Stopping in for some coffee at a local convenience store, I ran into Amanda, a parent of one of my old riding students looking refreshed and happy.
I had lost track of her two girls, Ali and Brooke. Brooke was frail and more into friends than horses. Her sister, Ali, was the opposite; all she could think of was horses. Ali rode for years at my farm until she decided to ride with her best friend at another farm.
Running into her mother was a great treat, for I often thought of Ali, Brooke, and Amanda. Ali had just finished her freshman year at college and was currently looking for a job. Then Amanda paused and looked at the ground and spurted out flat lifeless words, “And Brooke passed away on Thanksgiving.”
My mind scrambled to make sense of what I had just heard. Amanda continued, “Her lungs collapsed.” Brooke was tiny. Born prematurely, she had been given only hours to live. She defied the doctors, and thrived. She would always maintain a boyish figure and always weigh less than hundred pounds despite her 5’3” frame. Brooke loved getting her nails done and dressing up into frilly dresses and high heels. She loved reading fashion magazines and fine dining in New York City with her Aunt, Amanda’s high society sister. She was quick with a smile or a funny joke. She was physically limited but her heart knew no boundaries. No one knew the gravity of her physical problems because Brooke never complained.
As I drove to school that day, I recalled the fun times at the farm with Brooke. Like the time the girls decided to experiment with one of the barn cats to see how many foods it would eat. The cat at that time had eaten Doritos, cucumbers, carrots, melon, water ice, and cheese curls. I remember Ali and Brooke dressing up Pee-Wee for the fourth of July complete with a huge red striped, blue hat and streamers attached to his tail. I can see Brooke watching Ali at her first horse show and cheering her younger sister on to do better.
I hear Brooke telling me with excitement how much fun she was going to have in New York with her aunt. She explained the shopping, salons and spas that they would be going to. She loved hanging out in the city that never sleeps.
Death is hard to comprehend. Its finality closes chapters and starts others. The blow of death can build a foundation that the loved ones can climb on, or it can topple and crush its survivors. I know that Brooke’s foundation is one that others will climb onto. Her life was one well lived.
To all of those that have lost a loved one this year, I pray for strength to be able to make peace with God’s decision.