Incense and horse manure

The faint odor of incense lingered in the sanctuary as light from the gray sky streamed in through the clear glass windows. My mind wandered back to memories of years past. It was seven years ago this weekend when I first attended Christ Church. I had been dating Kim for about six weeks, and her mother had just died after a long battle with cancer.

It was also Kate’s first Sunday at Christ Church. I had known Kate since the early eighties when we both attended Grace Church in New York City. She had finally started seminary at Yale Divinity School and was the new seminarian.

Today, we were all there again, remembering Alex. Alex had been Kim’s riding instructor for many years. I thought back twenty-five years ago. 1981. I had just moved to New York after college. Folks from Grace Church would head out together to the beach in New Jersey. In the evenings, we would sit around, talk, and maybe have a sing-along. Kate would sometimes play her guitar.

Alex’s favorite song was “Sunshine on my shoulder”, and Kate played it on her guitar at the beginning of the service. Twenty-five years ago, riding was a very big part of Kim’s life. Pony club. Riding her horse in parades, and of course her lessons with Alex.

Kim and others talked about Alex’s love of horses, about how Alex was teaching people to be horse whisperers before the phrase became popular, about how Alex taught people to be one with their horse, instead of treating the horse like a transportation vehicle. They talked about his perseverance as his life was tossed many curves and he always managed to rebuild. They talked about the great old Russian hospitality that he always showed at the farm.

Various people spoke, and Kim spoke about them in terms of their horses, the way I’ve often been spoken about at pre-school events, in terms of my children. Outside, the Second Company Governor's Horse Guard paid tribute to Alex. At the cemetery, Kate said the prayers and a horse at the barn across the street offered a loud Amen. At the reception, we talked with people who rescued foals.

The odor of incense, mingled with the smell of horse manure serve as a reminder of a better life.

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