reminded me tonight, just as we get to laugh with each other during the good times. It is life on the mountain.
I wanted you to know this because I feel you felt nearly as much for Artemis as I did. I hope you will be able to understand and accept this as well as Forrest can. Understand that this is a part of nature and life. Not like me. I cry and cry and do not feel like the pain will ever go away. But I have been here before, and I know it will. And it will return in nasty twinges from time to time when I least expect it.
As our friend, Marv, wrote to me just last night: “Can’t” is not a word in our household.
I don’t know if this helps. Some how it does. I “can’t” bring the baby back to life. But I can try, I can learn, I can do all I can to accept, recover, heal, help others heal, and prevent something like this from ever happening again. If I can. I won’t say I can’t.
I hope this helps, just a little bit. Please know I’m here if I can help in any way.