Have you ever thought that there are things that we must go through in our lives as lessons we are supposed to learn? That the earth is a school room, and we are here to grow through lessons taught by our (pre-determined) experiences? The Angels tell me that knowledge doesn’t impart wisdom, experience does. Book learning is one thing, actually doing is another. We can have an idea of what going through something will be like, but we don’t really know exactly what it will be like until we experience it. That is how experiencing the death of a loved one is. When you think of it, losing a loved one and what it will be like when they’re no longer with us is hard to fathom. No matter what we think it will be, we don’t know until we go through it.
Some deaths affect us more than others. Either because of what that being means to us, what we are to learn from the experience, the depth of the trauma that happens, or the nature of other events surrounding the death. Some cross peacefully, others struggle more. Sometimes there are lessons for a soul (theirs and our own) to be learned in the crossing.
My first registered Paint horse was named Magic. This mare was family. I bought her in my twenties when she was two years old. I had a trainer who lived close break her to ride, and she won several futurities. I had shown her in the ring and won buckles with her. When she got older, I quit showing her but still trail rode on her and kept her as a brood mare. She had given me several gorgeous babies, one of whom, Rowdy, is still with me today.
One-year Magic had lost a foal several days after birth.
From my book Animal Lover: One Woman’s Fantastic Journey to Uncover the Spiritual Purpose of Pets:
We humanely put the foal down. Magic and I fell into a deep grief. A week after the baby’s death, I saddled up Magic and we went trail riding. We were walking along the path going into an arroyo, with the bright blue Arizona sky and a slight breeze lifting the air. Anyone who saw us would think that we made a beautiful pair and would assume that we didn’t have a care in the world. Obviously, that was not the emotional space either of us was in.
However, when she took that first step on the sand of the wash, Magic lifted her head. She then shook her head and shuddered, a movement that, to me, meant that she was shaking off the weight of the world. She raised her head again and gave it a little flip, saying, “C’mon. Let’s play. We are not the ones who are dead.” I lifted the reins and clucked to her. We took off running down the wash, the wind brushing off the cobwebs of grief that had been shackling both of us.
I learned from Magic through her loss. When it came, she grieved deeply and felt the loss firsthand. Magic had given birth to three healthy babies previously and had always had her babies when I was away priding herself on her capacity to be a strong, loving, and efficient mother. This death battered the face of those beliefs. However, she knew that in the present moment it was her task to go on, and that the purpose of life was to enjoy it.
With her loss she taught me how there was a time to grieve, and a time to move on. That when someone you love dies, no matter how much you love them, you can’t die with them because for whatever reason, you are still alive. She taught me being alive isn’t something you do half-assed; you go for it and the joys that come with it. When I think about it, when she lost that baby, she taught me how to grieve and how to go forward without her. I’ve learned some of my biggest lessons from horses I have known. In a myriad of ways, Magic was my teacher.
Then the year that contained the worst summer of my life came. I had bred Magic and she was confirmed pregnant. However, she wasn’t eating. Even though she was pregnant she was losing weight. I took her up to the horse hospital in Chandler, Arizona, and though she spent three days up there, they could find nothing wrong with her. They thought it could be that she had sand in her intestines. The theory was sand was covering enough of the intestinal lining that it reduced her ability to absorb nutrition. They sent me home with a prescription for psyllium and told me to give it to her twice a day to bond with the sand and expel it. I remember wetting the psyllium in too little balls and trying to toss them in her mouth. I knew that it wasn’t the cure. But I tried anyway because I had to do something.
Several months into the pregnancy, a blood test was done, and she was diagnosed with lymphatic sarcoma. The cancer had finally circulated into the blood stream so it could be picked up with a blood test. The disease wasn’t curable, and it was pretty far advanced. However, my Vet thought there was a good chance we could keep Magic alive long enough that she could give birth to the foal if we did chemotherapy.
So that was my summer. My Magic horse getting Chemotherapy once a week, continuing to lose weight and look worse and worse, even though she was pregnant. I would wake up in the morning and fortify myself with an entire pot of coffee before I could go down to the barn and see what her condition was. It was always worse. This was also an especially sweltering summer in Arizona, around 110 degrees or more each day. Not my most pleasant summer. In the end, I could hardly recognize my girl. She died in early September, months away from delivering the baby who died with her. I had the thought that a horse seemed too monumental to die. With a body over a thousand pounds, she seemed larger than life. How could she be capable of death? How could I deal with it? I was broken.
This happened before I knew I was a medium or had honed my craft to a point where I could help strangers. Yet I did have a strong connection with God. When I asked the Universe why this tragedy happened, I was given an answer. I was told that I had to go through such grief so I could understand and comprehend what it was like. Because of this, I could be empathic with others who went through similar losses. That this was a room that not everyone was allowed into, pain and grief was the cost of entry.
Now I work with people experiencing some of their deepest losses. Ram Dass said that if you have any fear of death, you do not belong in the room with a dying patient. It feels similar with someone going through deep grief. I can be in the room with people during their darkest times because I have had one too. It is an admission price for the understanding. I can keep a clear head and promise there will be better days. Because I know. I know that we must go down into the tunnel of grief when we have significant losses, and that we can emerge from it again, appreciating the bright blue sky because it is so precious.
Ann Hoff is a well-known Animal Communicator, Intuitive Medium, and a regular contributor to our FB Group “I Am not Crazy Because I Talk to Animals” and leads a monthly Zoom call with members wishing to chat with a pet, or simply ask Ann a question. This month's content addresses the earthly lessons we learn through loss.