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When Death Comes- A Tribute to our Sunny

allowing the horse to choose their time of passing death letting go transformation Aug 02, 2023
Photo of Sunny and Ariana


This late unexpected afternoon the day before August begins, I sit quietly in the shade of a grandmother oak tree while my horse lay dying. His body was one with the earth as he lay still, quiet, as if already in a new world. His breathing quick and deep, his hooves heavy in their silence.

Sunny, my bright and cheery gelding, born to Ruby and Superman, has been a treasure to know, such a kind spirit to all of our guests on the ranch over his many years. His bay and white coat like the picture of the earth’s rivers flowing along his once strong body.

He lets go into the warm earth. He lifts his head and whinnies to me. “I am here with you.” I whisper to him.

“It is ok to go now. I love you. It is your choice and I respect your wishes. If you can’t get up by tomorrow, I can help you leave this earthly plane, but I know you know best and you will let me know. Your herd loves you too.”

He settles back to the earth for what seems like an eternity. After a few hours, he finds the strength to awaken and get up. I am quite surprised, but relieved too. The next morning, he is in the field with his herd, perhaps he is spending his last day with them. A few hours later, he lay down again and this time he passes quickly. I go to him now in his time of transition, determined to stay as long as he asks.

I sit by him, watching the flies and the ants arrive. How do they know when a body dies? I see his white teeth, his once expressive nostrils now still.

“How long does it take for a soul to leave this life and begin its transformation to its next life?” I ask. His stillness is everything. The rest of the world is forgotten as he leaves me quietly but surely. His hooves stiff as if standing at attention but not on solid ground, rather just above it in the air of grasses. How quickly the body becomes a lifeless shell of an amazing spirit now passing into the breeze flowing by.

“Thank you, Sunny, for being with me and with all of us for so long. You have blessed so many lives, both horse and human, plant and hawk. We talked yesterday about it being ok to go now.

I am happy that you chose your time to lay still on the earth, to transition ever so purposefully from here. The breeze washes your face and mine, it is noisy now as if it has much to do, as if its mission is to move you to the ethers of life and form in a quick and unseen rhythm only the Great Spirit knows well; honoring the invisible veil between life here now and life somewhere unknown as of yet.

I keep looking at your still ribs, I expect them to move up and down with each breath, but they don’t. They are just still and silent. I do not understand. I see your perfectly painted legs dipped in white with black tips, your tick bitten shoulder from our times in Point Arena. I see your long back meant to run fast."

“You chose your place to pass. It is a nice place. It is in the large field with your family and yet just next to the field by the barn and the the rest of us. I saw you visit each member of your herd today. I imagined you were saying goodbye. You were so elegant and peaceful.”

"Most people don’t know what it looks like to just let a horse pass on their own. Most horses are ‘put down’ because it is too hard for the human to see their pain or better yet, feel their own pain. I have learned this powerful lesson from your great grandmother, Sadie, and your great aunties, Lacey, Stella and Lottie. I told you yesterday that they got to choose the way they left this life. It was profound and to be remembered forever.

I think the soul may be more peaceful this way. Better able to transition to the next life because the spirit has time to say goodbye to now, and to begin its journey into the spirit world, a form rich in meaning yet beyond shape and time.

When we ‘put an animal down’ because it is too hard for us to watch or we think we are their governing body, the soul doesn’t get to transition. I didn’t want that for you.

I sit with you now as you help me understand, make sense of and allow your passing at this moment. You remember that I invite you back into my life in any form you choose. So, I know I will see you again. And we will each greet each other as once again a close familiar family member that we have always been. Together we will always honor our sacred bond. I will see you running and prancing in the spirit world. I will have visions of your coming to me when I need your silent presence wrapping around me, giving me strength and enveloping me with the essence of your vibrant heart and your kind eye.

Our hearts will fill with love for unknown reasons; a feeling so profound we cannot explain it to each other nor anyone else either.

I lay next to you as the dry grass dances at your side sending you softly to the skies. The grasshopper sings his hoppy song nearby, the commuters rush past down the lane, the fog flows into the valley, soon to engulf the night with a moist bed of silence. The red tail flies over head, overseeing and perhaps protecting your sacred space. Soon I will go to gather flowers for your new dirt home. I love you."

PS. I know that it is not always possible to allow the horse to find their own time to pass. this is just a story of when it worked.


What needs to be let go?: Is it time to let go of what you once knew, a time of yesterday full of its very own hopes and dreams? Is it time to allow the shift from one shape into another?

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