The false hope we had yesterday was brought on by painkillers, and once those wore off, the message to me was more than clear. "Let me go. Help me go. I love you, but I'm tired, and I hurt."
So I made the call, Alex prepared the trailer, and we began the longest hour in recent memory, waiting for the vet to arrive. I offered Montrachet any treat I could think he might want, but he did no more than sniff at even the sweetest offering.
Alex took the last pictures I'll ever have of my grand old man, and I brushed his still-glossy coat with the softest of pony brushes, especially his face. He has ever loved having his face brushed, and closed his eyes and leaned into each gentle stroke.Bella only understood that he was very sick, and we kept from her what was going to be happening, choosing to wait until afterward to try and explain. She brushed every part of him she could reach, and was quiet and respectful, even if she didn't know quite what was going on.
Alex removed the center partition from the horse-trailer, and as the time came near for the vet's arrival, Montrachet and I got into the trailer together for the last time. We listened to Vivaldi, "Autumn" from his "Four Seasons" suite. If I had stopped to think, in the moment, that we'd never do that together again, never "load up" and take another trip together, I'd have fallen to pieces. As it was, I held it together pretty well during the waiting period, reminding 'Chet of the promise I'd made him, that he'd live out his years with me, and nevermore have any concern of being sold to anyone else, and that I'd take care of him. Truly, we carried each other, in one way or another, through the years. I thought I was clear-minded; thought I'd steeled myself for the final moment, but when it came, I could not seem to let go--physically let go of his sweet face. I stood in the trailer clutching that face to mine, covering it with kisses, and sobbing my goodbyes. Doc stood by patiently and respectfully, as, indeed, did Montrachet's own sons and daughters, standing in honor of their sire. It might never have ended; I might never have let go, but for the horse burying his muzzle in the crook of my neck, after exchanging breath with me (it's a horseperson thing, this communication of breathing, and how horses communicate with each other, as well), nuzzling my cheek with his lips, and licking me softly, much as a dog would, several times in a row. This he followed with a big sigh, never moving his face from mine, and that was my release. I kissed that nose several more times, told him how absolutely GOOD he'd been, and said goodbye...and "I love you."
The end was so gentle, and Doc eased him down in the trailer comfortably and without struggle. I knelt there with him, holding his head, for those last few moments, and we passed some final, private communication. When I was sure he was completely gone, I took some scissors and cut off his glorious forelock, to keep for myself. I couldn't bear to take it while he was living, and I'm sure Arabian horse-lovers will understand that.
Then Alex went to cover him with a sheet to keep the flies off (this for me, and no other reason, and my husband to his credit never hesitated at any part of this ritual that fell to him), and I took Bella, who'd been in the cab of the truck listening to the radio, into the house to try and explain what had happened. She has not quite, at this age, grasped the permanancy of "dead" yet, sometimes insisting that dead things can be made to "get better." When she asked me if Montrachet had died like Black Beauty "before he got better," I told her that no, he had died like Ginger from the Black Beauty story, and would never get better or come back, and she cried a little. I cried a LOT.
In the morning, Alex will take the body to a state educational facility for necropsy, so that something can be learned from this death. Upon completion of that, the body will be cremated. I've kept what I wanted, and hope to plant some Montrachet Lilies in a prominent spot in my yard.
Alex lost this Father's Day to death and grief and work, and I owe him a make-up day of honor...but I owe him so much more. He knew instinctively to give way to me during the preparation and carrying out of the euthanasia, and to give me and my old horse privacy and to respect our long partnership. He knew just as instinctively that when the life-spark was gone from my friend, that I needed him to take over, and that is precisely what he did, without being asked, and without complaining. I love him, and I appreciate him more than I tell him so.
I'd like to reprint a poem that was posted in my comments section by "jensgrandma", and which really did help me along in this process.
May I Go?
May I go now?
Do you think the time is right?
May I say goodbye to pain filled days
and endless lonely nights?
I've lived my life and done my best,
an example tried to be.
So can I take that step beyond
and set my spirit free?
I didn't want to go at first,
I fought with all my might.
But something seems to draw me now
to a warm and living light.
I want to go
I really do.
It's difficult to stay.
But I will try as best I can
to live just one more day.
To give you time to care for me
and share your love and fears.
I know you're sad and afraid,
because I see your tears
I'll not be far,
I promise that, and hope you'll always know
that my spirit will be close to you
wherever you may go
Thank you so for loving me.
You know I love you too,
that's why it's hard to say goodbye
and end this life with you.
So hold me now just one more time
and let me hear you say,
because you care so much for me,
you'll let me go today.
---Written for a beloved pet & friend by Susan A. Jackson
I'd also like to repeat, that Montrachet...was GOOD. He was a good and noble horse, and there was no vice in him. Many of you have seen him become physically less of what he once was, over the last few years, and I would ask, if you love me, to remember him by his beautiful, kind children, and when you think of him, think of him thus, proud head held high:Goodbye, Faithful One. Wait for me close by. I love you.