I’m alone in the house when my oldest comes in and, without any preamble or bush-beating or the slightest hesitation, tells me she’s dead. “She got hit on the highway,” he says.

“Who found her?” I ask, and when he tells me it was Colton, my heart cracks open a little.

“He carried her home,” Tyson adds. “It’s not pretty.”

I take a towel from the bathroom, one of the nice ones, and I go outside to find my two youngest men with their dad, standing over her little body lying still in the grass. I hand the towel to my husband and put my hand on Carter’s bent head and I reach over to hug my tall, middle son.

“I’m so sorry, Colton,” I say and he nods and the tears fall on his sweet face. I want to take him inside and wash the red off his hands and take off his blood-stained clothes and bathe and jammie him like when he was five. But he’s fifteen and ten years makes a world of difference and all I can do is to stand with him.

We watch as my husband wraps her broken body in my green towel, freshly wind-scented from the clothesline. And we gather at the spot chosen and I can’t help but cry as all three of the boys take turns with the shovel and the pile of black dirt grows beside the hole.

“Find a stone,” says my husband to Carter and Colton, and they leave, mission-focused. When they return, sharing the burden of the carrying, he looks at them and quietly says, “That’s a good rock for her grave, boys.”

In my mother heart I think they shouldn’t have to be carrying broken love in bloody hands or digging black holes or finding rocks for graves. And I know there are big, sad tragedies out there, bigger and sadder than our’s, but this is the tragedy that is breaking my boys’ hearts and mine today, and it’s big enough.

With the hole dug and the rock chosen, sweet Bella is laid to rest and Carter and Colton say their tearful, heart-broken goodbyes while the oldest stands a step away, leaning on his shovel, because that is how he is.

“She was a good dog and a good friend, and it’s okay for you to be sad,” my husband says. And the hole is filled and the rock is placed and I watch as my youngest writes his puppy’s name across the stone, and Colton takes the pen and adds, you were loved.

She was.