Editorial: What Lily left behind
By Richard Gaw
This past March, a 20-year-old Appaloosa/Arabian mixed breed horse was taken to the Penn Vet's New Bolton Center, after having been rescued from the New Holland Auction Stables.
There was no register of sale for the horse and no identification, and she had been blinded in one eye. Her skin was sore to the touch, and she was visibly emaciated, but her ugliest fate had come from human indecency: her once silky white mane now bore the colored pock marks from more than 130 shots from a paintball gun. A farm owner from New Jersey late came forth to claim that the paint marks were from the hands of children, who would use the horse as a canvas at kid parties, but her story has been largely discredited.
Philip Price, Jr. of Rhode Island was later charged with transporting the horse, and then convicted of animal cruelty and handling the animal without a license.
Around the clock, equine specialists at New Bolton set about to, in essence, bring the horse back to life. Along the way, they named her Lily. Within days of her arrival, the story of Lily became a national one, while locally, she had become the unofficial mascot of Chester County, and a testament to how human kindness can overcome even the darkest measure of our cruelty.
In May, Tracey Stewart, a licensed veterinarian and the wife of comedian Jon Stewart, came to the New Bolton Center to adopt Lily and arrange for her transport to the animal sanctuary she and her husband own and operate in Colt's Neck, N.J. For one month, Lily received everything that was due to her: massages, baths and more hugs than she had every received in her entire life. She had her very own barn and listened to a Pandora channel of music that included Ray Lamontagne.
This past Sunday, Lily fell and broke a bone in her neck. She was later euthanized. On her Facebook page, Stewart posted the following:
“It is with the deepest sadness that we share with you that dearest, sweetest Lily passed away yesterday. She went peacefully surrounded by so many that loved her. We stroked her hair and told her over and over again how loved and special she was. She was under her favorite tree on soft grass. She will live on in our hearts and in our fight to protect, love and cherish all animals.
“When we knew there was nothing more we could do for her we covered her in kisses and kind words and said our goodbyes,” Stewart added. “Our hearts are aching. We had so many more fun plans for her. She was beyond special and beyond loved.”
Stories like Lily's are not intended to arrive and disappear like transient fads into the psyche of our better angels. Rather, they are to remain in permanence, like passing comets we may be able to point to and say, 'Look! We saved her! This is what happens when we are at our best!'
What Lily gave us, and what she leaves behind, is not just the story of an abandoned horse, pelted to near death by paintballs and neglect, who was rescued and saved. In the last precious months of her life, Lily showed us that our capacity to love in defiance of our worst indecencies – by choosing to take the best parts of our humanity and hurdle them over the walls of our own ugliness – is our greatest gift, and one that will always win. We can now let go of her reigns, so that she may run in pastures, forever.