I originally wasn't going to post anything today. I was going to let the date pass, quietly, on my own. My pain over the loss of Eddie is deeply personal and I certainly don't expect anyone to understand how this horse--this animal--fixed himself into my heart so deeply. So believe me when I say this: I would never judge anyone for thinking me a fool to feel the way that I do. I don't expect this date to matter to anyone else.
It matters to me.
A year ago today I had to destroy something I loved. I had to call the vet and the backhoe operator. I had to walk Eddie over to the place where he would see his last views, where he would feel the final breeze across his face, and where he would feel the last drops of rain on his back. I fed him his last scoop of grain and carefully cut long strands of hair out of his tail. I only cut the inside pieces, so you couldn't tell it had been cut. Although an hour later he'd be in the ground, I still wanted him to look whole--to be his beautiful self.
The vet arrived and I led Eddie over to a clear spot. He was in a lot of pain and had trouble walking, but he hobbled obediently. He always tried to do what I asked, and in the last few months I had asked a lot of him--to deal with severe pain and immobility. I couldn't ask him to be brave any longer--he was never going to improve. There was no more hope.
I held Eddie's head as the vet inserted the needle into his jugular, then we waited for the sedative to take hold. Eddie began to sway and as he lost his balance I was able to pull him away from his bad leg, then as he fell, I held his head and neck up so as to lay him down as gently as possible. I can remember every second of our awkward ballet, how although I knew from experience that death is never pretty, I wanted it to be at least gentle. I told myself it was for Eddie, but at this point he was completely unaware of what was happening. The truth is I needed his ending to be gentle--for me.
The vet then leaned down on Eddie's neck and administered the lethal dose. He took his stethoscope and listened to Eddie's heartbeat as it faded, but before he spoke the words, I saw the light go out in Eddie's eye. I said, "he's gone." The vet looked up and nodded.
Unfortunately I have been well-versed in the euthanization ritual, and I had a tarp already set aside. I covered Eddie, paid and thanked the vet (he drove from over and hour away--really an absolutely wonderful, compassionate person who helped give me the strength to do what I needed to), and then walked into the house.
The backhoe operator arrived a few minutes later and I went out and told him where I wanted Eddie buried. I stayed out there but couldn't bring myself to watch him lower Eddie into the ground, so I spent the time with Paula, Eddie's daughter. She stood so patiently while I hugged and cried on her. She had no idea what had happened but somehow she knew I needed her, and she stood perfectly still as I leaned on her.
Eddie was buried and the backhoe operator was leveling out the ground, so I returned and thanked and paid him. He did a perfect job. I was exhausted, though, so I turned toward the house and there was Dad. He had originally planned on being there for me through the euthanasia, but because of everyone's schedule he didn't make it. It was ok, though--it was something I had to do, and whether I was alone or not wasn't going to change the fact that I had to help Eddie die that day.
Dad commented on how strong I was being. I think if he could have been able to see inside of me, he would have realized how wrong he was. Then he did something us McCandlesses never do--he hugged me. And I cried. And it was ok. My dad isn't a hardass or anything, but we're more of a "walk it off" sort of family. This day was different, though. This day was genuinely a crying-and-hugs-kind-of-day.
I miss Eddie. On a hot summer day I miss him running up to get hosed down with water. At feeding time I miss his little happy-food dance, seeing him rear up, kicking his front legs out and ringing his head in his wild stallion pose. In the winter, when I'm bundled up, I miss Eddie mouthing the fingertips of my gloves, being careful not to bite me, and carefully pulling off the gloves, then waving them about, hitting himself in the face like the dork he was. When I see a herd of horses, I miss seeing Eddie and his mares, thinking he was the boss man, always in charge, and playing off any times when the mares got the best of him. When I see a foal I miss seeing Eddie with his babies, as gentle as could be, sharing his food with them and playing gently with them like some sweet big brother. When I drive up to the farm I miss hearing him whinny his hello, or, knowing him, more likely whinnying, "feed me, woman!"
I believe in a higher power, but I don't think anyone has everything figured out. I don't think anyone really knows for certain what happens when we die. I don't know if it's the same as before we were born--nothingness--or if we really do go on to a better place. The only thing I know for sure is that Eddie lives on in my heart, in my memories, and in the horses he sired. A year ago I lost Eddie...but he will always be with me.