Loss

A Tribute to Tim

Tim - Horse

{Tim & Me — March 2009}

Over the summer, I posted about my friend Tim. But he isn’t like most friends. He’s non-verbal, more than 1500 pounds, and will love you to death if you bring treats. Yes, Tim is a horse, and it is with great sadness that I must tell you of his passing. To read the full post about our bond, click here.

I was just finishing up kickboxing class on Saturday when I received a text message from Tim’s owner. The text read, “Tim is down and it looks like today is the day.” Tim had a wonderful life with his long-time owner, Loraine. Seriously, if I come back in another life, I’d like to be one of her horses.

Loraine owned Tim for most of his life. She purchased him when he was a youngster, around 5 years old, and he was in his late thirties at the time of his passing. He was a loyal companion, barn favorite, and easily identifiable with his big brown spots.

Tim - Horse

As I sat at my computer desk last night contemplating a topic for today’s post, I knew I had to honor Tim. He was a huge part of my life growing up and his photos still reside on my nightstand—long after my years as an equestrian.

I am so grateful that I had the privilege of knowing Tim. From riding him bareback on a warm summer day, to taking him down to the field for some grass, life always seemed a little brighter when he was in your presence.

Life Lessons: Loss

Life Lessons:  Loss

It’s been three years. I’ve been told that it takes one full year to fully grieve for a loved one; one full year of missed birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries of their life and death. Yet three years later, Gaelle’s absence in my life is a constant presence.

It’s funny how you can still have so much left to say to someone after their death. Things that you never said, but wished you had. Things you said, and wished you could take back. Gaelle and I spoke often, went to dinners that could stretch the length of an entire evening, and could have a detailed conversation about absolutely nothing. Yet, we never ran out of topics to cover.

But it’s the little things that I never got the chance to ask her about that still haunt me. The unfinished conversations that you know you can never have with someone, and the topics that you will need to explore on your own. Gaelle was more than a friend to me; she was also my mentor. My strongest supporter in my weakest moments and my cheerleader on my darkest days. Her optimism always gave me hope and her strength and resilience rubbed off on everyone she met.

She was one of the first people I called when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I knew not only that she would she be a sympathetic ear, but that she would immediately suggest we go to dinner at our favorite pizzeria. And she did. We talked the night away and for a few hours, I had completely forgotten about the devastating news I received earlier in the day.

Gaelle’s most often used phrase when I would tell her about something I thought was the end of the world was “it is what it is,” a line that both infuriated and satisfied me (and one that I now have adopted). In life’s most challenging moments, when I can no longer call Gaelle for her wisdom and I feel my anxiety rising, I can still hear her saying those five little words and somehow it makes it all better.

So why do I choose to commemorate her birthday (which would have been today, by the way)? Because it is a reminder that despite hardships, sacrifices, and difficult times, life is meant to be lived to the fullest. None of us know how long we have on this Earth, and to me, Gaelle’s legacy is that of a life well lived.

Hunter S. Thompson once said, “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Woo Hoo…what a ride!'” And that’s how Gaelle lived her life.

Remembering a Friend

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Today would have been my friend Gaelle Spence’s birthday. I know she would have wanted to spend the day celebrating in the company of friends and caring for her beloved horse, Flirt.

Seven months ago, Gaelle passed away suddenly. I received the news on Christmas Eve after returning home from a holiday dinner. Reading the words was excruciating — the pain prevented me from comprehending the meaning. My eyes flooded with tears and my heart sank – all I could do was sob for the rest of the evening and the coming days. Gaelle was the first friend I had lost and I came to understand the rush of emotions that occur in a time of grief.

I met Gaelle at the barn ten years earlier. She was an avid equestrian who enjoyed immersing herself in the sport and acquiring as much knowledge as possible…about everything. She was incredibly intelligent (dare I say brilliant – she was a member of MENSA), gregarious and compassionate. She was also a kind soul who loved animals and a reliable friend. I was lucky to have her be a constant presence in my life, and I was looking forward to many more years together with her.

We became close during my gap year after high school. I was unsure of where I was headed with my education, and Gaelle became a trusted confidante for all of my thoughts, fears, and doubts. She encouraged me to pursue an education regardless of my indecisiveness and assured me that I would eventually find my stride. She was right – after two years at Dowling College, earning mostly A’s, my confidence grew and for the first time I enjoyed school and was excited about my courses. When I was accepted as a transfer student to American University in Washington, D.C. Gaelle was cheering me on.

On May 9, 2009 I walked across the stage on Graduation Day to receive my diploma and I thought of Gaelle. I knew she was proud of me, but I was even prouder of myself. She taught me throughout the years always to believe in myself, never to stop learning and most importantly, never to let fear stand in my way.

I miss our long (and sometimes spontaneous) dinners at our favorite restaurant. We would spend hours at Umberto’s in Huntington talking about everything and anything. The night always ended with Gaelle ordering a cannoli for me for dessert! I miss calling her in the middle of the day to check in, and I certainly miss stopping at the barn with her and watching her fuss over her horse.

I am thankful to have had Gaelle as a friend. Whenever I met her, I always learned something new, or left on a mission to acquire a new skill (like taking an HTML class). Gaelle frequently encouraged me to nurture my creative side, and I talked to her about my interest in starting a blog after recovering from thyroid surgery. Even though she never got to read any of my posts, I hope she would be proud that I have found my voice.

If I have learned one thing in these past seven months it is this: Never put off telling someone how you feel about them. I regret never expressing to Gaelle how much she changed the direction of my life, how grateful I was for our friendship and how much I appreciated that she supported my endeavors.

Gaelle was a happy, positive person with a wonderful sense of humor, and I know that on her birthday she would want her friends to remember the good times they had with her. So today, I am thinking about all of our adventures and conversations with a heavy heart and a smile.