When HORSES-HEALING-HOPE went from a nudging to reach out to breast cancer survivors in a unique way through the use of horses and nature while sharing Christ’s love at the same time, to an actual full fledged program, I felt God smiling. I know He felt me smiling too. It was a process of a life changing that was, in turn, changing lives. Just the kind that the Bible talks about. It is about taking one wounded soul turned over to Christ, and in the midst of THAT healing process, stepping out to help others that are hurting in similar ways. The cycle works wonderfully when God is smack in the middle of it all. I loved stepping out and allowing beautiful things to happen that I had always been too afraid to try on my own. Now with God in charge, I was becoming more confident in my steps as He directed them.
HORSES-HEALING-HOPE has felt as though God himself had been orchestrating our every move right from the beginning and beautiful things were happening each week. One of the ranch horses seemed perfect for the program. Gemma, a 20 year old Gypsy Vanner mare, had previously been quite sick with persistent recurring infections. Linda Darnall, PCI Ranch founder, had received word from the Texas A&M Equine Veterinary School that a bilateral mastectomy was necessary for Gemma to recover from her illness. This is a procedure that is rare in the equine world. How fitting for the breast cancer program though!
Throughout our program, women were touched in ways we never thought possible as they helped nurse Gemma back to health each week as part of the session. What began as a challenge for Gemma, ended up being a blessing for women that had gone through the same experience. It was evident that Gemma felt the love and had more attention during her time of need than probably any horse ever had! The coming together of others in our struggles and a chance to serve and care for another of God’s creatures, even in the midst of our own pain, allowed God into places where we were not even expecting. As program facilitators, we were in awe of God’s unique ways of shining through darkness. We thought we understood just how He was going to work in all of this.
As I write this part of the story, today is my 45th birthday. The rain has been steady for almost a week with short periods of sunshine scattered throughout the daytime. Today the rain started just before a little birthday lunch party was to begin. The phone rang as the rain pounded and it was Linda from the ranch. Gemma had died this morning. Only two months after her surgery. The ranch had flooded this week and waters had ravaged the grounds, barns and paddocks. All the horses had to be moved inshoulder-high waters and then moved again as the water receded. It was stressful on everyone, especially the horses. Gemma was still in a fragile state and the additional stress did not help. The vet says it was likely a heart attack.
The celebration will have to wait. I changed from my church clothes and grabbed my mud boots and went to see her lifeless body. I didn’t want an umbrella–just the healing touch of the rain as I walked to the ranch and entered the pasture where she lay. Tears flowed as I approached her in the falling rain, mud puddles forming around her frame. I pulled back the tarp and knew she was not there, just a shell of a wonderful working horse that had a purpose to serve so many. She is at rest now. As Shirley, Linda, and I cried together and stroked her peace-filled face, we didn’t have any answers.
We felt the heaviness of all the happenings of the week, yet counted the blessings of the group of new women going through the HHH program. This Thursday morning will be our final week with this group of survivors and they have gotten to know Gemma well. There is a bit of dread in telling them about her passing.
As I took a few moments alone with Gemma and with God before returning home, I talked to God about a few things. I cried about my current anxiety with the fact that I have my six-month cancer checkup Wednesday. About how this weekend had been filled with fear as I prepared for the pending appointment with all my blood tests this past Friday. About the wondering if a recurrence is in my future looms whether I verbalize it or not. The fear of my own fate looms. As I look at Gemma’s lifeless body lying in the mud and rain, it is hard not to think of myself. It’s hard not to do, when you have stared your own mortality in the face. It’s a weight that can be heavy if you allow it to be. I was holding it for a few days and became determined in that moment it was not going to grab hold of me any longer. I allowed the sadness to form for a few moments, then purged them on my walk home with verses of truth and promises from God’s Word. Thank you for this gift, Jesus.
Then, it occurred to me that maybe this is the next conversation that needs to happen with the women of HHH. Maybe it is a reality that needs to be addressed with the women as we close the program in sessions to come. While I don’t have this completely worked out yet and trust God will show me just how it should look, we need to realize it is actually inevitable. None of us gets out of here alive. It may be breast cancer, but likely will not, yet it is a fear that needs to be faced head on. God will have the final word, not evil. He will soothe the fear of death and the unknown. Rest in His grip, Gemma. We love you and thank you for the blessings you have brought to so many.