This weekend takes me to part 2 of my Equine Assisted Psychotherapy training.
This and part 1 a couple of months ago took place in rural Elgin, west of St.Charles, Plano. Actually not far, about 10-15 minutes from my cousin.
But I haven't been in this specific area, where the therapeutic barn is, in over 15 years.
Its an area that I used to drive through often in my high school/4-H years. Each morning/evening I have been driving through this area, pieces of it begin to look familiar and take shape to a memory. Memories that feel like a lifetime ago.
I am fairly certain I passed by the barn that used to house the old 4-H open shows. I know that I passed by the large animal veterinary practice that I interned with my senior year of high school when I was certain I wanted to be a vet. I think I recognized one property that is now for sale as to belonging to an "Ursula" who was in a different 4-H club. So weird.
I like to vary my routes. So each of these I have passed on a different day in or out. But each day I have ended up passing by this old church. With its cemetery across the street. And my gut told me I knew this church. I had only been there once. For a funeral.
Today on my way out I finally stopped. I knew exactly where the grave was. Still. 15 years later.
It is Melanie's grave.
Melanie passed away 15 years ago almost exactly. She was driving back to school at Murray State in Kentucky. A driver in the other direction took his eyes off of the road for a second. Resulting in a head on collision.
I remember getting a call from my 4-H and high school friend. We went to the funeral together, to pay our respects. To her friends. to our 4-H friends. To her family.
The thing is, I really didn't know Melanie all that well. I knew who she was. We were always at the same horse events, shows, did this thing called "Horse bowl" and "hippology" and were on the same team. Melanie was a couple of years older. She was that girl who was gorgeous. She was good at everything. It seemed everything she touched turned to gold. She seemed to win everything at the fair. She was popular. She was smart. She was good people. Never got into any trouble. We did not talk much. And she was as intimidating as hell to me.
She had everything going for her. Her whole life ahead of her.
And in an instant. It was gone.
I recall being struck by a particular notion then, and it still does now: She was an only child.
She lived with her mom. I am not sure what the deal with her dad was. If there was a divorce, if he died, if I just never saw him, etc. But I do remember her being everything to her mom. (I did actually talk to her mom and was kind of drawn to her warm personality)
My heart broke for her.
And now, as a mom, my heart still breaks for her. And maybe more so. My baby is everything to me too.
And it hits a tender/sore spot in me. Her story is an example of while I love my son to pieces, I want a sibling for him. A #2 for me. And desperately. And its killing me that it hasn't happened yet. Even though there is still a ton of time.
Is it weird/sick/wrong to feel this way? maybe. But it is there.
Don't get me wrong, I don't just want another child as a "just in case". I love children and big families and God-willing I would happily have another 5 children. (and if I could only get Bill to be more open to adoption...) My biological clock doesn't have space for 5 more.
My superstition is keeping me very careful with my selection of words from here.
My greatest fear is here. In Melanie's grave.
And as I think of her mother, her poor mother, is her life any less valid because Melanie is gone? Is Melanie's life any less valid because it is gone?
Absolutely not. 15 years later, I still remember her. Her family does I am sure. Her 20 years of existence were full of life. They ripple out. her footsteps give meaning and life lessons to silly folks like me. Who were too afraid to ever talk to her.
But if I live my life in this fear, my life is saying that it is not valid.
All life, no matter how short, is valid. Has meaning. Is beautiful.
And so what is my take away?
I stopped at her grave site today. Her picture, in her prime, still shining on the stone like it was just yesterday. I said a prayer. And asked for strength to be ok with what is. To not be afraid of tomorrow. Of what I have been given or not given. But to live it now. With full attention to what I have now. Not to what could be or should be or I want to be. But what is.
Stop being so damn afraid.
It all comes down to value for me. We tend to value roles. People being useful. My head tells me I am valuable when I am doing things. When I can define myself. But my heart tells me otherwise. We are valuable because we are. No fill in the blanks. Whether I ever counsel, have another child, have physical ability to walk or talk or whatever. Value does not go up or down. It remains the same.
And so it is.
Melanie is valuable.
Melanie's mom is valuable.
A newborn baby is valuable.
Ben is valuable.
I am valuable.
You. Are. Valuable.