I'm sure you've heard the story of the jar with rocks, pebbles, and sand. If not, the jist of the story is that you need to fill your jar (life) with the rocks first (big things- family, health, friends, dreams) then pebbles (home, job, hobbies, etc) and then sand (small stuff that fills our time) because if you do it backwards then you don't have room for the "rocks".

The problem is that when you lose a loved one, whether suddenly, after a prolonged illness, or even the expected aging, you have now lost one of your rocks from your jar. Regardless of how the sand shifts around that emptiness is still there. Others may not see it and you may not notice it regularly, but it impacts the fullness of your jar. When I lost my two heart horses last year it shifted around the rocks in my jar.

My 32-year-old mare, who spent 27 years with my family, was tired. She was losing weight, her feet drug a little as she walked, her head wasn't held as high and the light in her eyes had dimmed. We made the decision to help her leave life before an illness or traumatic event put her in pain. It was hard, but it was the most respectful thing we could do to honor her life with us. We planned the day, spent time with her and made the very best of her last days. We were with her while her spirit left her body and I sat with her until the man got there to bury her.

Just a few weeks prior to that I suddenly lost my gelding that we had from the time he was born. He was 18 and had been losing weight. After multiple trips to several veterinarians, help and advice from other knowledgeable friends, and trying everything we could think of he was getting worse. We had no answers. Finally, he got to the point where he didn't want to move and acted very sick. My vet friend came out right away and helped me with the decision that we needed to help him pass so he didn't have to suffer any longer. It was an incredibly tragic day for our family.

Both losses were so very emotional but were such different experiences. With my mare, I had been able to take the time to have some very special photographs taken with her, spent lots of time cuddling and loving on her and telling her what a blessing she had been to my life. She had lived the fullest life I could have hoped for, and I was prepared. The loss of my gelding was sudden, a shock and absolutely broke our hearts. Until that day, I had always thought that I could fix him if I could just find the key to what was making him sick. I will always feel like I failed him.

Those days caused my rocks to shift. There are moments when I look out, see our other sorrel horse and think it's my guy, just for a split second. I only use his halter on certain horses, it was just a blue nylon halter, nothing special, but I'll only put it on well behaved horses.

Since both those experiences, we have let go of two more horses that had long lives with our family. They were both in their lates 20s, well loved by little girls, and, again, we planned to let them go. We did this knowing that neither of them could survive the cold winter and that neither should have to live without the other.

The positive point in the experiences with our older horses is that we were able to plan and take special keepsake portraits that expressed our bonds with them. I have snapshots and barrel race photos with my gelding, but nothing that memorializes the bond between the two of us like the photos I was able to capture with the other horses.

Make the appointment!

Don't put it off because you think you have time!