It has been one year today since you left... and I don't miss you any less. I miss you every second of every day. I miss your hugs, the way you smell, the softness of your fur, your three little braids, and the way you'd rest your head over my shoulder. I miss the butterflies I felt when I was with you and how you made me feel so safe.. like a child home in mother's arms... and I miss the comfort of your love and strength . I just miss you.
And I do still dream of seeing you healthy and whole in your pasture during the spring... on the green grass with all those tiny yellow flowers and the sunshine warming your back... Even though that day never did come...
Yes, I've missed you my sweet girl. But I finally understand why you had to leave me though. I felt it then, but I know now beyond any doubt that you were my special angel... sent by God... my very own angel. And I realize that you were never meant to be with me for more than a short time here on Earth. But somehow you've always been with me, and will always be. That is so obvious now looking back.. after all your health issues were resolved, you had that awful accident that broke your leg. We sent you to the best surgeon in the world, but even so, the surgery failed only a week later and despite my pleading, they had no choice but to take you. You were with me just long enough to show me all that you had come to teach me. You gave me so much, but even after your death you kept sending me gifts and signs... beautiful signs. Because of you, my faith was renewed and strengthened... because of you, my relationship with Martha grew into a beautiful friendship... because of you, Michael and I went on to rescue other horses. Because of you, I found opportunities to pay it forward and to share just a bit of the love you gave me with others... and because of you, my world will never ever be the same. Ever.
Proof of God's love, your story has changed not just my life, but the lives of many. I continue to receive personal stories from people around the world who have been inspired to rescue a horse, make a donation, or volunteer their time to help horses in need... and all in your name. There was even a little girl who had been following our story and decided that for her 11th birthday, instead of birthday presents, she would ask everyone to bring items to donate to the local horse rescue... and instead of having a party, all of her guests joined her in delivering these items to the rescue. The photos her big sister sent me will forever stay in my heart.
And then there are the emails I've received from people regarding their faith and God. People who were finally sure they'd see their loved ones again one day... because they knew for sure now that Heaven exists... people who had lost faith but found it again through our story... and people who had conquered their fears or who finally found the strength to make a change or the courage to follow their dreams. And somehow all because of you... One of my favorites was from a woman named Becky. She sent this to me during the holidays, and it was the best Christmas gift ever:
"Shana, I grew up with horses until the age of 10 when my mother left me and I ended up in foster care. For 46 years I put that life behind me, and while I still loved horses, I never allowed myself to get close to them as it brought painful memories back. Your love story with Willow changed all of that for me. I am riding again and giving my talent of photography to those around me who ride. I want you to know that Willow, through your writings, saved me as well. I'm glad she continues to bless you. Merry Christmas to you and your family."
I love it when people call our story a love story. I set out to rescue you... but you rescued me. And you loved me and showed me what it looks like to live without fear, to rise above, and to love and trust without condition. Yes ours is a story about love, and since God is love, it's a story about God too. It's a story of love and of faith...
Yesterday in church, when everyone was praying silently, I was so lost in prayer and thinking about you that I didn't even notice Martha had stood up... until she bent down and whispered in my ear, "Listen, Shana... this is the song I used to sing to Willow." I opened my eyes and heard the beautiful words "How Great Thou Art..." Martha and I looked at each other and no words were necessary. I've never heard that song at this church before... in fact I haven't heard it since the last time Martha sang it to you. To us. And I flashed back to those cold days last winter out in your pasture, us comforting you as you struggled... And Martha singing those words ever so softly... "How Great Thou Art..."
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"
So today I am choosing not to be sad that you are gone.... but happy and lucky... so lucky... that you were mine at all. And that you are still and forever with me. I carry you in my heart....
I carry your heart with me
I carry it in my heart
Anywhere I go, you go my dear
And whatever is done by only me
is your doing.
I fear no fate.
I want no world...
It's only you.
Whatever a moon has always meant
And whatever a sun will always sing...
it's only you.
Here is the deepest secret
And this is the wonder
that keeps the stars apart,
I carry your heart,
I carry it in my heart...
- E.E. Cummings
My beauty, my Velvet Willow... I love you. Thank you for rescuing me.