Paul's horse 'Ranch', who faithfully carried Mike (with a broken foot) on Pioneer Trek, and who has given my children hours of enjoyment.
Although it is safe to say I am still not an animal lover, I will admit that there is a part of my heart opening up for the creatures that bring some humans so much joy.
Wednesday night while our dear friend Paul served at the nearby LDS temple, unknown to him his neighbors and two of his grandsons were attempting to save one of his horse's life. Mike called me to make me aware of the situation 10 minutes before he and Luke were due at the church to go swimming with the Scouts. As I pulled up on the road, to the side of the horse field, my mother heart felt a pang as I saw Luke's face.
I knew his little mind and heart were going to give their all to help Ranch get better. Mike called our friend Jim who came and administered some medicine, and then Austin, Brandon, Mike and Luke went to work keeping the horse moving (as per instruction).
(My service must not be discounted! I, yes you read that right, I accompanied the Scouts as "the other leader" to the swimming pool for a merit badge excursion.)
As I drove home from the pool, it was very foggy. The fog was quietly releasing some precipitation onto the ground. It was a cold evening. I arrived home to find Megan holding down the fort with the three younger ones, seeing to their dinner, baths and homework.
Across the road, was a touching scene. Mike, Luke, Austin and Brandon were taking turns walking Ranch around the self-made snowy, turning to mud tracked, circular path. While one of them walked, the others took a turn inside warming up. I sat inside Vickie's kitchen with others rotating in and out, talking about animals, their lives, and their impacts on us as individuals. I heard heart-warming stories of other animals loved and lost by these dear friends, and of course the recent experience with Lily, Luke's beloved goat was not forgotten either.
Paul arrived home, and a shift change took place. Paul took over the care of Ranch, releasing Mike and Luke, and the grandsons to go home to bed.
My mother heart prayed Ranch would live. I wanted Luke, still feeling the effects of losing Lily, this time around to feel the satisfaction of his diligent, heartfelt efforts of care and devotion, turn Ranch from a sick horse, into a well horse again.
Before Mike left for work early Thursday morning, he walked over to the quiet horse field, returning home to report it appeared Ranch was doing better. An hour or so later Luke too checked on Ranch before leaving for school. Luke was encouraged by Ranch standing alone, wearing a warm horse-coat. Luke mentioned the horse prints and Paul's footprints he could see in the fallen fog, obviously efforts to keep Ranch walking through the night.
Paul and Ranch walking the streets at 4am. Love and devotion of animal to human that I've never concerned myself with in years past, settled into my heart next to the place reserved for Luke and Lily.
A few hours later, I "coincidentally" decided to leave my little boys playing on the family room floor and go check on Ranch myself.
Within minutes of arriving over there, I was standing next to our dear friends, Vickie and Shanan as Ranch died. Despite everyone's best efforts, Ranch's long life was over.
If anyone would have told me I would cry over goats and horses dying I could never have believed it. I shocked myself as I said aloud to Vickie, I can't imagine there won't be animals in heaven. If they bring people such joy and companionship in this life, surely they'll be part of the eternities.
I'm not sure if I was hallucinating, had gone crazy, or simply now have a more capacious mother heart, but I stood outside in the cold February sun, imagining Lily and Ranch running together in some type of animal heaven.
And then I thought about Luke. My dear son Luke, having left for school optimistic that all the nursing and care from the previous night were not going to be for naught. And I shed the kind of tears only a mother would know.
I know these experiences are "just animals." We are grateful it is not human life that Luke is learning to mourn at a young age. But they are still big lessons for a little boy and they tug at my heart.
Luke is learning at a young age that grief is a natural consequence of love.
One of the highest, noblest and God-like qualities we can develop. Despite it being horses and goats that are teaching him, what a blessing Luke is learning, developing, and internalizing LOVE as a young boy.
"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
~ Kahlil Gibran