'Grief' is a word that does not really describe the myriad of emotions that one experiences when informed of the death of someone who is embedded in your life. "Grief", a one syllable, blunt nothing word that is supposed to identify the shock, disbelief, horror, anger, black hole, loss, nothingness, tears, ache in the chest, rush of panic, hyperventilating wave of "NO!".
Stevie Latimer was my teenager's mentor and friend, truthfully she mentored generations of teenagers. Stevie loved horses, dogs and kids. She had a massive heart attack yesterday in Montana and died suddenly. We are all trying to figure out how old Stevie was. She would have laughed at that. I am sure she probably told us, but we weren't listening as usual. Stevie owned 'Equestation', a 3 day training facility in the middle of the Mojave desert at a military research and development facility called China Lake. Families are brought here not by choice, she was a talent that helped the kids and some of the moms cope with the isolation and vastness of the empty desert.
Stevie loved dressage, although she taught many ponies and horses how to jump and how to compete cross country. Before I lost my ranch she came and taught my daughter at our home. A gracious, old school, instructor who knew your personality, your potential and molded you into a better athlete. She yelled alot. It was because she loved you and while riding you are thinking about all the stuff she wanted you to do you didn't always hear her. She made Kelley cry, all the girls cried. They yelled back at her. They hated her sometimes, she made them do impossible things. They didn't see the beautiful creation they were becoming in her experienced hands. I saw it. She was an artist. Actually she was an artistic athlete who appreciated fluidity and movement on horseback. She knew muscles of beasts and children and she made our kids walk funny, like ballerinas.
Kelley got to spend two and a half weeks with Stevie right before school started. It was intense training and Kelley was able to ride with Stevie. Something clicked between them, it all began to make sense. Kelley wanted to go back at Christmas break and do it again, she wanted to board 'Max' at Equestation and learn more, for the first time she really understood Stevie. One day when I picked her up from the ranch she said, "I love Stevie, mom she is teaching me so much - and now I understand that I will never be perfect but I can always strive for perfection!" Quite a mouthful coming from a 15 year old. Kelley wanted Stevie to come to her sweet sixteen party in December. Once she got her drivers license, I wouldn't have to take her out to Equestation, she could drive herself.
I told Stevie about Kelley falling in love with her and having her eyes opened to another level of training. Stevie laughed at the romance of it and said, "Don't worry, I'll fix that. She'll hate me tomorrow." I'm glad I told her, it was three weeks ago. She's gone now.
Life is so short. This is cliche but the people who are always there, aren't supposed to be gone. This will probably sound very selfish later when I read it, but she wasn't supposed to die. Stevie is always supposed to be there. This sounds crazy, but I called to listen to her answering machine just to hear her voice one more time. I hope it doesn't get erased too soon.
A beautiful rose can bloom it's heart out and shine in the garden. We appreciate it's beauty, it's grace and it's life. When it dies, it can be imitated but never reproduced. It only blooms once. Stephanie Latimers life was fragrant, robust and full. We appreciated her, and sometimes took for granted that the rose would always be in that garden. I miss her already and I am sure as the days pass we will come to really see what a hole is left in all of our lives without her.
One last thing, the team of Pony Club girls gathered together last night as they heard of their coaches passing. They have a Mega Rally in two weeks. They decided to "Ride for Stevie". Not to let go of all that she has given them. It doesn't matter if they win, although it would be good if they did. She was supposed to go with them and be there. In a way, she will be.