In 2004 when Marq had his accident, we lived in a 100 year old stone house that we had painstakingly restored in 2000. I will never forget the day that we’d taken a back road to get home, and I saw that old stone house had a for sale sign on it. I just about cried. I don’t know that I’d ever wanted anything so much. So, we called the number and we went to meet with the people who owned it, who were getting ready to move out of state. I could tell they loved it so much and they really wanted us to have it because the feeling was mutual. We bought it and spent almost a year restoring it and remodeling it before we moved in. We had Brock, Malary, Madi and Max. Max was a brand new baby and shortly after we moved in, we were expecting another baby. Mitch was born in 2001. That’s a story for another day.

Well, this old farmhouse, this 7 acres…we loved it so much. Well, mostly I loved it, and Marq loved that I loved it, so he learned to love it. By the time we lost it 7 years after we bought it, we had made it just about exactly how we wanted it…only missing the things whose progress was cut short by Marq’s accident.  It had a woodworking and welding shop for him, it had a huge green yard that he’d first plowed into dirt and then spent 2 years weeding before he would even plant new grass. He wouldn’t plant it until there was not one single weed in that dirt. 2 acres of dirt that would soon be the prettiest yard you have ever seen. When that lawn came in, it was legendary.

Like I said, we had nearly 5 children by this time, so making that house into the funnest, most love-filled family house was our #1 goal. It was almost always fun to restore that beautiful old house together. There were 14 different colors of paint on those various walls. So much moulding and big thick baseboards and built in shelves and so many different shades of the same 4 colors.

That house was one of the biggest dreams come true for me that I’ve ever lived out. He tolerated the constant need for remodeling and repairs because I wanted it so much. He really did eventually learn to love it and the acres of land around it. The old barn and the big trees and plenty of room for horses to graze.

We had so many plans there. We built an amazing playground area for our kids, and even brought in a big hill of dirt where we would build a waterfall someday soon, that would cascade down into the patio next to the big sandbox where the kids would play. We made it so beautiful, with our own hands and lots of elbow grease. So many many many long days and evenings of stripping wallpaper, sanding, painting, scrubbing, cleaning, removing carpet. So many scraped up arms and knees from moving rocks and raking old ground and cleaning up decades and decades of farm life on that land. We planted so many new trees to go with the ones that had been there for as long as the house had. We just had so many plans. I imagined us sitting there on that front porch in rocking chairs someday, growing old together with grandchildren all around us. I imagined our married children driving up the driveway at Christmas time, where I would have placed luminaries along both sides….lining up the driveway with light to welcome them home for the holidays.

We just had so many plans.

So, this is the last chapter before we start telling you about what happened after the accident. And it’s strange. I’ve been procrastinating the writing of it, so much avoiding…and even going into all sorts of my default numbing behaviors like eating way too much chocolate and bread…eating it obsessively until I can’t feel anything but how it feels to eat too much chocolate and bread, and staying up too late, and working too much, and even having spells of feeling angry and resentful at everyone for everything. And then, doing pretty much anything I can think of to not have to sit down and write this part.

Because I know it’s coming. The hard part. I don’t even remember what we said in the forest, and I know I’m going to have to watch those videos next…the ones where we finally started talking about it.  I just now watched the video that goes with THIS part…and it is so maddeningly emotionless. I watched it thinking….

“You guys!!! Marq and Melody!!!!! Don’t you know what is coming???”

There are little parts of me all screaming at the same time…don’t do it! don’t do it! don’t do it! They just keep screaming and pulling at me…don’t do it!

It’s not about telling the story, I want to share the story so that it can help others. We both do. It’s important and we are very committed to it.

It’s about remembering the story. There are little parts of me that really don’t want to remember the story. Those little parts of me that have barely scabbed up from the bleeding are begging me to not remember. But…here’s what I know….that we all have to dig in and see what’s still hurting so that it can heal. I thought that I’d healed pretty much all the way up, but I’m learning that there are still places of so much resistance for me when it comes to this story, and I know from experience that telling it is the only thing that will cure what’s ailing.

And in this part of the story, we were living our own little fairy tale. It was really awesome. I know what it feels like to live out a fairytale. And…in most fairytales, there is a huge loss, a huge tragedy, a huge thing to overcome.

So my resistance isn’t about that house, although I once thought it was. There are parts of me that hurt when I think about that house, but it’s not so much the house….it’s about what happened in that house. All of the good things, and all of the really really really difficult and painful things. That house saw a lot, heard a lot, and felt a lot….on all sides of the spectrum.

Today I’m 18 years older than I was when we got that house. I am a grandmother and I don’t need that porch to rock my grandchildren. My grandchildren are wild things like Marq and me, and don’t so much love to be rocked…they want to play. And we play all over the place. I love my life almost every day. It’s not the way I pictured it back then, but believe it or not it’s better than I pictured it would be. I love the home that we get to live in now. I’m not so attached to having a permanent home. I know we will always get to make a home out of wherever we end up. Right now I love where we get to be in this season of our life, I have no idea where home will be next. I have peace that our next home will bring a new kind of life that once again surpasses what I ever could have expected or planned for.

But I did love that old stone house. It felt like I’d finally made it as a valuable human being…that I’d worked hard enough, proved myself enough. That I could stay. That I wouldn’t get kicked out of life…the house was proof. I will tell you how that feeling played out a little later in the story.

That place is about 10 miles away from where we live now. We get to drive by that amazing old stone house often, and the wonderfully funny thing is…some of our friends live in it now, they’re a decade younger than we are, and they are raising their houseful of children there. It’s a beautiful thing. The house got redemption just like we did.

So….here we are at this part of the story. The part that I thought for so many years was the best and most exciting time in our life. I could tell you about what it was like to go from being raised in families who had to pinch pennies to becoming millionaires in our twenties. But it’s much like you would expect. It’s not all that exciting to write about or for you to even read about. We had nice things, we had all the money we could ever want or need, we felt what it feels like to never worry about or think about money. We got lots of attention for being young and self-made wealthy people. We were in lots of magazines and on lots of tv shows. We went on fun trips and had great clothes and ate at restaurants that we could never afford before this time. That’s about it.

And this isn’t really at all about losing our money, and our pretty stuff, and that whole lifestyle that went along with it. It was fun while it lasted, it was and interesting learning experience, but we are every bit as happy without it. I think our life is happier now than it ever was then. We are different now. Those experiences changed us and shaped us.

And  I feel sorrow sometimes wishing that we weren’t now starting our life over financially….but it’s not the stuff I miss, it’s the lack of worrying about how we will get through to the next year I miss. But there’s always something, right? There were different worries then. You don’t worry about paying the bills, but you do worry about holding on to your money and your stuff…it’s a weird and different kind of worry.

I thought I’d have so much to say about that exciting movie star time in our life. I just don’t. I’m thankful we got to experience all of that. I’m thankful for the people we got to meet and the things we got to do. It was all really wonderful.

So, instead of talking about all of that stuff, I’m going to tell you story that happened just before the accident, to give you a really good idea of how things were before and after Marq was not in the picture. I tell this story often because it is the analogy of so many things. You’ll understand what I mean after you hear it.

But for this purpose, I’m telling this story to illustrate how Marq had a way of making things really simple that seemed so complicated to me..…

And….that after he was gone….that’s how things got….really complicated. 

But…here’s that story….

Shortly before Marq’s accident, we got our first office outside of the house. But before that happened, I think we had 5 employees who worked from a beautiful little office that we had built on the end of our garage, it extended out into the horse field, so sometimes you’d be working and a horse would be right in your window. If you left your window open at lunch, you might come back to a horse head and neck all the way inside, munching on the snacks you left on your desk.

a typical (very professional) meeting in that office

We were actually boarding these horses for a friend who lived out of state. They were valuable horses. Marq fed them every day, often walked them and the kids enjoyed going out to visit them and pet them. They were truly lovely animals.

Well, one time when Marq was gone for the day, I was working with our employees in the office. Our 3 oldest children were at school and our baby boys were in the house with our niece, who was their nanny at the time.

One of our employees stood up and said….HEY THE HORSES ARE IN THE YARD, THEY GOT OUT!

So, of course, we all went outside to see what we could do. I panicked a bit because I knew we needed to get them back in…so I tried to chase them and lead them back into the field. This was not working….they’d just go further into the yard, eating the fresh grass. So then I enlisted my team to help me chase them back in. One held the pasture gate open, the rest of us circled around the horses to try to chase them in the direction of the open gate. They would have none of it.

some of our Chatterbox team at the time

Well, we tried this for a while and one started getting annoyed and agitated and just bolted in the opposite direction. The other followed. The ran to the other side of the property, close the busy road that was in front of our house.

So then, we all ran to try to keep them from getting into the road. Of course, this spooked them and they ran right into the road. We tried to get them to turn around, but they just started running right down the road.

At this point, 2 of our employees got on our kid’s dirtbikes and decided to chase the horses with those. They thought if they could get in front of them, they could turn around and lead them back. Well…..this is now turning into a wild comedy disaster. The horses just ran faster when they heard and saw the motorcycles.

This is a small town, and many of the people are used to rural dilemmas like this. So, someone saw the horses and the motorcycles coming and they stopped their car in the middle of the road. Another card did the same. They made a road block. The horses got to the road block and started grazing on the grass on the side of the road. The motorcycles got there and the horses started running the other direction down the road. By this time, other vehicles coming the opposite direction had seen what was happening and a big truck and trailer had parked crossways to make another road block about 1/4 mile down the road. Well, the horses ran that direction, saw the roadblock and turned around. This went on for a while, from one roadblock to the other…everyone trying to figure out what to do so the horses wouldn’t get hurt.

Well, I was on the phone with Marq by this time, telling him what was happening. He just sighed and said…I’m just down the road, I’m almost home. STOP CHASING THE HORSES, JUST LET THEM BE TIL I GET THERE.

Well, he turned around the corner to find that big truck blocking the road, told him who he was…the guy let him through and he just drove straight to our driveway and back to the barn. He didn’t stop to talk to anyone, he didn’t drive over to where the horses were. He parked his truck and went into the barn and a moment later, came out holding a bucket full of oats.

The motorcycles had been turned off by this time, the roadblocks were parked and there was silence. Everyone was watching Marq to see what he was going to do.

Well, he didn’t make any big announcements, he was just quiet and didn’t say a word as he proceeded to walk down the driveway, out into the road to stand still in one spot and simply shake that bucket of oats. The horses were down the road aways, munching on some roadside grass. When they heard the oats shaking in the bucket, their ears perked up and they slowly walked over to Marq, put their face in the bucket, one after another, and took a mouthful of oats each. Marq then shook the bucket again and started walking over the open gate at the pasture and the horses quietly followed him til he got there. When they got there, he led them inside, gave them another bite of oats and locked the gate.

We all stood in awe. In silence. Kind of just going… “OH.”

And THAT, my friends, is a perfect illustration of life with Marq and life without Marq. Our life was soon to turn into a big horse chase…more chaos added every second. But there was no guy who knew how to go get the oats.

And that’s the story I will be starting to tell next. What happened and who we had to become to get through it. What we learned, what we held onto, what we had to let go of, what got stripped right out from under us…all of it.

Thanks for being here with us…thanks for giving me all of this time to set up this story….this is where so much ended for us, but in all actuality, where it all began.

I’ll see you next time, fellow souls.