If a human life can be compared, in time, to the seasons of the year, then living well into December of your time on earth could be considered a full life. In this week’s magazine, our Obituary section (p. 24) includes two people whose lives ended in the waning summer or early fall of their time here–much, much too early.
Michelle Holliday and I corresponded through letters and by telephone. She submitted artwork for the Chronicle’s cover shortly before she passed away, unexpectedly, at age 50. Because Michelle’s art was so important to her, her family made arrangements for her paintings to carry on her legacy through the Peterson Art Gallery in Pendleton, S.C. Michelle’s paintings will grace the cover of future magazines, and when I see each piece I’ll recall how thrilled she was to hear that her work would be there.
After a gallant fight, Patty Motion died on Dec. 9 at age 43, of breast cancer. When you read her obituary you’ll see that she was a well-rounded horseman. But what you won’t know is that she spent the last decade of her life devoted to her family, husband Andrew and daughters Lillibet, 12, and Mary, 9.
Because horses were such a central part of Patty’s life, she developed a strong network of friends through her passion for riding and for the community around Middleburg, Va. At her funeral, the Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, Va., overflowed with family, friends and neighbors who came to pay their respects. It was immediately evident how many people loved and respected Patty, from the racing world, hunting field and the horse shows.
At the shows, Patty and I often chatted, sitting on tack trunks outside the stalls, and compared stories about our kids. She loved watching her girls ride and show, and she believed that being around horses and horse people was a great blessing. In fact, during Patty’s eulogy, her best friend, Anne Thompson, read excerpts from Patty’s journal. She wrote that when she was awake at night, alone and in pain, counting her blessings brought her peace. And most of those blessings revolved around the horse world.
The day after Patty’s funeral, trainer Denice Perry asked Andrew if she could take Lillibet to The Barracks horse show in Charlottesville, Va., for the weekend. Denice thought the show might be a welcome diversion for her, so she asked trainer Claiborne Bishop of The Barracks if she had a pony Lillibet could ride around. Claiborne went one better. She provided a nice pony for Lillibet to show, and Lillibet left The Barracks as children’s pony hunter champion.
When Andrew came into my office a few days ago, I asked how the children were. And he said that they’re doing well, but both worry about the future and hope to keep horses in their lives. Andrew understands their concerns. He said to them: “I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that you’re taken care of, and with all of the people in this community who care about you, I’m sure you’ll always be able to find a horse to ride.”
Andrew’s right. When it really matters, horse people look out for each other. There’s a camaraderie that develops between people who share the passion of horses, and I’m grateful to be a part of this community too. In times of trouble or grief, it’s easy to forget the ties that bind us together. So take Patty’s lead and remember to count your blessings–because you truly never know when the seasons will change.