A Week To Live

What would you do if you only had a week to live?  My horse Big Mac does. he is scheduled for euthanasia Thursday afternoon.

Mac and I have been fighting his cancer for many years.  he is one of those BIG BIG BIG horses, with a gentle heart and a pale skin colouring that causes a condition which erodes the eye lids with cancer. he certainly did not deserve what happened to him, but then again, who does?

So I have been talking to him, telling him what a good boy he is. I wonder if he hears it in my throat?

they say humans are the only living creation that actually know they are going to die. In fact, many theologies and philosophies theorize that every human fear can be boiled down to an ultimate attribution of fear of death; meaning, somewhere in your subconscious you are having a running dialogue about how how you have to avoid death.

Here in the west we are taught very strangely about death. First we spend our entire lives seeking incredible amounts of comfort, we avoid pain and illness and suffering at all costs.  We surround ourselves with technology, and do everything in our power to keep our minds running on and on and on.  But we don’t actually known what we are thinking and why we are running…we’re just running. Doesn’t that sound insane? but its what most of us do!  Only when the mind stops thinking chattering projecting and reflecting, only then do you get a chance to meet your actual self, and the actual isn’t afraid of anything cause it knows everything. So are making choices all the time that reflect fears we don’t even know we have.

Horses make choices in the moment – as though they are in a constant state of meditation or presence.  In my forty years with horses it is my ultimate wish to be able to be simply as present as they are.

Many Asian cultures have a daily ritual of meditation in groups or with the family Meditation, for humans, is the deliberate act of quieting the mind. The irony of this is that we humans have to really work hard to get into a state of perfect presence – being in the moment, but animals like Mac do it quite naturally, always just watcghing an observing, not projecting or predicting, not fearing or thinking about the past and being sad or regretful.

I learn about presence and how to live in a fearless way from my animals, and mostly Mac. While I have had my mother and other friends and family members who have become very sick with the disease or have died – Mac has continued on.

he has taught me about just being happy in this moment.


Here are just a few of the things my friend mac has taught me:

  • Keep it simple
  • eat good food
  • Listen to the crunching noises
  • Watch birds fly in the sky
  • Stand quietly in a ray of sunshine
  • Shelter myself when it gets windy and cold
  • Stand with friends for increased warmth
  • trust your instinct
  • take care of each other
  • be patient
  • love without expectation or condition

I wonder what people would do if they knew the exact time and date of their death?

I suspect mass chaos, and every attempt to avoid the inevitable.  Even in our blissful ignorance, we mostly go around ignoring the fact that the inevitable is on its way, whether you like it or not. We don’t prepare” ourselves – sometimes preferring to go through life as a vacuous mass of untamed unconsciousness; like dashing through a tree filled forest with blinders on.

But what if you knew? Would you make changes, phone calls, write letters?  All of those things would be in reference to some place in the past I bet – sorry, I wish, maybe…

One of my oldest friends told me Saturday she has decided to stop chemo treatments. She doesn’t want to leave this place with pain and sickness – i think she is so brave I didn’t know what to say.  My heart hurts when I think of her not here with me. I’m selfish that way. but i know we are all heading to the same “place” which is no place at all except right here.

I think animals already know that – sot here would be no use in them knowing about their death because perhaps it wouldn’t faze them. maybe they know already that what they are just sort of continues, like a wave folding itself back into the ocean.


Animals sometimes know when terrible things are going to happen and I don’t think Mac knows – but he knows something is up. I can tell you he is happy, in the field with Lily and Bentley the two retired racehorses.  They go down a few times a day to inspect all the delicious spring greens just beginning to poke their heads out of the earth.

Mac is in the winter of his life, but will be going out in the spring. We will put him in the earth here and wait for him to come back in some other way that we can be together again.

If this was the last week of my life

I know exactly what I would do.

I would be more like my old horse Mac

I would eat delicious food

and love and laugh and dance

every morning.

Over tea

and and old friend and memories

that sustain me even when I have lost my mind.

I would tell the tales that need telling

To my children and grandchildren

I would enjoy my incredible friends,

with smiles and talks and late nights

I would love the sun

and stand very still in her rays

just like big mac showed me to do.

The spring rays

that have come to wipe away winter’s chill

and illness and sadness and loneliness.

I wouldn’t spend any time on those.

If I had a week to live

I would stand very still

very very still

in the rays of the sun

just so  I would  find myself back here

in some way

so we can enjoy each other again.


With love and gratitude to all of you who have helped, supported and loved Mac as we have.  On Thursday you can hold him in your heart for a few minutes send him off with love.






4 thoughts on “A Week To Live

  1. Oh, Jo. This is so beautiful. And as I read the part about what you would do if you had a week to live and cried and cried, my two little dogs bounced up on my lap knocking the phone out of my hands, excitedly kissing my face, and exuberantly happy for no apparent reason other than to make me laugh. It was very strange and out of character for them. After they successfully distracted me they quickly settled down and fell asleep per usual activity. Im not sure what to make of it all but I know it was not a coincidence. Thanks for sharing this lovely story. It made my night!


  2. I love it when people choose to learn from hard situations.
    If I had just one week left, I would do something different every day.
    Watch a sunrise, drink hot chocolate, wake up the people I love very softly, sit in the sun, talk to strangers, walk/ride through an unknown road, play music around a fire with people I love and watch the stars, sleep as much as I want, grind my own coffee, wear someone else’s clothes… Funnily enough, I think it’s what I’ve been doing for the last 2 years. Loving life.
    Thank you for another beautiful post, remember: the spring will always come, but only after the winter. And it’s a beautiful winter ;).


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