Reflections of Life produces gorgeous short films that uplift the personal stories of ordinary people, with the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change. We feel hugely blessed to feature video-stories that filmmakers Michael and Justine capture with exquisite expertise, and which so beautifully illustrate grateful living principles and practices. In this short film we hear from Lisa Smith.

Learn more about Reflections of Life (formerly Green Renaissance) through our Grateful Changemaker feature.

Video Transcript

In the early hours, I think it was about 2am, I woke up crying. I said to Gary, ‘I’ve had a terrible dream. Something terrible is going to happen today.’ And he put his arms around me and he said, ‘Life’s a process. Go with the flow.’ At 2pm, they phoned me to say that Gary looked like he’d had a fit. And I realized Gary had had a stroke. I was told that Gary would have less than 4% concentration, that it was unlikely that he would speak again, that he wouldn’t ever function like he had been.

Gary, he’d say that there are two types of people…one person who’s a victim and one person who’s accountable for life. Gary was always accountable… always. He never said to me, ‘why me? It’s not fair. It shouldn’t have happened to me. If only.’

Gary always loved horses. The horses were definitely Gary’s best friend. I was somewhere down the line, I was the caregiver. The one that was bossy, and the one that insisted that he had his medication. There wasn’t a day that Gary didn’t go out. He was out with the horses at 6am every single morning, cleaning them, grooming them, walking with them, checking their feet. I think one of the beauties that you have when you have no language is you don’t have to talk to a horse. You just have to communicate.

Gary always said to me, ‘It’s the intention’. Words become meaningless after a while because you just intuitively know what that thing, person, being is saying. I think what people miss is that you’re not your language. You’re not your voice. You’re not the words that come out of your mouth. You are more than that. Unfortunately we’ve allowed language to get in the way. And that was Gary’s gift. Gary lost his language in order to gain his language, in order to communicate with people, in order to talk to the horses. That in silence there’s nothing you can’t do.

Animals have so much to teach us in terms of true communication, about true commitment, about living in the moment, if only we were willing to listen. I found it very difficult sometimes to express to the people closest to me how I was feeling. So I burdened the horses. I would go out and talk to them. The ones that wanted to hear me would come and stand close. The horses eased my pain and allowed what was happening to just be.

I promised Gary that I would never put him back into hospital again. That if he had another stroke or he was going to die he would be at home and I would be with him. Gary was really sick. We managed to carry Gary into the car and out of nowhere, the horses arrived. The horses stood in a guard of honor, in a line, as we drove out of the gate. They knew that Gary wasn’t coming home and they went to greet him, to say goodbye.

If I had to thank the horses in any way it would be… my heart to their heart for the honor and the glory that they gave Gary, for the love and the kindness they gave Gary. There is no word that I could use to thank them. It would be from my heart to their heart.

If anything, I was blessed to have that man in my life. Really blessed. He had made a difference in my life. He’d shown me how to communicate. He taught me to be strong. He taught me to be brave. He showed me that I could do it. And most of all he told me I was proud of who I was. One of the things that I learned from Gary as well is about wonderment. When we used to come home to the farm we have this wonderful little pass that you come over. When you get to the very top it looks like a valley of 1,000 hills. And Gary would open his arms and say, ‘My Shire.’ I can go outside and I can see the lights on the Strelitzia. I can watch my mums Eucharis Lily flowering. I can angle it so that the sunshine comes through it and I’m in wonderment.

I’ve learned about joy. It’s here. It’s deep, deep, deep inside me.

Don’t waste a moment of your life. Share it. Love it. Be kind to somebody next door to you.

It’s about this amazing journey that we call life and all the crazy moments that we have are moments that you can never, ever replace. You can never, ever forget them. And man, I’ve been on a crazy ride with a very crazy man and it’s been wonderful.

To support Michael and Justine in their film-making journey, visit Reflections of Life.

Grief Joy
Reflections of Life

Reflections of Life

About the author

Justine and Michael are a creative couple living in South Africa.  Their project, Reflections of Life (formerly Green Renaissance), works to spread positive stories that reflect the wonder of the world. With the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change, they produce gorgeous short films that are posted online and available for anyone, anywhere, to watch and share freely.


Through their films, they explore what it means to be human. They touch on topics that can often be difficult for people to discuss – from loss of a loved one to aging and retirement to friendship to love and courage – universal themes that we all deal with at some stage in our lives.


By sharing these stories, Justine and Michael hope to remind us of one simple truth – that we are all human – that inside our hearts and minds, we are all facing similar challenges.  We have so much to learn from each other, and our connections run so much deeper and stronger than we think. Learn more and support their work at