If you would have told me that someday in my life I’d be standing in an exotic wellness center crying over the loss of our family’s pet lizard, I would have laughed. I also would have been wrong.

Grandmom and Granddad bought Finn a leopard gecko for his last birthday in May. I have to admit, he kind of wigged me out. And I hated that he did. In the early days, while trying to figure out how to pick him up, he hissed at me and tried to bite me. I think I waited weeks before trying again, but took it on as personal challenge to win this little fella over. And I did.

I swear he looked me right in the eyes when I talked to him. I even sang sometimes because he seemed to like it. (I know you’re laughing.) While I tried to pick him up and hold him for a few minutes each day, sometimes he’d sit on my chest for an hour or two while I watched TV. We dug each other.

The more time I spent with him, the better he would eat. And in that department, his best was pretty poor. I called and visited Petsmart with Shadow several times, wondering if he was okay. They continued to assure me that he was; that he was just a bad eater and had a predominantly antisocial and inactive personality. I believed them, but continued to worry.

About a month ago, looking back, he seemed to stop growing. There was a funny spot on his back that was more pronounced. He appeared more lethargic than usual. By Christmas, I was certain something was wrong.

But still, I’d pick him up and he’d look right in my eyes as I talked to him. Recently though, he’d started close his eyes and lay his head down as if it was all too much.

I spent the weekend trying to find a vet who could see him (no easy feat) and brought him in yesterday. Shadow had metabolic bone disease. Not so common in leopard geckos, but he had it all the same. Had Petsmart known the signs, we could have taken simple steps to halt its progress and save his life. Had they not reassured me he was fine all those times, I would have taken him in sooner. That’s on me though. I should have followed my gut.

So yesterday, we learned our sweet little guy was in lots of pain and it was his time to go. I felt a little ridiculous, very guilty and a lot sad. Who knew you could love a lizard? Now I know. Major shout out to Ness Exotic Wellness Center–their entire staff was amazing. They even made his little box pictured above.

While I fought back tears at the vet, Finn did too. I failed and he succeeded. He said, “I’ve survived a lot of things without crying.” Hmmm.

Later, as I laid in his bed while he tried to fall asleep without the comforting glow of the black light in Shadow’s cage, I said, “You know that it’s okay to cry, right?”

“Yeah, but I try hard not to do it when I’m outside playing with my friends and I get hurt,” he responded.

“I know, and that will happen as you grow up, but when something hurts your heart, I want you know that it’s okay to cry,” I said.

“I do, I did cry today. And you cried a lot today, too. I haven’t seen you cry in a long time. When is the last time you cried?” he asked.

I thought for a bit. “I suppose I cried a lot as I decided whether or not to go back to work for someone else.” I answered.

“Why did you do it then? Did you get fired?” he asked.

“No, silly, I worked for myself! But I was given a great opportunity; one that was good for me and for all of you, so I decided to take it.” I said.

“But why was it good?” he continued.

“Well, because it allowed me to have a new experience, to grow and to learn. Because as you grow, you’ll have busier and busier lives and I want to have something of my own. Because our family was able to have more money, which allows us to have more experiences together,” I said.

“But who cares about money, mom? Life’s not about money. It’s about the people you love and the circle of life,” my little seven year old genius responded. I’m in awe of him.

“Yes, it is Finn,” I said. “You’re right.”

While I go back to work on Thursday, I have absolutely loved being home, other than the lizard-euthanasia part. But a little piece of me is ready to go back, too. What a comfort it is to know that somehow, in the midst of this crazy busy life, we are raising quite an amazing and wise young man.

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