Friday, September 29, 2017, was a particularly special day. That afternoon, many gathered together to celebrate the life of a wonderful woman. Janet was a dear student of ours at Renew, who passed away on Tuesday, September 19, 2017, at the age of 74.
Janet began riding at Renew this past year during the Spring Session. What began as a gift from her two daughters, Teresa and Jacki, to give their mom “one last ride” turned into 8 complete therapeutic riding lessons. Melissa Conner, Executive Director and Janet’s primary Instructor, stated, “The first time Janet came to visit us it went so well her daughters wanted their mom to continue riding. Next thing we knew she was enrolled in and completed lessons for the Spring session. The daughters said they hadn’t seen their mom smile so much in years.”
According to Janet’s family, she always looked forward to her lessons. She especially looked forward to seeing and interacting with Honey, the 10-year old mare who has a “friendly and outgoing personality.” She and Janet were great partners. Each week Janet would spend extra time carefully grooming her, as this was said to be one of her favorite activities during lessons.
Although it was nearly 20 years since Janet last rode a horse, her body immediately responded as her muscle memory engaged. Melissa explains, “She knew how to communicate with her horse through her seat, legs, and reins and Honey responded well to her. They definitely had a connection.” Even at the age of 74 Janet had a passion for trotting. If Janet found herself at the end of a lesson that did not involve trotting, Janet would ask and want to know, “Why didn’t we trot today?”
Kayla, an Instructor at Renew, had the privilege of teaching Janet’s last lesson just a few weeks ago. During Janet’s memorial Kayla explained to a guest that Janet “had a great last lesson,” Kayla continued, “she just seemed to have so much life and excitement while she was riding. It was awesome to see.” Amazingly, Janet was successfully working on her sitting trot during her lesson. Kayla noted she was doing “very well and had a well-developed seat.” Melissa, having taught many of Janet’s lessons states, “Every week she just amazed me. She far exceeded my expectations of her. She just did not want to be held back.”
After Janet’s passing, her family contacted Renew for a special request – one that was a first for us. During a phone conversation the family expressed how much joy Honey had brought to Janet during their lessons together and they asked if Renew would consider transporting Honey to be present during her memorial service at the senior living community. Without hesitation, Melissa replied, “Yes, of course we can do that!”
So, last Friday afternoon, family and friends gathered together and were able to see Honey wearing the very saddle that Janet once rode in. They were able to meet Janet’s loyal friend who consistently brought excitement and happiness into her life during these last several months.
One of the best moments of the afternoon was when one of Janet’s daughters said, “I just know Mom is dancing in Heaven right now, I know she is so excited this is happening!”
We, at Renew, are honored and humbled to have been invited to share in this celebration of Janet’s life. It was truly a blessing to have worked with Janet and we know the joy she brought to our community will be missed by all, including Honey.
*Photos include Janet at the Holland Western Saddle Club horse show on July 22, 2017 and attendees at Janet’s memorial service.