My alarm goes off with a buzz at a quarter till four in the morning. Groaning I role over to turn off the alarm and head to the coffee maker. Popping a K-cup in the maker, I head to the door where I have left my overalls in a pile by the door. Standing at the door and glancing out while pulling my overalls on, I realize I don't see my beloved beginner horse "Happy" standing by the fence waiting for breakfast. Forgetting my coffee, I pull on my boots and run out the door. With a sinking feeling I head to her favorite spot in the pasture and realize she has once again laid down to rest and is unable to get her feet back underneath her again. Since she is 1200 lbs I am unable to roll her up to her feet alone so I fish my phone out of my pocket. Calling my assistant at 4 am, after one ring she answers with four words only "Im on my way."
You see at this point she has received several phone calls in the early morning hours to help me roll this horse upright and get on her feet, and I am beyond grateful for her help. As we rock her to her feet and stand on either side to balance her she whispers "you know what you need to do." Feeling a warm tear run down my cheek I tell her "I know."
When my best friend comes to the barn later that day to hang out we sit down and talk. She tells me that it is time, that we knew it was coming, its better to do this now and not wait for her to be injured in the pasture. I nod and make the phone call to the vet, which is set for the following Monday. Over the weekend, we receive several inches of snow which is incredibly uncommon for this part of Texas. Monday morning dawns and my best friend shows up to go to the vet with me. As I help Happy onto the trailer and climb into the truck, my best friend looks at me and smiles, you know it was snowing when I moved her in six years ago. Nodding with a quivering lip "its only fitting that we have snow again when we have to say goodbye."
As she lays down for the last time and breaths her last, my friend and I lean down and whisper our goodbyes "Thank you Happy for teaching many children, run free my sweet girl and with out pain ... and Ill see you on the other side."
Fast forward three months and I am once again laying in bed shaking off the drowsy feelings of sleep. My phone dings of an incoming text, rolling over I grab my phone. Text - 3:48 From Mom ... "Are you awake." Rolling out of bed and slipping outside onto the porch to sit in my rocking chair I call her back. "Karlie they life flighted your dad to Houston ... I don't know whats going on ... can we go down." "Yes maam, let me feed and drop Kylie off at school and we can head down, however Mom you can't go in the hospital." Her response is quiet as she says "I know." The months of chemotherapy has left her immune system vulnerable and weak and the doctors of expressed stern concerns to stay out of doctor offices and hospitals unless needed.
Four evenings later my phone rings again, looking down I see "caller ID unavailable." Having a mother with cancer and a sick father I have momentarily let my guard down and answer. "Ms LeBlanc?" I hear on the other end. "Yes" I answer in dread. "This is Dr. ... from Houston Methodist ... Your father ... not recovering ... I need to meet with you in the morning." "Yes Sir" I answer and hang up. With a quiver in my tone I call my mom and baby brother ...
The next afternoon I find my self sitting on a stiff plastic couch in a cold hospital room behind my father with my knees pulled up to my chin. Listening to the steady rhythm of the ventilator that is keeping him alive. My phone buzzes on the couch next to me and I look down to see my brothers name on the caller ID. I swipe the green button for face time and look at him. By this time I feel the warm wet tears running down my cheeks as I look at him. He asks if I am okay ... to which I respond openly "NO." He asks what he can do, and I just whisper "I want you home." He nods and says let me start packing and hangs up the phone. The nurse walks in and asks if Im ready. With a sickening feeling I stand up and holds my fathers hand and nod silently. The nurses begin pulling the tubes from his mouth that are keeping him alive, all the while administering medications to keep him calm and with out pain. I hold his hand as he begins to cough uncontrollably and I feel my heart slam into my stomach and my breathing comes in rapid short breaths and run into the lobby. Standing at the window seal I grab hold of it and try to calm the panic I feel rising up. The secretary at the desk quietly gets up and hands me tissues. When I walk back in the room I feel like I am on the outside of the room watching. I lean over and whisper "Goodbye daddy, thank you for teaching me to be a strong woman ... be free and without pain and Ill see you on the other side."
One month later I am awoken by scratches on the kitchen floor. By this point I have recognized it as my old blue heeler trying to get up to be let outside to go potty. In her old age she has lost most of her vision and ability to get up on her own. I get up and head to the kitchen and carry her outside. Standing there in my yard at midnight I realize its time to say goodbye, its time to let her run free. I have been avoiding acknowledging she is nearing the end of her life because death seems to be around every corner. She finishes pottying and carry her back inside and lay her on her bed. When the sun rises the next morning I tell Kylie its time to say goodbye. She wraps her arms around my neck and says okay. I call the vets office and set the appointment.
Three days pass in a blur and I am carrying her to my truck to head to the vet. She rides in my lap curled up like she has always done and stares out the window at the passing cars. I wrap her in a blanket and head into the vet office alone and sit in the corner with my beloved dog in my lap. The tears are falling freely now. Im so tired of saying goodbye, the tech walks in and asks if I want to stay with her. I nod and reply "Im not leaving her now." The vet that I used to work for walks and pulls a chair up next to me and whispers "are you ready?" I have no words and just nod in assurance. She administers the liquid that stops her heart, and reaches with her stethoscope to listen. Looking up at me she nods and I know she is gone. Leaning over her body I whisper so only she can hear "Run free old lady, thank you for the years of loyalty and friendship. Ill see you on the other side ..."