The inevitability of time
I watched from afar as Ellen said goodbye to her horse, wondering what emotions must be running through her mind. It’s hard to say goodbye. People build bonds with things they love and almost never consider that the depth of their emotion is tenured by time and circumstance.
Wonderful things never last long enough, and horrible things seem to last forever. Ellen was facing the reality that horses don’t live as long as people. Neither do dogs. Or cats. Or fill in the blank—whatever didn’t last as long as you had anticipated and that you suffered over when you lost it.
As a veterinarian, I’ve seen this come to fruition many times. In 1990 when I started this career, I figured that time would temper the heartache I experienced whenever I watched heartbreak—that eventually I would become callous to it and start to behave like a professional. After 25 years I’ve learned that the opposite has occurred. I’ve grown even less able to endure it.
I think it tells us a lot about the human condition. We were built to love and take care of things. We find comfort in seeing to it that life progresses in a happy manner and that we somehow have a part in keeping entropy from being the rule. Animals need us. And we need them. We need them to let us love them, and we need to feel like we make a difference in their lives that they appreciate and long for—even if that’s not the case.
Ellen held the head of her horse gently in her arms and let her tears run down her cheeks into the eyes of that sweet, sweet animal that had captured her attention for so many years. Time had run its course and the unchanging circumstance of life had captured the moment.
Sometimes I write these stories and I feel laughter that I do my best to express. Sometimes I write them to illuminate what goes on behind the scenes when veterinarians try to help people and animals be happy. And sometimes I write them to convey that life is a series of deep emotions that all the participants have every right to cry about.
The wonderful thing about my job is trying my best not to separate those emotions, but reflecting on the fact that they somehow all fit together to make doing what we do every day an adventure and an event worthy of writing down.
Ellen will be OK. She told me as she left that she would have to rely on the wonderful memories she shared with her horse to keep that critter living in spirit even after the physical was gone. I found some peace for her in that.