If you listened to the tele summit talks, you may have heard me mention my sister-in-law, Charlise, who was the ostensible reason I moved to Texas. She fought lupus for a decade.
The week before the Tele Summit release which began Monday, March 28, Magali Delgado and Frederique Pignon, originators of the world-wide sensation Cavalia, came not just to Texas, and not just to Dallas, but to Firehawk Ranch–the venue for this year’s Symposium. That four days also marked the beginning of the final decline for Charlise. Of course, we didn’t know it would be a decline that would never involve an upswing.
I have dreamt of working with Magali and Frederique in fantasies and literal dreams. And so, having newly arrived in Texas and while shopping for a venue for the Healing with Horse Symposium, I applied and was accepted to work with Magali in dressage with my mustang Denny and my Arabian mare Fajah. When I signed up, I envisioned hours spent conditioning with both horses to get to some semblance of shape, so we could move into learning and improving rather than just repeating learning I already knew. Instead, I had one 10-minute ride each through thick gumbo mud and uneven ground, the same rides from which the videos came that I submitted as part of my application.
The challenges of taking over the Healing with Horse Collective and setting up the tele summit were all consuming, as was balancing that with care of my 10-horse herd housed in a pasture over an hour away and settling into my brother’s family house, an act that required utmost courage from every one of us living here. As did the intense physical pain and disability that began with the 4 laps of driving through blizzards, fog, and ice storms that it took to get 10 horses from Utah to Texas. Each drive takes 26 driving hours one way. That’s where the pain began, starting in a knee I’d injured over 20 years ago playing soccer, and spreading, well, everywhere. I’ve always been an athlete, and debilitating pain is not something I plan for…and I now know that such pain requires, not just emotional endurance and inner strength, but planning and time. And more self-discipline, endurance, emotion management, and courage than I could have imagined.
The point here is, even before those days when I had to make decisions between my dream learning with my own horses and Charlise’s needs–and found no balance sufficient, and all through a miasma of the most intense point in the physical pain, it had not been a cake walk. I’ve now experienced years of difficulty–though most of the personal tragedies were not my choice as this move to Texas was. This move was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done by choice, after years of surviving the hardest things I could never have imagined, that I was powerless to change. When Trish and I met on the phone to discuss her offering for the Tele Summit, she began, “So Diedre, I’m going to start calling you Resurrection Woman.” It was so honoring, and so true.
But I wouldn’t wish such an honor on anyone. I have had the strengthening gifts of a beloved partner divorcing through methods of betrayal and humiliation. With that loss, I also lost my home and business. Before that, I lost animals who were family and colleagues to violent, vindictive neighbors, and my mother to dementia and finally death. I have had to move, and move, and move. In the past year alone, I lost my husband, home, business, soul-mate horse, and soul-mate dog. Then I found Eden. Then I gave it up to be a part of another hard loss.
Yes, Charlise passed. Her decline began the weekend of Magali and Frederique’s clinics, one day of which I missed to be home with her, the other days of which were plagued by pain. And Charlise’s decline ended an hour before the completion of the Tele Summit Complete Release, and was in fact the reason for the Complete Release. Essentially, she lost lung capacity due to the lupus settling in her lungs. Imagine the spongy oxygen-absorbing tissue of your lungs becoming like splintered glass, unable to expand, contract, or take in air. It felt to her like she was drowning. My breathing exercises from tai chi, riding, meditation, and from living through losses so difficult it felt like breathing solid rock had provided me with the training ground to help her where no one else could. And I could not have imagined it would be what Charlise would need.
It also meant the 6+ hours it took each day to put teasers and each day’s release together were often done between midnight and 8am, or while sitting next to Charlise in her and my brother’s bed. The hospice caretakers were excellent, but Charlise was so strong, and had been ill and on pain and mood meds at such high doses for so long, that they could not stabilize the pain and fear that arose from the bodily experience of drowning. These were not your quiet, peaceful hours, days, weeks.
Thursday April 7 was the day the everything-shy-of-mercy-killing hospice strategy began. Family had come in from as far as New York and California. A family in which, on all sides, there had been years of silence and broken only by sporadic tense communications. It could have been done by Disney…but it was not G rated. Charlise said goodbye, and the drug administration began. But so did the sense of drowning.
Even in those last five days, there were special moments. There just were not easeful ones. And the moments were the kind that my brother’s family full of warriors found special. And I learned to stretch my definitions. In January, Linda Kohanov had said to me, “Diedre, do you not see that you are a warrior?” She told me I am an infiltrator, repeatedly going in where no one would or could and silently, quietly undermining predatory forces and beginning new, empowered ways of being. Alongside the sense of astonished honor, I felt a bit of panic. I never signed up to be a warrior!
But, during the two weeks of the tele summit I had to own, this time, I had. And so I had to bring as much peace as I could, which meant finding it myself in the place of the most pain and difficulty, the source of all my fears. In Texas, with family, and in a room in which even the head nurse resented me and where no one spoke, much less understood, my language.
In other words, I had to be a horse. I thought of my three mustangs an hour away, drew strength from all the changes I’d seen them make over the years as they worked with more and more people. I drew strength from the powerful energy healing work of presenter Jess Campmans, and from local Epona-Approved Instructor Max Maxwell. From Rob Pliskin’s humor, and good friends Carol Caddes and Alejandra Lara, and all the other presenters’ incredible grace, compassion, and flexibility. And from Lance and Jeannette Wright, owners of Firehawk Ranch. I had a community that had risen up in weeks, and who held me. Oh, and the two mostamazing dogs–make that three–you could imagine. Oshie and Britta, my Norwegian Elkhounds, and the family’s dog, Annie.
On Monday, April 11, Charlise looked at Todd and me and said, “Why am I not DEAD?!” I decided that the Complete Release, something I’d contemplated with Jess, would have to happen. Eventually hospice regained the new balance of meds required. And I let loose the complete release, titling the internet address “Charlise-Release.”
Charlise passed away, finally, quietly, at 2:45 pm Tuesday, April 12. After six hours of drama in which 6 nurses, the hospice doctor, and her care provider drove in from all over Dallas to try to get a line into her failing veins, Charlise pulled off her oxygen mask and said “Enough now.”
She asked everyone but Todd out of the room. They lay down together and she fell asleep. Soon he was dozing. Then he heard, “She’s gone.” He sat up and saw that she was quiet, not breathing. After a moment he called in her two grown daughters and the 10-year-old twins who had just gotten home from school. I stayed in the guest room, my room, and felt the celebration among the guides and angels I’d been encircled by and felt her dazed presence, and laughed and told her, “I told you so.” She had believed that when she died, she’d just disappear, forever.
After I’d said goodbye to her earthly body, now just clay again, I returned to my computer and ended the complete release.
Thank you all for being part of, and agents of, Charlise’s Release. With your help, she was able to transform, cross over, be born again into the non-physical.
Since Charlise’s passing, I have experienced such a sacred and powerful renewal of all my own losses to mourn, and failures, and helplessness, and bodily pain and debilitation. Technology failed, headaches so bad they made me nauseous would set in when I tried to work on the Symposium. I could plan and organize, just not market and communicate.
We have control, actually, of so little.
And yet we have control of so much. Of how we look at things. But that doesn’t mean that we “stay positive” in the sense of social acceptance. What we must do may at times be incredibly hard for others to be in the presence of. And that is what others need most for us to do. I have been afraid to give words to this experience, believing that until I could transform my experience into something that did not shout, that did not show pain, that I would be doing more harm than good. But for me, transformation has never been an easy or ease-filled experience. Even if we want it, as for the last week Charlise did, it is not easy to give up the breathtaking beauty and pain and love of that which we are losing. Charlise had to let go of two amazing sons, an engaged daughter with a one-year-old son. Another daughter who just began working as a detective. And the kind of love with Todd that you only see in movies. Soul mate love. From my experience, if there isn’t screaming, or some kind of visual struggle, then the person hasn’t really gotten down to it. If it hasn’t reached the point at which a person doesn’t break down, isn’t overwhelmed, then transformation is not yet complete. There may be people who can contain that pain, but I haven’t met them yet.
I don’t like this. I didn’t make the rules. But I’ve been “broken” so many times in the past 5-10 years, it has come to be a truth. Not really easier, just true. It is a truth I discovered when I began this work with horses, and it’s a truth that still holds true. Even writing this blog and newsletter, getting back into the public part of the Symposium, came with a cussing match with myself in the shower.
Birthing myself back into this should have happened weeks ago. I should never have gone under. But I did. And so now, that is the sacred path, the only path, the path of the gods, because the sacred went with me as it did with Charlise.
I do hope you will consider coming to this most amazing gathering, even if it requires some juggling and spontaneity. There is space, and there is a gathering. We have room, and it promises still to be the event of the year. Come, join the community that I know to be strong enough to hold with ease and love even a very difficult death and rebirth. Come celebrate life with this year’s leaders and practitioners, as well as the participants flying in from 6 different countries and from all over the U.S., and let’s all pause to learn together, share stories, renew our energy, be inspired, and feel belonging before we step out and into our epic lives again.
I know these experiences resonate with many of you, as these times are requiring much from many of us. I know it’s been difficult. I hope you will look through the amazing offerings, feel into the magical space of Firehawk Ranch, learn about the remarkable Caballo Andante herd that will be a part of every session, and find a way to make this year’s Symposium work for you. Please check it out at www.healingwithhorse.org/symposium. Thank you and I hope to see you soon!