I Was Worried How My Girls Would Take the Death of Their Horse. Their Reaction Warmed My Heart

Two little girls remind us that the smallest of gestures can change the world.

FRLas15_York1Farm and Ranch Living Magazine

Someone with a lot of time on his hands—probably not a parent—came up with meanings for many of the flowers that decorate our lives. Red roses are for true love, daisies are for innocence, orchids are for beauty, and so on. And now, as a parent, I’d like to add red clover to the list of flowers with special meaning.

Red clover is a tenacious little plant that grows wild on our farm. Many people consider it a weed, but red clover was one of the first plants our daughters, Emmalyn and Alexis, recognized and appreciated. We taught them to pull the tiny pink straws from the soft blossoms and chomp on them to release droplets of the sweet juice. Yum! Bees dance around red clover, and butterflies can’t resist it. What’s not to love?

Our horses also relish it. In the spring, there’s no sweeter treat than handfuls of clover.

When one of our horses was injured and confined to his stall for several months, he hated his treatment so much that he resented the arrival of any human—except for two little girls who toddled up to his door with hand-picked gifts of clover and sincere chatter about how sorry they were that he was sick.

When another horse reached old age and lost his sight, handfuls of clover arrived regularly in his feed dish. The girls worried that he might not be able to find it on his own anymore.

But the sweetest moment came one summer, months after we had to have Carm, one of our mares, put down. The girls were full of questions about the whole sad process and fascinated by having her buried on our farm, which had been her home for over a decade.

I found them, one afternoon, lingering by that secluded grave. “What are you doing?” I asked. They jumped up, startled.

“Nothing,” they replied, which always means exactly the opposite.

“This isn’t really a place to play, you know.”

“We know.”

Then I saw what they had been doing. Carefully laid out in the middle of the grave was a generous circle of red clover blossoms. Each blossom was perfect—soft and round and beautifully colored. It must have taken forever to find and pick so many.

I stayed there a long time, just staring.

We talked about it later, once I was able to speak. I told them I thought it was very sweet. They didn’t think it was such a big deal: “She liked clover, Mom. There’s no grass there yet, and we thought if we picked clover, she would see it and be happy.”

Sometimes the smallest of gestures is the most meaningful.

There are no words to describe the happiness and pride that lingered with my sadness. And so, for our family at least, one more flower has a special meaning: red clover, the sweet, strong flower of compassion.

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Originally Published in Farm & Ranch Living