(Diamond Solitaire and care-giver Lori Hebel-Osborne)
I have to admit something right up front. For me, these are the darkest days that I have ever spent in my 64 years on this most wonderful planet that we call Earth. For me, these are the most depressing of times. For me, these are the most frightening of days.
And, I have lived through some tough ones, mind you.
I was in the second grade and sitting on the floor in front of Mrs. Hounchel, who was reading to a group of us youngsters, when the news came about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I remember looking at her when she crumbled and cried. I will never forget.
I was shocked and sickened when I heard the news that the great Martin Luther King was killed on his hotel balcony in Memphis, TN. Why? For what? I will never forget.
I was saddened nearly every night when the news of the Vietnam War flashed across the black and white TV screen, showing images of the carnage and the grotesque bodies. Imagine my thoughts when my birthday popped up No. 1 in the draft lottery, and we were all required to register. I will never forget.
I remember the riots in the streets during the days of civil unrest. I can still recall the day that Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed while on the campaign trail. So sad to see our country unravel. Apart. At the seams. I will never forget.
I can still recall — as if it was just yesterday — sitting in an airplane and awaiting departure from Las Vegas’ McCarron Airport when I heard the pilot radio the news. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have just received word of a terroristic attack in New York involving air traffic. We will be pulling back into the terminal. Please gather all your belongings and exit the airport as quickly as possible.” Word. For. Word. It was 9-11. I will never forget.
All of those events still burn in the back in my mind. Each one there. Ugly reminders of ugly times.
But the torture of this sickening virus and the havoc, chaos, despair and death that it has wrecked on the world and all our peoples is pure evil. Pure. Evil.
No doubt, the virus has attacked so many bodies and has crippled so many families. The images of those that have contracted COVID-19 are stark and hurtful to us all.
No doubt, the virus has attacked the souls of us all, as well. We want to believe that we shall overcome. But will we? Will we?
No doubt, the virus has also attacked our minds; our psyche; our confidence; our belief. It has shaken us all. Even the healthy. The question is never far from our tongue, and seemingly always on our minds. Are we next? Will we get it? Will we survive, or be victim # whatever.
I tune in each morning on CNN to catch the press conference of New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, and I wonder how much one man can take. I feel for him and his people. And, I wonder why our federal government doesn’t help more. I tune in each afternoon to watch Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear give us an update on the COVID-19 pandemic and my stomach turns when he reads the numbers. When will the next name be one of my friends or family members?
These are dark days that pull the shade on hope; that black out aspirations; that cold water dreams of a better tomorrow for all. These are days that depress.
As I sit on the edge of the bed and wonder whether to climb out or cave in, I allow my mind to volley each of life’s sad memories back over the net.
I remember our country’s people crying as one during the funeral procession for President Kennedy, and then fighting as one to recover and rebuild behind the strength demonstrated every day and night by his amazing widow. Jackie O, where are you when we need you the most?
I remember our country’s loving spirit when we laid Dr. King to rest, and then fighting against bigotry, hatred, and racial imbalance. Men and women of all colors could hold hands and pray. In public, mind you. We still have more to do. Oh, Dr. Jackson and Billy Graham, where are you when we need you the most?
I remember the end of the Vietnam War, an ugly chapter in our nation’s history. And, in my little, small town, we may have been the exception, but we welcomed home each soldier with the dignity and honor they deserved. I can name them one by one. And, I was honored to call them friends. Today, I would gladly salute them for their courage and service. To this very day. We have so much more to do.
And, I remember visiting the 9-11 Memorial with my lovely wife and daughter a few years ago. I felt the sadness chill my bones to the core. I also saw our people rise up from the ashes to rebuild both hope, spirit and life. Never to forget. Always to remember to live and fight on.
Now, we have to do more. We have to. We have no option. We have to win. Again.
The times may be testing us, but…
Our children need us. Our grand children are depending on us. Our nation’s people are desperate for us. Our world is watching us. We must be the leaders once again.
That requires courage, strength, perseverance. It demands faith, hope and love. And, the greatest of these is love.
My great friend Rob Murphy has a daughter, the beautiful Scarlett, working as an Emergency Room nurse in a hospital in Manhattan. Each day, I text Rob to check on Scarlett. Each day, I pray for her health — both mental and physical.
My great friend Nick Hughes, who was the genius behind the Instant Racing Machine venue that turned Kentucky Downs into a world-class addition to the Kentucky Thoroughbred racing circuit, was diagnosed with having COVID-19 this weekend. He is quarantined at home in Florida. And, he is recovering. Already he has pledged to donate plasma and his time to benefit others. Each day, I pray for his health and recovery.
For the past two weeks, my great friend Mike Ziegler, who is the Director of Racing for Churchill Downs, has called to check on me. You see, after surviving two bouts of blood clots that bridged both of my lungs and wrecked havoc on my breathing mechanism, I am vulnerable and a high risk candidate. A simple sinus infection can turn ugly. Each day, I give thanks for Mike Ziegler and others just like him.
On Monday, I got a call from my great friends David and Lori Osborne. Seems as if our 2YO filly, Diamond Solitaire, has finished up her first lessons at the La Croix Training Center in Oldham County and was ready to be picked up and brought home for a little R&R before heading off to the racetrack and to further her studies.
It was not long before David and Lori were both texting me some photos of our filly.
She stood so tall. Bigger than I remembered when she went off to boarding school.
She stood at attention. More disciplined than I remembered.
She stood bigger and stronger. More muscles than I ever saw before.
She stood against a field of green, with trees budding in the background. Brilliant. Stern. Stout. Full of promise.
She stood out.
She didn’t look anything like the frail little filly, who was left orphaned at birth when her mom died of a severe bout of colic. She didn’t look anything like the injured little foal, who sustained a fractured leg just days after birth when she was accidentally kicked by her mother, who was writhing in pain. She didn’t look afraid, scared, or scarred.
She looked brilliant standing in the brilliant sunlight.
Suddenly, the world didn’t seem so daunting as before. Suddenly, I found myself smiling — both on the inside and out.
Suddenly, the stone on my life had been rolled away.
We are a people of many faiths. But we are also a people capable of a single belief.
A belief that we shall overcome.
A belief that there is a better day coming.
A belief that we not only will survive, but will thrive. Again.
Our filly’s name is Diamond Solitaire. She is proof positive that all can overcome.
On this day and the days ahead, I hope you find your Diamond Solitaire; your glimmer of hope; your light at the end of this tunnel; your bright and shinning star.
Life is so much better when the stone is rolled away.