Church of Barbaro: Rallying Behind a Horse's Death

Goshen became friends with Gretchen and Roy Jackson, Barbaro's owners, and, on the next-to-last day of the horse's life, she was invited in to meet the great Barbaro. She put on sterile booties and a gown, walking slowly through the peach-colored halls of the ICU, which looks like a human hospital except for the stalls and a dry erase board with messages like, "Need goat plasma."

"I was just as terrified when I met Barbaro as when I met the Dalai Lama," she says.

She leaned in, looking Barbaro in the eye. She refused to look at his legs. Whispering, she said, "Dearest Barbaro, I imagine you might want to be getting out of this stall."

A day later, he was dead. Inconsolable, she wrote a letter, part to the Jacksons, part to the horse. "I begin the long journey to complete the work you began here on earth," she wrote. "With shattered heart but flaming red soul I send you all my love and hope in the light in the light in the light."

The train comes out of the tunnel, into the station. King's Highway, the sign reads. She climbs the stairs of a Brooklyn school where kids from all over the world first learn about America. In the classroom she enters, the teachers stand around and watch. Goshen gets down with the children.

There is a clear divide. On one side, the adults, trying to align the kids into neat rows, one shaking her head when Goshen begins dancing, another looking for someone to make eye contact with, like she desperately wants you to know that she knows that this is crazy. On the other side are the children and Goshen. They are in the moment, free of judgment and cynicism.

"What's bigger than us?" Goshen asks.

The call and response begins, her first, then the students.

"The stars."

"The earth."

"The wind."

"The sky."

"The moooooooon."

"The trees."

"The ocean."

"Me."

"You."

"Us."

"Yes."

She urges them to feel part of something larger. They dance like dolphins, calling arms flippers. The kids love it. "That was fun!" "Today was worth it!" "This is the greatest fun I've ever had."

In one room, first-graders crowd around. Goshen wants them to run with the grace of horses. "Remember Barbaro?" she says. "My best friend up in heaven?"

They nod.

"Lets do this for Barbaro!"

Call: "Bar-ba-ro!"

Response: "Bar-ba-ro!"

Finally, the dancing is over. The kids are spent. Goshen is, too. Even some of the teachers are swept into this world of whimsy and innocence, moving slowly at first, running across the room at the end.

With the first-graders, there is one more thing to do. Goshen turns off the lights. "Now it's time to go inside," she says.

The class calms down.

"Did you have a bumpy day?" she asks. "Did you have a bumpy night? Something didn't work out? Someone hurt your feelings?

"Take a deep breath."

The kids exhale.

"It's sort of like before a big race," she says. "Barbaro knows his time is coming when he can show the world what a wonderful, wonderful runner he is and how much he loves life. So today, boys and girls, go into your heart and whisper to your heart. Whisper right now what you most need."

The room is dark. It is quiet. For the first time all day, the students are still.

The moment passes. Goshen turns the lights back on, reaches into her bag and pulls out a Beanie Baby made in Barbaro's image.

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