Yesterday, we got news that Mary Hobbs, friend and volunteer extraordinaire, had lost her 12 year battle with cancer. Her husband told me that he had designated Square Pegs as the charity of choice for loved ones to donate to in lieu of flowers. Not cancer research, not the Sierra Club, who Mary had volunteered for for years, but our little horse ranch and school in the canyon. I felt so unworthy and I missed my dear friend Mary. I felt so much pain for her husband who had lost his valiant life partner. I felt weak and not in control of things.
I canceled lessons, shut off my computer and saddled up for a solitary ride in the woods. I wanted to run to feel powerful again. My little horse tired towards the top of the giant hill and I dismounted and started hiking. We panted up the mountain, side by side and I was lost in thought. I remembered the few times that Mary was feeling well enough just to blow off office work and go for a ride. We would talk about her wonderful family and her travels. She had backpacked all over the world, ridden her horse bareback all over Montara Mountain and had recently taken up painting.
I felt a lot of guilt about canceling lessons for the day. We certainly couldn’t afford it. But I knew that neither Greg nor I could attend to our horses and students completely with the grief of losing Mary so close in our minds. Then I thought about the joy that riding and being with horses can bring to our lives.
I’ve lost three friends/students/volunteers in the last two years and I can remember vividly the last time each I took each of them riding. Each time was a happy memory. I thought about how my ride up the mountain made me feel powerful and free and connected and I have to believe that they felt the same way.
My friend Dave reminded me today that we have a choice to have a wonderful memory make us remember the happiness or to grieve the loss and make us sad. He reminded me that the power of choice is ours alone.
Mary knew that she would ultimately lose her battle with cancer. But she volunteered, she painted, she worked as an usher at the ballet so that she could attend as many performances as she wanted to. She lived bravely and humbly and well. Today, I choose to celebrate that and to actively do my part to help people feel powerful and free and connected, beginning with me. I have Mary to thank for the lesson. Another gift from a dear friend.