In Loving Memory of Bob: Trusted friend, loyal companion, and faithful partner. Well done.
Choosing to Trust in Grief
"When I got down to the arena early in the morning on August 30 and saw Bob laying down in the arena I didn't think much of it. It was cooler and the horses usually enjoyed a relaxing nap as the temperature started to drop in the early fall. However, when he rose to greet me, and then quickly returned to laying down on his side, my heart sank. This was a hallmark sign of the dreaded word every equine owner knows, “colic’.
As I was rushing to get Bob’s halter and quickly return to him I was making observations and thinking through the past 24 hours: he’d been having several good days in the process of recovering from his DDFT tear and was enjoying time in the arena with his best horse friend, Bronson. The two kept each other calm and content and mirrored each other in beauty; Bronson a buckskin quarter horse with an equally endearing personality as Bob, our red-roan mustang who everyone confused as a quarter horse until they saw his brand. However, it was clear that Bob’s early morning had been anything but calm and content: evidence of the time that he has been in pain began to come into focus as I counted them; 1…2….3….4….5…. 5 places worn in the arena sand where it was obvious a horse had been laying down and rolling.
My heart sank.
As soon as I asked Bob to rise, he did. Only to walk a few steps and lay down again. I threw my weight onto his shoulder to try to keep him from rolling, but I was no match for a 1000lb animal in pain. With the emergency kit now scattered on the ground, I injected Banamine (a strong pain medicine) and began the 45-minute wait for relief. His vitals weren’t good- pale gums, elevated heart rate, labored breathing.
All I could do was pray in between utterances "easy Bob” “hang in there buddy” and attempts to settle his rolling. The window passed of where the pain medicine should have had effect and he was no better. I rang our vet knowing that it was likely a call not for triage, but to end his life in humane relief from suffering.
During this time, several of our volunteers, both adults and teens had arrived as they had planned on helping with the farrier appointment that day. I couldn’t shield them from the severity of what was going on and my heart broke for them: they were watching their beloved friend suffer in agonizing pain. Through tears, when it was safe, they stroked their downed partner with gentle tenderness.
Our vet arrived and with incredible urgency surveying the situation, immediately drew up more pain medicine and began to examine him. He hadn’t stood for the past 45 minutes and exhaustion was taking over with groans. After listening to his abdomen he shared what I already knew, it was time to end his suffering. No intervention would fix this one.
With sedation on board, one by one each of the girls was able to come over, and through tears, say their goodbyes.
Dr. Mark returned after several minutes of allowing us to say goodbye, and Bob, still groaning, then peacefully lost consciousness and was humanely euthanized with injection. The last words he heard on earth were “Well done”, and undoubtedly, those were the first words he heard when he met Jesus. Through tears himself, Dr. Mark reassured us "you did the right thing”.
In a flood of grief, my own sadness and a little anger raced through my mind as I thought about having to tell the volunteers and session kids who were a part of "team Bob” as they affectionately called it. I pondered the contrast in the devotional I had written about Bob’s miraculous recovery from his first colic episode in late Spring and was bewildered at how we ended up here. If God healed him then, why didn’t He heal him this time, too? To be honest, it seemed cruel.
After we all took a pause in the afternoon for a somber lunch we reconvened for evening chores. What blew me away is that all of the girls who helped us in the morning showed up for evening chores after we had told them that they could stay home if they wanted to. “We WANT to come! The other horses need us.” Their selfless response reminded me of the important work there still was to do. Even though we pause to mourn and acknowledge the grief, we carry on knowing that death is not the end.
In the coming days, I listened to the heart-warming memories as session kids and volunteers shared their favorite Bob moments. They brought their favorite pictures printed out, letters they had written to Bob thanking him for allowing us to be in his life, and made their own special memorials of painted horseshoes, drawings, and paintings depicting a horse who was so dearly loved, and knew how to love back. There were many tears as each talked through grief; acknowledging a loss that seemed so pointless, sadness for the fact that they didn’t get to see him "just one more time”, wishing that colic wasn’t a reality for horses, wondering why God didn’t heal him this time… all of those questions were welcomed, emotions expressed, and ultimately wrestled to the ground surrounded by friends who were feeling the same things.
We came to this conclusion:
We know because of the Bible that death and suffering were never a part of God’s original plan.
Way back in the Garden, His plan was for life, perfect close relationships, wholeness, and no suffering… but because of evil, and because He gave humans free will, sin and death entered the world. Yet He still had a plan for that to be redeemed - it was Jesus… living the perfect life and dying a criminal’s death so we could be back in relationship with God despite our sin if we choose to accept Him. And because of Jesus, death is no longer the permanent end it once was. Because we have Jesus, we grieve (grieving is important! We acknowledge the sting of death and the loss we feel) with hope and the hope of knowing that we will one day no longer know death and suffering- in Heaven.
We also acknowledge the struggle of understanding God’s plan when it doesn’t seem to make sense. We acknowledge that with our own human perspective on life, we can’t see the full picture of eternity, and because of that, we work through grief and confusion as to why God allows evil to exist and awful things to happen.
We acknowledge the importance of grieving, expressing emotions, asking questions, and wrestling them to the ground. And we acknowledge the choice to still trust Jesus, and know that He will always use things for good, even things that are really hard, wrong, and evil. It is a choice we can only make for ourselves. And sometimes it’s a decision we have to make over and over again. Sometimes moment-by-moment.
Both grief and trust are not simply worked through and done with. They are decisions that we have to continually make throughout our lives."
-Written by Carissa Ramsdell, Founder/Executive Director
"The sky was getting dark and clouds rolled in as I pulled up the driveway. I noticed two of our horses, Pogo and Freedom, huddling together in the paddock as I drove past. I remember thinking they looked like they were comforting each other. I jumped out of the car and rushed down to the barn. I could see Carissa with our Session horse, Bob, down by the arena. He was laying down.
On my way to the Ranch that morning, I received a text from Carissa. "Bob's colicing. It's not good." As I drove, I pushed the speed limit and started praying.
Bob's breathing was labored and he let out gut-wrenching groans. He was soaked in sweat, dew, and water from being hosed down. The volunteers and I watched from a distance as he would lay down, groan, roll, get up, and then go down again. "Get up, Bob." whispered Lisa, one of our tender-hearted volunteers. Bob was in massive amounts of pain.
As the minutes stretched into an hour, our hearts began to sink. The sky began to drip rain, cooling the air. One-by-one we gathered around Bob to pray. My eyes filled with tears as my heart knew that our prayers for another miraculous healing might not have the answer we desired. As we prayed, I knew my heart was at a familiar crossroads. God had miraculously healed Bob before, we had seen it. And He could do it again. But what would I do if He chose not to again? What would I choose to believe about God if He decided to bring Bob home to Heaven?
My mind went to the story in the Bible when God's servants Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego also faced a choice. Choose to turn away from God and worship an idol to save their lives or face certain death. I remembered their response in Daniel 3:17-18 says,
"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, your Majesty. But even if He doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
In my life, I have seen God's faithfulness. He has done miraculous things, including healing Bob of colic before, and I know that at that moment He could have healed Bob again. But I decided that even if He didn't, I would still choose to trust Him. God has proven to me that He is worthy of my trust and I can believe that He will make good come out of something so painful. When it came to my turn, my prayer was simple, "Jesus, we love Bob so much and are so grateful for him. You have brought him through the fire before and You can do it again. But even if You don't, we still love You and we are so grateful for the time we had with Bob."
Are you walking through the fire, wondering how you will make it out? Have you asked God for a miracle and He chose a different path than you wanted? He is not afraid of your questions and your doubts. If you are wondering where He is and why He made a different decision than what you wanted, I encourage you to bring your questions to Him. Bring them to trusted friends and leaders. God does not love you any less for your questions. Nothing you can ask or doubt will change His unwavering love for you. I promise that He is worthy of your trust but you don't have to take my word for it. Allow God to show you for yourself."
-Written by Rachel Moore, Executive Assistant