Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Expecting the Unexpected

I recently learned that two horses I used to know had died. Both were older animals well into their twenties. Trucker was a big Quarter Horse gelding and a retired showjumper. Sugar had once been a free-roaming, wild-born Mustang who proved her real worth as a safe kids’ horse. The two had spent their long lives serving their owners faithfully and were really quiet, gentle old souls. They didn’t pass away peacefully of old age, however—they died together in a freak accident, killed by the same bolt of lightning as they huddled side by side trying to escape the rain.

For some reason, this news really bothered me. Naturally, I have a soft spot for animals, particularly horses, and the knowledge that these two old “pals” of mine were gone was rather sad to hear. Then, too, were the circumstances of their death. They told me that the horses died instantly, but that is the sort of thing they always say to make you feel better. It’s quite possible that they suffered tremendously and lay out in the rain for hours, slowly succumbing to internal injury and shock. This also, however, is beside the point.

Really, what bothered me most was how absolutely unexpected it all was. There are lots of things that can kill a horse (these animals are notorious for finding absurd and creative ways of injuring themselves—whoever came up with the phrase “healthy as a horse” didn’t know what he was talking about). I always worry greatly during thunderstorms for this very reason. Still, you never expect tragedy to strike quite literally so close to home, and you never think that it’s something you won’t have any control over. Injuries can be treated. Sickness can be managed. At the very least, you get fair warning and time to say goodbye.

But that’s how things tend to happen—suddenly and without notice. No matter how well you plan out the future, the unexpected and unthinkable can and will happen. How you deal with that knowledge is your choice, however. You can throw your hands up in despair, curse your luck, become depressed and stop even trying to beat such seemingly insurmountable odds. Alternatively, you can find liberation in this realization. You can say, “Hey, even if things don’t always go my way, even if I know that everything could be turned upside-down tomorrow, even if I die on the way to school today—I can still say I tried my hardest, I did my best, and the things that brought me down were out of my control.” That’s the way I try to live my life. Personally, I think it’s a comforting thought.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Beautiful thoughts. I'm sorry to hear about your loss.
I'm always struck by how amazing we find birth and death. Both happen to every single entity that exists on the earth. Still, we call it the "miracle" of life and we are so disturbed by death.
After studying religion, I find great comfort in Buddhism during times like this. The first noble truth: All life is unsatisfactory. Everything is impermanent, so attachment to anything will eventually bring us sorrow. The way Buddhists solve this dilemma is by letting go of attachment and living fully in every second. It's a beautiful way of life.
I'm looking forward to coffee with you tomorrow!