The Gray Horse Cowboy Rides Into The Clouds

jay + goblin

At 5:45PM today, my dear father-in-law, Jay Hatfield, passed away from complications due to lung cancer. He was 61 years old.

Over the past few weeks, Jay’s health had been steadily declining. He was too fragile to withstand more chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and the location of the tumor made it impossible to operate. Bedridden, medicated, hooked up to countless machines and unable to speak — it wasn’t what Jay wanted for himself. He wanted to go home. He’d smile bravely when we came to visit and say he wasn’t depressed — not that our stoic cowboy would ever tell us if he were — but we knew he didn’t want his last days to be in the sterile environment of an ICU.

Yesterday afternoon, a local hospice organization transported Jay back to the home he shared with his wife Sue in Aromas. They set up his bed in the living room by the window, and everyone could see that he was happy to be out of the hospital and surrounded once again by the familiar comforts of their place. His sister Marsha brought his favorite horse, Goblin, around the side of the house and up to the window. The hospice nurse, Cynthia, held up Jay’s hand so Goblin could say hello to his old friend. Then Jay slept for most of the day, sedated on medication to relieve his pain. Cynthia left at midnight, and Shawn kept vigil by his bedside and attended to his father until morning.

Shawn and his stepmother Sue were sitting beside Jay in the early evening when she said, “I wish Jay would say something.” At that moment, Jay opened his eyes for the first time since yesterday. His gaze was steady and strong, fixed in a piercing stare upwards. Jay’s breathing became slower and more labored until he fell silent. The gray cowboy tipped his hat to his loved ones and ventured up into the sky.

There have been many tears today and there will be many more over the next months and years. But through the tears will be the memories of his wry smile, his fiery temper, his gentle kindness and his abiding love for his friends, family and community. Thank you for your warm spirit, Jay, and may you rest in peace at last.

  • mom

    Thanks for your kind words Jenny. I love you dear.

  • Frank Iriarte

    I am the dispatcher for Smith-Emery SF. I had the pleasure of working with Jay for a few years. My deepest sympathies go out to you and your family during this sad time. Please keep me informed of any services as I know there will be people in the company that would like to attend. He will be missed not only by me but also his co-workers that had the plesure of working with him.

    • Thanks for your message, Frank – it’s truly appreciated. We will definitely post on here and on his Facebook page when a service is planned.

    • Frank Iriarte

      Thank you I will be checking.

  • Rick Nolen

    Jay was a great guy and will be missed by many friends and co-workers. I worked with Jay at Stanford on the Green Library retrofit several years ago.
    Rick Nolen

    • Thanks for sharing your memories, Rick – we hope to see you at the upcoming gathering to celebrate Jay’s life once it’s been organized.

  • sarah harling

    oh jenny, what a beautiful post. shawn and you and the rest of the family are in my thoughts tonight.

  • Suzy Hatfield

    I only had the pleasure of meeting Jay and Sue once, at an ERC event, but I could tell right away how special they are. We even joked about being long lost family (being a Hatfield myself, though by marriage only.)
    Jay was very patient with my old horse Dee, who was so stiff and sore she could hardly hold her hind feet up for trims. But I heard from Monica what a special touch Jay had with the horses, and how much he helped out.
    I am sorry to hear of his passing, but am glad he is free from pain.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Suzy – it’s always great to hear from another Hatfield-by-marriage. 🙂

  • Sue, Shawn, and Jenny,

    Condolences are extended to you, and prayers of support and blessing offered on your behalf at news of Jay’s passing. I met Jay through one of his friends and clients during one of my many trips from Colorado to Hollister. Jay and I immediately hit it right off, and I knew from the start this man was a no-nonsense, compassionate man. I often referred to him as “crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside,” and appreciated him for his honesty and compassion. Jay was indeed a great man, and those who knew him are much richer to have met him. Blessings to you all.

    • Dear Bill, Thanks for your story. I think your description of Jay is perfect, and Shawn is the same way. 🙂

  • Sheilah Serradell

    Dear Sue, Shawn and Jenny,
    Bill and I truly loved Jay. He shod our horses for 6 or 7 years – every 6 weeks. We got to know him quite well and he shared with us so many stories. Jay was such a wonderful spirit – honest and kind. He was the type of man that doesn’t come along much any longer. Our thoughts are with you as well as our prayers.

  • Levente

    My thoughts go out to you and your family Shawn… although I didn’t know Jay, I understand the feelings of deep pain, sympathy, and peaceful relief that you must be feeling… something I experienced in similar stages with my mom a few years ago. Let me know if you need anything.

  • I don’t know what to say. I am not a family member of yours even I just knew Shawn from his computer music programmings. Just received this message in my inbox and I felt sudden sadness. I am sure – no doubt about that Jay was a great man. Life is short as they say that’s really true. Now he is in Heaven. Maybe around you for sometime – who knows? I am not gonna talk more – I just don’t want to. All I want to say is that I hope the rest of you the family members will feel a little okay. I don’t know how to understand this but think like this, if you die and after you die, you see people crying and be sad so sad because of you, do you really want to see them like this? I am sure not. I hope I gave my message right. I am really sorry. Jay – Ride The Horses In Heaven, Sir…!!!


  • Kim Austin

    Very well said Jenny, you do have a way with words. I will miss my conversations with Jay when he would finish shoeing my horses and we would sit and solve the problems of the world – at least in our minds. I will miss you Jay – I hope you have found greener pastures and are waiting for the rest of us to get there too.
    Sue, Shawn and Jenny you are in our thoughts and prayers.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Kim. I’m sure Jay is up in greener pastures and is looking down at us now with a smile.

  • Sue Hatfield

    Jenny, Jay was so proud to have you for a daughter in law. He was happy Shawn found love with such a wonderful person.
    I am happy Shawn has you to help him through this.
    I am proud to be Jay’s wife. My devastation is unbearable right now.

    • And Jay was very lucky to have you as his wife. Sending you much love and hugs. <3

  • I was so very sorry to hear of Jay’s passing… he was a wonderful man, and I know how sorely he’ll be terribly missed by his family and close friends. He was much too young to be leaving us…

    My husband and I were shoeing clients of Jays in Morgan Hill 20 years ago. I pestered him with questions, and he was always very patient with me even though he was extremely busy at the time.

    I was in my early 40’s and worked in high tech, was making good money, but hoof care interested me more than Marketing. Jay did his best to satisfy my curiosity about what he did and why, and I eventually got into hoof care full time.

    Now? I don’t shoe often, don’t work metal, I do trims and booting, but I love the work. Every time I have a client who pesters me with dozens of questions? I remember Jay’s patience, and help them understand as much as possible.

    Thanks for everything, Jay… .. I know you’re in a good place now. Peace, my friend. God speed.

    • That was Jay – a true inspiration to us all and a fine teacher. Thank you for your wonderful story, Linda.

  • clm

    So very sorry to hear the news. Thinking of you and Shawn.

  • Fabian

    Much love and thoughts to Shawn, you and your families. Jay sounds awesome. He will be missed.

  • Andrew Cathcart

    My deepest sympathies.

  • Heidi Howard-Morris

    Hi Jenny, I am Adam’s (lostsync’s) wife- he is a friend of your husband’s through the interwebs- and I met your husband when Adam and I were on our honeymoon in California in May of 2010. He was very hospitable and kind, and a little quiet- obviously I don’t really know him, but it seems like he might have a lot in common with the man you described so well in your eulogy.

    On October 15th of that same year, my father had a severe heart attack. He lived until March 31, 2011, when a second attack killed him at the age of 61, the same age as your father in law. He was also the sort of man that is so hard to find- kind and compassionate and good, and we were as close as a father and daughter can be. Grief totally devastated me and destroyed a lot of my life, and I am only now starting to try to pick up the pieces.

    I’m telling you this because even though I don’t know your family at all, I couldn’t read Shawn’s email and not say something. It is so terrible to lose someone like this- someone irreplaceable and dear, and to think about all of the things you will never be able to experience with each other, and to wonder what happened? And what will happen now? We so deeply internalize the seemingly permanent presence of our parents- I woke up every day for weeks, months actually, and for a long moment thought my dad was still alive, and every morning faced the awful sinking realization that he was gone. Sometimes this still happens to me, and my father has been dead for a year and a half.

    Only one thing has really, truly helped me- thankfulness for the months I had between my father’s heart attack and his death, and the knowledge that I had a really freaking fantastic, one of a kind dad and he saw in those months how much I loved him, how important he was to me, and how much his friends and family cared. I hope you guys have something like this, too, something you can point to and say well, at least there’s -that-. Not everyone gets -that- and we did, and we’re glad.

    I wish you and your family peace. It might be a long time coming, or who knows- maybe it will be quick, there’s nothing wrong with that- but I do think it will come. I tell myself peace has to come someday, otherwise no one would make it through the pain that comes with this loss.

    If there’s anything I can do to help you, please let me know. I have read countless books about grief, followed the blogs of people facing death in varying ways, written through a dozen journals. I’ve been though grief therapy and explored faith, collected photos, taken advice- some good and some bad- and if you or Shawn ever even simply want a recommendation for a book or a shared technique for dealing with it all, I’m here. I know I’m just a stranger from the internet who lives across the country- but I’m really touched by the love and respect you’ve expressed for your father-in-law, and if I can do anything to help I am happy to. Although I also know that sometimes nothing helps, and a person just needs to be alone and quiet. And that is fine, too.

    • Dear Heidi,

      Thank you so much for your eloquent and heartfelt words; I let Shawn know that you shared your own story of losing a dear loved one on my blog and I’m sure he’ll be in touch to ask for any words of advice and support you can offer. I’m sorry we didn’t meet when you were here with your husband in CA, but hopefully I’ll have the pleasure of meeting you both someday. <3 jenny

  • Heidi Howard-Morris

    PS- I know my post is long and personal. If there had been a private post option I would have chosen it- and I won’t be offended if you would rather not publish it, although I don’t mind if you do, either. My email address is, if you need to get in touch.

  • Cindy

    Dear Jenny,

    I was so very sorry to hear the news about Jay. What you wrote is so beautiful. You and Shawn have been in my thoughts and prayers. Let me know when it might be a good time to speak on the phone.

    Sending lots of love,

    • Thanks so much, Cindy – we appreciate that and let’s talk soon. <3

  • Scott Conover

    I worked with Jay for many years at Signet Testing, many projects including Green Library at Stanford where I spent the most time with him. We got to know eachother well. I enjoyed Jay’s humor and wit and learned a lot from him about inspection, and his take on things in life. I now work for Smith-Emery and had looked forward to working with Jay again. I knew he had been sick, and had prayed for his recovery. Jay was a quality individual, a good man, and one of a kind. I will miss you Jay! My family’s heartfelt condolences for your loss. Until we meet again Brother!! Scott Conover

    • Thanks for your story, Scott – I remember Jay telling us about his Stanford projects. We miss him too. <3

  • Michael

    Rest in peace Brother


  • Dear Sue,Shawn and Jenny, Jay was a special person in many ways. I meet him in 2004 at IHR. A friend, Viki Fox, saw my horse struggling to walk and insisted I call Jay to look at my horse,Pumpkin. She had laminitis and was suffering. He took on the task of making special shoes for her and began rehabilitating her. He worked with her for years and made her feel comfortable. I lost Pumpkin on July 7, 2012 after years of laminitis episodes. Jay was always compassionate and concerned about her. He had lots of horsey friends as well as people friends. He will be missed. No one is really gone as long as there are those of us around to talk about him and to tell all his stories. He had many stories. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time. Peace be with you Jay. Sincerely, Doug, Marilyn and (Pumpkin) Torres

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Marilyn. And it’s true – Jay will live on through our stories. <3

  • Tomas

    Thank you Shawn and Jenny for sharing your father’s final journey with us, your friends and community. I hope the pain of your loss will fade with time and the memories of his remarkable life stay with you. May Jay ride on eternally, and may we honor his examples and generosity.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Tomas. We hope we can live up to his fine example as well. <3