June 2013


Bella in the sun

Bella in the sun

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’s found death so often on the farm.

“He carried her home,” Tyson says. “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. 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 ours – 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.

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It’s been a year and there is a new dog on the farm, but today I’m missing the sweet little poodle who loved to cuddle on the couch, who jumped crazy all over us when we walked in the door, who followed me down the back road when I went for summer walks, who chased grasshoppers and snapped at dragonflies, and who loved us like only a dog can.

Time speeds, faster and faster it seems, and I am remembering the sweetness of boys running and climbing and a little dog barking and chasing, and the memories are kind.

I sit beside my husband on a rainy Sunday morning and I watch my three boys serve communion to the congregation. Carter is in his bare feet and at first I fret about what someone might think, but only for a second. Three boys, and here they all are, and the one with whom I made them beside me.

All the grandparents are here, too, and one of my sisters, because of the youngest boy’s baptism and the oldest boy’s graduation. And some other relatives make the trip, eight in a van, and I’m touched that they drove all this way. Friends come too, from out-of-town, and of course the familiar every-Sunday faces, and its enough to make a mother feel blessed beyond measure.

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I watch the day with taking-pictures-for-my-heart eyes. I smile through tears as my dad baptizes my son and I whisper I love you into a wet boy’s ear as I wrap him, dripping, in a towel. I’m touched by a grandpa’s prayer, and I share lunch with those who stay, and I listen to the middle boy as he speaks a few words about his brothers and about the day they are sharing. Our preacher prays over the oldest, soon leaving, and the words are a blessing. And the youngest thanks them all for coming and for staying and for the witnessing.

And we sing. Big songs with good friends and laughter filling in for the words we forget.

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Some of them come home with us and we talk and we eat again, here at the farm. Catching up and sharing stories and munching chips and hotdogs and drinking cans of pop, and cake and watermelon for dessert.

It’s a day of family and friends and sharing memories and laughter and a few tears, of children growing up and making growing up decisions, and by the end of it I am full.

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Today I’m blogging over at How to Homeschool High School. I’m chatting there about the GED as a possible option for homeschool graduates. Since, boohoo, my son is graduating and moving on in just a few days…

Pop on over there by clicking here.