This is one of those posts that I will write but not publish. Not yet.
But, it will be cathartic to write down my feelings. I hope.
When something hurts very bad it feels like a hardening in the pit of your stomach, like nausea that almost brings you to your knees. On those occasions, I am tempted to shove all the hurt into a little box, snap the lid shut, and tuck it away in the far-reaches of my heart. I am capable of doing that because I have at other times in my life. But, as I get older and wiser, I know that the best course of action with acute pain is a direct path, a straight line. So, I let the pain wash over me.
I have a hard time talking about bad things that happen in my life. I don’t like people feeling sorry for me, I don’t like bringing people down, and I want to protect myself and my family from people who inadvertently say things that make the pain worse. I have a few people who always help me feel better and who know my true self and who love me unconditionally. I always talk with them first. Otherwise, I keep quiet until my wound has healed at least a bit. I wait for the pain to progress from debilitating to agonizing to throbbing to aching. They say that time heals all wounds and I know that is somewhat true.
This time, it is not just my story. It is our story. So, I will also wait to share this until all of us are ready. Until then, it will live here. Ready and waiting.
So, here goes.
We have two sons, ages 13 and 18. When the COVID-19 shutdown hit, our 18-year-old, Laine, continued life pretty much as normal. After graduating the previous spring, he took a gap year and was working at Taco Bell. He continued working his normal schedule because the drive-through stayed open. Our 13-year-old, Tyson, on the other hand, saw his activity come to a screeching halt just like every other teenager. We have a pretty comfortable house and we are close, so he has handled confinement okay. He doesn’t need lots of people in his life, just a few buddies and family are fulfilling to him. Tyson seems to have an immunity to FOMO and he is generally content. But, we worried about him feeling a lack of purpose and direction in his life. Like so many other families, we started thinking about getting a puppy.
Sidenote: Tyson was reading this post and asked me what FOMO means. Haha! I told him what it means and asked him if he has it. He quickly said, “Nope,” and read on.
We already had a dog, a 6-year-old Welsh Terrier named Charlie. The more we thought about it, the more we liked the idea of a puppy for the family that would especially serve as a companion for Tyson and for Charlie. I am allergic to dogs so we have to find a hypoallergenic breed, which makes the search a little trickier. After a week or so my husband Jim found him–a 9-week-old Aussiedoodle named Bruno. He was all black with a little white spot on his chest. We drove to the home of his breeder, fell in love at first sight, and brought him home.
Dang it! I had been doing so well not crying as I write this. Looking back at pictures brought on the tears.
On the car ride home, we discussed his name. I liked Bruno and thought we would keep that name, but Jim and the boys thought differently. Laine said, “Why don’t we call him Mars?” I think he was joking, thinking of Bruno Mars, but to his surprise, we all loved the idea. We decided he was Marz, but that we would end his name with a z.
Welcome home Marz!
This was not our first time with a puppy and we knew that potty accidents would be inevitable, so Jim suggested that we remove all the rugs upstairs and block off the stairs so any accidents would be on solid surface floors. From the beginning, with our preparation and Marz’ easy-going personality, we had very few problems and he was just a love bug.
The puppy slept in his crate in our room the first couple nights, but after that Tyson wanted him down in his room. Tyson would put him to bed at night and wake up with him in the morning. I loved it when I saw our sleepy teenager coming up the stairs with Marz in the morning. The two were practically inseparable from the beginning. Even when Tyson was on the computer and Marz was separated from him by a gate, he would get as close as he could just to keep his eye on his favorite human.
As puppies do, Marz grew fast. His huge paws indicated that he was going to be a big dog. He was so funny, he used his front paws like arms, wrapping them around our arms as he cuddled, swatting at us to get our attention, and flailing them to indicate his joy when he was being fed. The pads on his paws were huge too, and they were so soft.
Marz and Charlie had an on-again/off-again relationship. Mostly, Marz was full of energy and always looking for fun and Charlie would snarl or nip to tell him to bug off. But, they loved chasing each other outside and playing tug-of-war with anything they could find.
We took Marz for a trip in our convertible Mustang, we took him for swims at the beach, and friends and family came over to meet him. He brought so much laughter and joy to our lives. His main accomplishment was the light he brought to Tyson’s life in a time when he needed that light so much. Tyson and Marz loved playing on the trampoline together, they danced together, and Tyson carried him like a baby because he wouldn’t walk on a leash. Eventually Tyson begged us to allow Marz to sleep on his bed rather than in the crate in his room. We relented and laughed because Marz woke Tyson up even earlier when he was sleeping in his bed and Tyson didn’t even mind.
That last day, about three months after we first brought him home, Tyson brought Marz upstairs as I was just sitting down on the couch for my morning ritual of eating breakfast and watching the news. Marz, true to form, got so excited when he saw me that he jumped right on the couch and almost spilled my breakfast. Rather than scolding him and pushing him off the couch, I set my plate aside and loved on him for a few minutes. Boy am I glad I did.
Later that day I left to go grocery shopping. Marz came outside with me as he would normally. He stayed outside and played with Charlie until my husband came home from work about an hour later. Somehow, as Charlie and Marz were running over to Jim’s truck as he was pulling in, Marz went under the vehicle and was run over.
After checking out at the store and loading up the groceries, I saw a missed call from Jim. Before I drove off, I called him back and he told me that he had run Marz over and that he and Tyson were taking him to our vet. I remember saying “Noooooo,” and breathing quick and fast, staving off tears. I asked Jim if Marz was hurt bad and he said yes. Tyson, in the background, said that Marz was going to make it. Jim didn’t sound so sure.
I called Laine, who was still sleeping because he is on a third-shift schedule with his new job at Amazon, to wake him up and tell him. I asked Laine to help me get the freezer items put away so I could rush to the vet to be with Jim and Tyson. Before we were finished, they walked in the door. As soon as I saw Jim’s face I knew. He was heartbroken and completely devastated.
The first thing Tyson told me was this, “We are going to be okay. Marz is happy now, he is in a better place. Please take care of dad, he feels responsible.”
Tyson said those same words over and over again as we moved through the next few days in a state of disbelief, sorrow, and anger. At first his, “We are going to be okay,” was said like a plea as he stared at me with tears in his eyes, begging me to confirm that we would actually be okay. I told him, “Yes, honey, we will absolutely will be okay eventually. It is okay to not be okay right now.”
Later, his, “We are going to be okay,” was said with determination, as if he was promising himself and all of us. As we worked through the week together, his, “We are going to be okay,” was said with relief, knowing that it was true.
We don’t understand why. I cannot even begin to comprehend the deep guilt that Jim feels. The hole that losing Marz has created for Tyson will be slowly filled, but his sadness is palpable right now. This is so hard.
A few days after we lost Marz, Jim called me from work. He was crying. I can count on my hands the number of times Jim has cried with me in our 25 years together. The first thing I felt was gratitude that he called me because he is not always good about reaching out for help when he needs it. I reminded him that it could have been any of us, that he would never hurt Marz on purpose, and that we love him very much. I think he felt better. I hope he felt better. We hung up and carried on with our day, but I sent him some reminder texts to help bolster his spirits.
One of the texts I sent was this picture of a page from the book “Option B” by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. I read the book this past winter and the 3 P’s have stuck with me.
What we are going through is not permanent, time will heal. The how long and how deep of the healing is up to us. Straight through works best for me. What we are going through is not pervasive. It does not have to impact every area of our lives. Losing Marz has been horrible, but it does not mean our lives are horrible. It was a tragic and painful accident, but we are not tragic. And, finally, this loss is not personal. Accidents and tragedies can and do happen to anyone.
Over the course of the week following Marz’ death, I questioned myself about my own feelings a few times. Why was this hurting so bad? Not just emotionally, but physically? Why was I crying EVERY day? I am kind of an expert at losing things I love…I have lost my mom, grandparents, other pets, relationships, etc. Why was this loss so difficult? Fortunately, I started listening to Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed” the day after we lost Marz, and Glennon does a fantastic job making a case for feeling your feelings and for listening to your body.
“You’re not doing life wrong; you’re doing it right. If there’s any secret you’re missing, it’s that doing it right is just really hard. Feeling all your feelings is hard, but that’s what they’re for. Feelings are for feeling.” -Glennon Doyle
I don’t have to defend my feelings to anyone, not even to myself. But, it was helpful to explain my deep sadness to myself. I had never spent 24/7 with a pet before and this pandemic caused me to be with Marz nearly all the time, to think of Marz all the time, to see Tyson with Marz all the time. We also had never adopted a pet for such a specific purpose, and it was working pretty well in the way we imagined. Also, it was gut-wrenching to see my family hurting so badly. And, even though Glennon is right that it is so hard, feeling our feelings works. The hurt loosened as the days progressed.
For those of you who know me, you know that I live my life looking for serendipity. I search out beautiful lessons and gifts in every experience. Sometimes I don’t see it in the moment, but in reflection I always can find it. I am not ready yet to look for the beautiful lessons that losing Marz will provide, but I believe with all my heart they are there. And, for now, that belief is enough. Loving on my people with all my heart is enough. Being a role-model of feeling deep to heal deep is enough.
So, cheers to you Marz Apsey! You will forever live in our hearts and your joyful spirit has made a lasting impression on us. Tyson and I joked that you might be the first dog my mom will ever like when you meet her in Heaven.
If you read this with tears forming in your eyes, thinking of your own deep pain, I am sending my love to you. We can heal and we will heal, together.
Check out the #SerendipityEDU books on Amazon by clicking HERE! Each book is filled with inspiration to help us discover the gifts in along life’s journey. With the addition of my newest book, a middle-grades chapter book called The Serendipity Journal, there is a book for every age level. There is no better time to start looking for happy accidents!