Reflections on an anniversary

My father died five years ago today. I think more about him on his death day than on his birthday. To me, his death day seems more significant. The blank canvas of birth transformed, over the course of a life, into a many layered and complex painting that is finished by death, even if that death came too soon.

When I spoke at his funeral, I started by saying that everybody knew him in a different capacity. Husband, father, brother, friend, colleague, music lover and Stabat Mater expert.

The last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about him and what I said. It is true that we all knew different aspects of him. Some parts overlapped. To me, he was not just my father, he was much larger in my life than that one facet. Still, there were parts of him I had no access to, or knew nothing about. So, where was his full person, the real self? Who can say they really know someone?

 In the “About” page on this blog, I profile myself as married, mother and sculptor. These are integral parts of me, but of course only part of the picture. By splitting myself into distinct roles, I am in fact hiding the real “me”. Even if I added many more aspects, each layer would only serve to further hide who I am.

All these aspects of me have different faces. The “mother” is not the same as “the friend” and will in fact not respond the same in any given situation. That is because all these personae are also partly based on the expectations of other people around us. As a mother for instance, I have a certain role and I need to fill that role. Sometimes that means I have to act. So when then do I integrate all these aspects into “me”?

This is something my father and I often talked about. I am only “me” in the solitude of my soul and that often means literally in solitude. I am comfortable in solitude. Like my dad, I am in essence a solitary person. I like going for walks on my own, alone with nature gives me the chance to think and reflect without distractions or outside pressure. And time spent working on a sculpture is like meditation for me.

I sat beside my dad when he died, but even though his loved ones were there with him, he still he had to go through those last moments on his own. No one knows what his last thoughts were. You are born in the solitude of your own soul and this is also how you will die.

Part of life is like that, even if you’re not alone, you are still on your own. My father used to say that life is often by necessity an act, because real communication between people is almost impossible. He felt that the image and expectations others have of you distort how they perceive what you say, and also that they can’t separate this from how they feel the impact of your words on themselves. So a simple “I don’t feel like doing (…) tonight” can all too easily be interpreted by another person as a form of rejection. Honesty is much praised, but true honesty is seldom appreciated. Much easier then to excuse yourself with a headache.

I think it is this negative brain pattern, the incapacity to see anything other than as a reflection upon ourselves that makes us feel hurt when our horses ignore us. We feel rejected and wonder what we did wrong…

But our horse may just have their attention elsewhere, or it is time to dream, or graze, or to just stand and feel the wind blow.

I have found that my horses are most interested in me when I come to them feeling whole and still within. If I go to my horses when I am in one of my “roles”, there is no connection, all I get from them is an uninterested animal. It is not enough to be “in the moment” I have to myself in the moment.

My horses know without a doubt who I am and, unlike humans, they are not judgemental. They do however demand total honesty. My dad would have liked that.




6 thoughts on “Reflections on an anniversary

  1. What a beautiful post!
    You have successfully put into words what so many of us (that work and live with horses) know and FEEL deep inside –and yet DON’T know quite how to express to others..
    It is sometimes a difficult task to let go of all the roles we play and the clutter that fills our brains in order to spend time with our horses being “in the moment.” On the occasions when we are able to do it, it is truly amazing what we can discover.
    When Griffin expresses his desire to be alone (and not with me), I don’t take it personally. Instead, I am filled with sadness because it makes me envision what he has already been through at the hands of humans (myself included). I try my hardest to use that vision as motivation to make myself a better person and a better friend to my horse. I know that if Griffin is asking to be left alone……that in my honoring that request I am doing right by him — and I am doing it FOR him because I want to be his friend…because I care…. I rarely see it as a personal thing.
    Your father sounds like he was an amazing person. The world needs more people like that!

    • Carol,
      I think that because horses need us to be honest and our true self, they do indeed help us to become better as a person. The greatest teachers I ever had were all horses and every horse has something to teach us. We only need to listen. And when we do, amazing things happen.

      For a lot of people, silence is uncomfortable and they try to fill it up with talk and that makes it hard to really listen. Horses don’t need to talk to communicate. The need to find that quiet space within and to trust our intuition is perhaps one of the most valuable things horses can give us.

  2. Once again, I am struck by the trans-Atlantic synchronicity that seems to exist between you and Maire and your horses and the horses and human here!

    I have been thinking so much in the last couple of days about the solitude of death taking shape in thoughts of the image (brought about by all the Lockerby anniversary remembrances) of falling alone from the sky.

    And I just posted about the challenge of distinguishing the thoughts coming from oneself from those coming from the horse.

    Your father does sound like an amazing person – someone you must miss very much. My father died five years ago too – in October ’05.

    • Yes, there does seem to be a lot of synchronisity going on. Interesting, isn’t it?
      Even the fact that your father also died five years ago..

      I still miss my father very much, not just the conversations we used to have and the sense of humor we shared, but also his company, we could spend time together without feeling the need to talk and the silence would be companiable.

      • I didn’t see my father very often toward the end of his life, as we lived on different continents. I remember always being aware when I saw him of re-discovering in some way a person that I was, but was not in the company of anyone else. Now that he is gone, I feel that a door has (temporarily) closed, shutting off who that person is until further notice. If you see what I mean.

  3. Yes, it is almost as if when somebody close to you dies, a little part of you dies with them. But part of them also survives because you remember them and think about them.

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