The story of Yuma – There is an art to dying – by Kim Roswitha, Wisdom of Horses, Spain
Yuma is almost 30 years when she dies. Her dying process is worth looking into as it shows a way of dying that many human beings have forgotten. There is an art to dying. It is not ‘art’ in the sense of an artificial or bombastic way. It is a way of dying in which the dying horse or person can do what is necessary for him or her. There is a way of dying in peace and without fear.
In our society the dying-process is often not so visible any more, death has been hidden from us. This brings extra fears. There is not much room any more for dying at home, in safe surroundings with family and friends being with you and, also very important, leaving you space and time on your own, so that you can withdraw from this world and its worldly activity and prepare for death.
No matter what religious beliefs, atheistic ideas or simply one big question mark you have about what will happen when you die or after you have died, one thing is certain for everybody: something is coming to an end. Life will stop in a way. And perhaps you go to another place, another level, to heaven, your soul leaves your physical body, whatever you think, believe, wish, know or want to happen; one phase is over and has to be finalised.
Yuma knows she has to finalise things before her death, a long time before she actually dies. Three years before the actual moment she shows that she starts to feel older, and that she can’t have all the responsibilities any more. Saying goodbye from this world is a process on two sides. For Yuma a process of letting go, and in this process you can witness her becoming more in peace and especially becoming softer and with more kindness, by not defending anything any more because she doesn’t need so much any more, she is letting go and passing it on. For the others a process to let her go, to continue well without her, and to accept new responsibilities, i.e. growing up.
Yuma remains the leader of the herd till the last minute of her life. Although she isn’t physically the strongest of the herd any more, the other horses let her have the first choice of food till the last moment.
Yuma has a high age and her body comes to the end of its power. The last years I’m already several times happily surprised when she recovers so well after being ill. She has a strong willpower to live, and also a strong body. But one day she can’t get up any more. Although she has realised already several times that there comes a day to say goodbye, when the moment is actually there, also she starts to fight against her unwilling body. There follows a process of fighting and failing till she has accepted the new situation. This first stage was a difficult one, for Yuma as well as for me. Of course I wanted to end her suffering, but I felt clearly that it wasn’t respectful and fair to end her life because of my pain about the situation, seeing a beloved suffering. The only thing I can do and have to do is being there for her and with her. And after a while there comes peace in her eyes and her body is calm now. So I let her go through her process, care for her, go through my own process too and when I know she will pass away soon now, I express myself to her in thankfulness. Thankful for all we have shared together, all she has given, all her confidence, her wisdom, her friendship.
Giving thanks heals a lot. It helps in saying goodbye, in going on well with your live, it brings things in harmony. If you can´t do that on the moment you say goodbye to a beloved person or animal, you still can do it any later moment in yourself, connecting with the other. It still helps and heals.
Always, but especially in a dying process it’s important to see where to let life go on with its process and where to act. Your act must be a contribution to life. We are used to acting a lot, often too much, because of panic or not wanting the other to leave or to suffer. Supporting a being in its dying process asks in a certain way for courage. Courage in just to be with the dying one, letting life go with its flow, which has the difficult aspect that you often see the physical body suffering from pain and the spirit suffering in letting go of life on earth. It’s the art to be there with an attitude of listening and only to help where asked for. That’s with people, and also with horses.
These last days my other horses Astra and Nona are close around her, so Yuma isn’t suddenly ‘not here any more’, which often happens with animals. A horse is taken out of the herd by a human (for example to be sold or to die) and it never returns. The other horses have often no idea what happened with their close friend or close family-member. It’s good that animals can also say goodbye.
When Yuma has died, twenty neighbours come to help me dig a hole. Also some children with their own tools come to help bury her. The children are playing around, singing some songs. The adults are present with lots of love while digging the hole. What heart-warming support!
When Yuma lays in her grave, my neighbours invite me to throw the first scoop of sand over her body. For a moment I can’t move. So quickly. So definitive. But the sun has already set and I know I have to close the grave soon. I say to the twenty people around me to wait a second, I descend into the grave with some incense and give her a last farewell. I feel everything is fine, so I take the scoop and do what I have to do. I still feel her presence, and I wish to wait till her body feels empty before closing the grave, but in the night wild animals shall be certainly around with interest in the corpse. Fortunately while covering her body with sand there doesn’t come an oppressive feeling, on the contrary, there comes a feeling of being protected and all is fine.
In that moment Nona and Astra show up – they have been eating around till now- and walk to the grave. Even though Yuma hasn’t died on that place and the grave is already closed, they are definitely aware that she is buried there. Then there happens something which keeps me without words. Both of my horses are staring at the grave and then Nona sits down. She sits there and is looking to the grave, like doing a prayer, like saying goodbye, like sharing a last moment with her dear friend.
That night, laying in my bed, I suddenly wake up and feel a strong sensation of love. I know that what has still been present during the day after her death, has now left. Laying in my bed, my heart starts to speak: ‘Yuma, you’re free! Go on your path, go in peace, dear Friend.’
The next day, there is just a grave with a corpse, nothing more. Astra and Nona start to re-organise in their daily life. The following weeks I feel sad without her, the place feels empty without my good friend. It will take time.
Dear Yuma, so much wisdom in one single being. Shared and multiplied. I love you.
Kim Roswitha of Wisdom of Horses offers retreats, riding, coaching and self-enquiry (supported by meditation and relaxation) in the South of Spain.