Sorry I haven’t been posting much lately, y’all. It’s not that nothing is happening worth writing about, honestly. I’ve just had this post that I’ve needed to write for several weeks, but had a hard time wrapping my head around what to say, how much to say, and how to say it.
I lost a friend in January, a very dear friend who taught me a lot about living.
Being in my mid-forties at the time I met Shirlee, I thought I knew about living. I was wrong.
I like to ride horses–not just in arenas or my back pasture, but in new, scenic places. In mountains and forests and across rivers and grasslands. I had always wanted to ride in Caprock Canyon here in Texas, but never had anyone to make the trip with me. One day I was hanging out on a forum for people who trail ride and I saw this woman post that she and her husband were plannig a trip to Caprock. They lived in Iowa at the time.
Out of the blue, I sent this woman I’d never met a message asking if she minded some company out there. I’m easy to get along with as a trail rider. My horse is pretty reliable and I don’t mind going off and doing my own thing. I promised not to hang on her coattails all day long every day.
Well, I did. Hang on her coat tails, that is. Because Shirlee and her husband Leroy and I bonded pretty quickly. We had similar riding interests and styles, though they had a lot more wilderness experience than I did. A LOT more.
I learned that Shirlee was a four-time cancer survivor. FOUR TIMES. Can you imagine that? She was a bit older than me, and weakened from all those treatments, and yet she could ride me into the ground. I’ve never, ever seen someone who enjoyed being in the saddle so much. For Shirlee, riding–living–was pure joy. Because she’d learned that being able to do either of those things is not a given. She was one of the bravest riders I’ve met, and she helped me put my fears aside. She took me and my horse over, under, and through things I would never have tried on my own.
We became fast friends and Shirlee and Leroy took pity on me (my inability to find other riders here in Texas who want to go horse camping and trail riding) and allowed me to accompany them on many other trips. We rode the Buffalo National River several times, the Shawnee National Forest, in the Colorado Rockies, and at Robber’s Cave in Oklahoma. Just last fall we went back to Caprock for a reunion ride. We talked about me coming out to their new ranch in Colorado this summer.
Shirlee passed away January 21.
In the end, it wasn’t the cancer that took her, and I’m glad for that. She fought hard and she won that battle. She deserved to win it.
Farewell, my friend. I miss you. I won’t forget you or the lessons you taught me: Live. Love. Laugh. And RIDE.