The Horse That Helped Her Heal

No one understood how alone I felt in my grief.

by

An artist's rendering of a young woman being nuzzled by a white horse

My world revolved around my husband and daughter. I could not picture my life any other way.

But John became ill and was diagnosed with a serious vascular condition. Doctors said it was only a matter of time. Elizabeth was four, too young to understand how sick her daddy was. For me one thought blocked out almost everything else: How would I go on alone?

I tried to keep my spirits up, but John's illness changed his personality. It became increasingly difficult to be around him. I longed for a quiet escape.

Just when I felt at my lowest, a friend called with an offer. "I've rented a farm," she said. "You and Elizabeth are welcome anytime." Each visit to the farm was a reprieve, and a barn with an empty stall gave me an idea: a horse for Elizabeth and me.

My friend encouraged me to do it. I'd loved horses all my life. The thought of a ride in the woods seemed like heaven. I'd always felt closer to horses than I'd ever felt to God.

I soon found a promising ad, an Arabian named Sandy, "too quiet" for its owner. Sandy was handsome, white as a cloud and small enough to be a pony. He took one look at Elizabeth and me, then lowered his nose to the ground in a welcoming gesture.

I knew he was meant for me before we saddled him up for a ride.

From then on, whenever we could, my daughter and I would steal away to the barn. I'd pile her on Sandy's back, and we'd set off for a walk with me strolling alongside. Hot afternoons we'd go to the stream. I'd let Sandy eat grass while Elizabeth splashed among the rocks.

I told Sandy how scared I was to lose John, something I could do with no one else.

John died in September 1990. I didn't want Elizabeth to catch me weeping. Friends were supportive, but still I felt that no one really understood.

One day I rode off on Sandy. Out of sight in the woods I slid off his back and sat on a rock. I put my head in my hands and grieved. There seemed no end to my loneliness and tears.

Suddenly I remembered Sandy. I worried that my sobbing had upset him, and I looked up. My horse stood beside me, patient and quiet. He sighed a rush of warm air across my face, then rested his forehead against my cheek. Sandy's touch was like an embrace, and he held me in it for a long time.

Sandy was no ordinary horse, and he hadn't come into my life by accident. He truly was meant for me. God had led me to him. He knew I'd need assurance that I was not alone.

I'd never felt so close to a horse–or to God. I patted Sandy, mounted him, and rode out of the woods with a new awareness of how intimately God knows and understands each one of us.

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