Larry and Vickie Hyatt were preparing to spend the entire month of September camping with their horses. He had finally retired and they had the horses in training.
As Larry Hyatt attempted to load his wife’s horse, Shadow, into a trailer on Aug. 12, she turned toward him, just in time to see him lose his balance and fall backwards, his head thumping the concrete. Hyatt, a 30-year-employee of GTE, then Verizon and a devout member of the Cowboy-Up Ministry in Lithia, died the following day. He was 65.
For Vickie Hyatt, the ordeal has been a lesson in trust and obedience, she said.
“My job is not to know all of the details of God’s plan, but to trust and to be obedient,” she said. “I have never asked why. To me, that’s not important. It did happen.”
Since her husband’s death, Vickie Hyatt has been a symbol of faith to others around her who mourn his death, her pastor Skipper Calder said.
Within days of Larry’s death, Vickie was back at it, holding Bible study at the house for fellow worshipers from Cowboy-Up, going for a trail ride on Shadow, putting one foot in front of the other, as her husband had often told her to do when life would throw obstacles in her path.
As she prepares for Larry’s family reunion in Georgia this weekend, then a memorial service for him at their home on Sept. 14, she’s leaning heavily on scripture, she says. “Trust and obey. It’s all about trust and obey.”
It’s not her horse’s fault that her husband is gone, she said. It is part of God’s plan.
“Unfortunately, Larry is absent from that big plan. But, I have to fulfill that plan,” said Hyatt, sitting with Calder at The Farm off Lithia-Pinecrest Road, where every Sunday, Larry brewed coffee before the service and would greet members of the congregation as they arrived.
She experiences waves of grief, knowing that her husband is gone from her side, she said.
“Even the horses know. The day after Larry died, Shadow broke his usual routine. Instead of whinnying, then running for the food, he stood in his stall with his head down,” Hyatt said. “It was if he were saying ‘Mom, I didn’t mean to do it.’”
Vickie was a city girl before she met Larry some 15 years ago. A trip to Texas changed their lives when she got a taste of horses — something Larry had grown up with. When they came home, they were determined to become equestrians.
They purchased eight acres in Lithia in 2004 and began building a house and barn, eventually acquiring three horses, dogs, cats and a miniature donkey. Along the way, she found Cowboy-Up Ministries, a church that interweaves horse training with scripture and meets just a few minutes from their house. They both immediately felt a connection with Calder and the congregation.
“No one in this church was better known than me, but Larry,” Calder said. “It got to be a contest on who would show up first on Sunday — me or him. He always looked forward to coming to church on Sunday.”
Many of the people Larry and Vickie met at Cowboy-Up showed up at the hospital to support her after the accident, she said.
“Larry wouldn’t have wanted me to crumble,” she said. He would have wanted her to keep Shadow, to keep the other animals and to enjoy life and continue on with the ministry. Her church family is there to back her up, she said.
God put certain people in the Hyatts’ path, Calder said.
The Lord may have also prepared Larry for his journey, he said.
“Twice over the weeks before he died he had made the comment to different people that he was ready to go,” Calder said.
Vickie’s phone has been buzzing since Larry’s passing, from those offering help and strength.
Vickie said she has found strength in her Bible and her friends and church family. For the most part, she said, she did not fall in a heap, though she’s had those waves of grief.
“One of the nurses said we inspired the staff,” because so many came to Tampa General Hospital (TGH) to be with Vickie, to support and love her, Calder said.
They were also inspired by Larry Hyatt’s generosity as an organ donor. Both of his kidneys went to a patient at TGH, his liver went to another. A portion of his intestines were taken for research, his eyes were used and enough of his tissue was harvested to assist up to 50 more patients, the staff told Vickie.
“Larry was a giver,” Calder said. “And he just kept on giving.”
Vickie said she is hoping, eventually, to find out who the patients were that benefitted from Larry’s organs and tissue.
Meanwhile, she is holding tight to those offering their help, including Calder.
“There was a time when I went through a crisis of my own,” he said. “I held on to John Chapter 8, verse 31-32,” which reads, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
“Every day,” Vickie said, “I ask Him for strength and thank him for the strength he has given me.”
Anyone who knew Larry Hyatt that would like to attend the 4 p.m. memorial and barbecue in Lithia on Sept. 14 can contact Calder at firstname.lastname@example.org.