always

The Day Her Horse Died

Martha grew up a country girl. As an adult, she saved up and bought her own horse, Riley. He adored her, and before she met me, he was how she spent all her time. She (and then we) kept him at a stable outside of town. A few years ago, on Christmas Eve, we got a horrible phone call: Riley had walked out of his front left foot, breaking his leg. Riley would have to be put down within half an hour. Martha and I raced out to the stables. I drove while she wept. It was dusk when we arrived. Martha made herself stop crying before we got out of the car. Way off in the distance, far from the barn, Riley stood in a snow-covered pasture. The stable owner and vet were already with him, ready with the syringe. Riley kept upright, despite his mortal lameness. I could see, even from afar, the misery on his face. I shouted loudly across the pasture to the vet, who waved back, knowing to wait for us. Riley made no move at my voice.

Then, my wife, at my side, looking at her beloved animal 200 yards away, spoke his nickname—”Ry”—under her breath. From as far off as he was, Riley heard her immediately. I saw the pain on his face lighten. He reared, whinnying to her a call of love more resounding than I’d ever heard from him before, raising his crippled leg to signal her. He stood out against the dying sky like that, and for a moment I felt what he felt, the same thing I’d felt on that beach in Kauai when Martha appeared across all that distance from me and hailed me out of my fear. She is here. She is with me, always. I will be all right.

David Schickler, “The 5 Days I Fell Hardest For My Wife”  

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