Monday, January 23, 2012

Tales of a 4th Grade Something Else










The kids enjoyed talking about what it would be like to be grownups. Margaret wanted to be a teacher, but "marry someone rich so we can have a beach house with a pool and a hot tub." As we know, Jack wanted to be a Lego designer, an architect, or a missionary.


The kids also enjoyed picking out names for their future kids. Margaret selected Brook for a boy, and her girl names came and went. Jack picked Melanie or Malina for a girl and Frank for a boy. Of course I informed him that his future wife, who would do the vast majority of the work by carrying the babies and giving birth, would have a much bigger say in the naming than he would.

When I told the kids I thought it would be nice to move to a cute cottage in the country when Tim and I retired, Jack was adamantly opposed. First of all, he did not like the country at all. He also did not like the city. It was suburbs all the way for him, and I guess he thought this should extend to where his elderly parents would be permitted to spend their golden years.
Also, he was concerned that a "cute cottage" would be too small. "You'll need bunk rooms for the grand kids," he said. I loved, loved, loved the idea of his and Margaret's kids spending so much time at our house and wondered how many kids he thought we'd be dealing with to necessitate "bunk rooms."

After the accident, Jack's 4th grade teacher sent us a sweet fill-in-the blank paper the kids had made for her at the end of that school year.

Jack's page read:

"I am always going to remember you for the: GOODNESS that you bring to my class.

The most difficult thing that you have taught me is: HOMEWORK.

You have helped me grow stronger in: FAITH.

My favorite part of your class is: HISTORY.

When I am grown up and finished with my schooling, I will think of you when I: VISIT MOUNT VERNON WITH MY KIDS.

Sincerely,

Jack Donaldson"


Ugh. So many aspects of our loss hit so darn hard-- the idea of Jack never getting to be a dad, and Margaret's kids not having cousins to pal around with in the "bunk rooms" of our fictional cottage.
As a dad Tim has always been so willing to dust off his college backpack, load it up with his velcro "outings" wallet and a couple of juice boxes and take the kids places like parks, sporting events, museums, or the ski slopes. It makes sense that Jack would picture doing those things with his own kids someday.
But now he won't get the chance, and to Margaret's kids he will always be "Uncle Jack," forever 12, just as my kids had "Grandma Margaret"-- remembered through stories, revered, referenced, but not really known.

74 comments:

NanaDiana said...

Oh- Anna- xo Diana

Meredith Self said...

Such a loss. I'm so sorry, Anna. I'm glad they will have the photos and stories -- you are capturing so beautifully his essence. AND. It's just not the same. May your heart be filled and comforted. Thank you for sharing.

Lisa said...

Hugs..hugs...hugs...and prayers. His answers made me smile...and cry.

michelle said...

I close my eyes & clearly see a fully functional colorful Lego well built in a village where the way, the truth & the light is being shared. It is beautiful. And this loss is so very unfair. Anna- you, Tim & Margaret are on my heart and in my prayers always. I hope you don't mind being there, because I am powerless to remove you from either place.

That Janie Girl said...

Wow. That is beautiful.

Thanks for sharing Jack with us.

Praying for y'all.

Sue@Uniquely Chic said...

My heart aches for you and your family...still. I wake up sometimes in the middle of the night and you come to my mind. Can't even begin to imagine...I wish peace for you, Anna.

Michelle said...

It stings. It hurts. It makes your insides clinch together tighter than you ever thought possible. Lean into it.

Grieve.

One moment at a time.

Cindy said...

There is so much that I want to say/write, but I can't find the words. No words, just fresh tears. Thankful that we are all one day closer to being reunited with Jack and our loved ones in Heaven.

K A B L O O E Y said...

Such a gigantic loss. No words except I'm sorry for all you will forego.

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

After I read each post you so graciously share, I stare at the post comment line for several minutes. I keep looking for something wise and comforting to offer. I want so badly to take your pain away. All I can really say is that I am so sorry and that I continue to keep your family in my thoughts and prayers. Hugs to you Anna!

Loukia said...

I'm so so so so sorry, Anna. He was so beautiful, you know. He's always with you, too. Always.

New Mom said...

When my grandpa died many years ago, I kept saying, "I don't want people to think he was just another old person... he's more than just a grandpa!" All the more with Jack who was only twelve, you want to say, "It's not just another person. This person was REAL and SPECIAL. He's not just Uncle Jack who we can't meet, he's more special than that!" Even if you quit writing today, your readers will never ever forget Jack. You have made him come alive in our hearts and we will even be telling our children about "Uncle Jack". (Knowing of course that special title is reserved for Margaret's kids only.) Thank you for writing and for sharing such precious keepsakes with us.

helenasc said...

I am sorry for your pain. Praying for you all.

Anonymous said...

Dee from Tennessee

It's just so hard, so hard.

Still praying and reminding myself that His merices are new every morning.

Danielle said...

Praying for your family daily Anna. I didn't know Jack and his loss is still so unfathomable to me.

Praying for that day for you when you will finally be able to say "Oh death, where is your sting?" For all of us and especially you, the sting seems too painful to bear.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

Every time I read your words, your heart breaking words, I am reminded that I haven't a clue what you must be feeling. Nevertheless my heart hurts for you. I'm so terribly sorry. (hugs)

Anonymous said...

you guys are just so darn photogenic -- beautiful family! you've inspired me in many ways, Anna. but a recent one --- taking pictures of the simple moments of happiness. you do that so well, i can tell. prayers and comfort sent your way for your incredibly enormous loss.

The Empress said...

Oh, dear lady. If you knew how often I speak of you to my children, my husband, my friends, my co workers.

Oh, dear Anna: it's just so hard.

I'm sobbing for you...

Lady Jennie said...

My heart hurts.

Sending you love and hugs.

Geri said...

oh anna, sweet anna. the last line about what he would do when he was done with his schooling....I am so so sorry.

Cat Alford said...

It's very kind of his teachers and those who knew him to send you these keepsakes, excruciating as they may be. I think of you every day, Anna. Big hugs to you and Tim and Margaret.

xo
Cat

Marguerite said...

I also think of your family so often,. Although I didn't know Jack, just looking at his beautiful pictures reminds me of my son Timothy and I want you to know you are my hero for getting up every day, for Margaret, for your husband, for yourself, and for Jack. Keep telling his stories Anna, so many of us are listening.

Leah C said...

Like so many others, my heart continues to ache for you...for the unimaginable loss. And I'm so sorry for all the "what will never be" reminders. Your sweet Jack was an amazing boy; not just "something else" but something special. Hugs and prayers, as always...

Anonymous said...

Still visiting every day. Still praying for you always.

ella said...

Fresh tears this morning, Anna. Each time you write I get to know your Jack a little more. He will never be forgotten, not in a million years.

Meredith Self said...

This morning, I just want to say, thank you for breaking open our hearts. Truly. You stretch our hearts to love better. Thank you, Anna.

Chrisy said...

Such a sweet, beautiful, and special boy. Missing Jack with you... XO

Deb said...

my grandmother's older brother drowned when he was 10. she rarely spoke of it (typical of the time, i think). We have just one picture of him, and the only thing I know is that he was loved. I know this because the family moved soon after the accident because my great grandmother could see the pond where he died from the kitchen window over the sink. Despite knowing so little, he is in my heart. great uncle Franklin--not forgotten, but you're right, not known. You however, are making Jack known to so many through your blog. You are memorializing him in such beautiful and loving detail. It is a gift to him as well as to the next generation of your family, and the next. I would give anything to know so much about my grandmother's dear brother. keep writing.

DeeBee said...

When an acquaintance's fourteen year old daughter died in a fire I wanted so badly to reach out to her, to say JUST the right thing. But I just sat there staring at the computer screen because everything that came to mind seemed so small, so not enough. And then I read someone else's comment. It was this:"every mother in the world has you wrapped in her arms." That comment seemed to say it all. I am a mom to twin three year old girls, and I wrap my arms around you from where I sit, far away from you in Canada. Geographical distance and a border cannot diminish the connection of one mom to another. Your blog is beautiful. Thank you.

Jenna said...

I started reading your blog shortly after the accident, and have been loyally reading since. I have not yet commented because I don't know what to say. Your loss is unimaginable, but please know you and your family are in my prayers and thoughts often. I wish you peace and thank you for sharing Jack's life with us. I shared the story of Margaret getting to see Justin Beiber with my mom over Thanksgiving break. We were both were amazed/touched/inspired by the goodness of people in light of the sadness.

Rach said...

One of the hardest parts of losing a child is losing the future. I'm so sorry.

Many hugs,
Rach

Theresa O said...

Each picture of your handsome Jack warms my heart. Each picture of you and Jack, has my heart aching. Wishing you could have him back to hold forever. Our hearts ache with you.

ALWAYS thinking and praying for you.

Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

First of all, as a fourth grade teacher, I am stealing this idea.

Secondly, I wish I could speak freely about my faith, but instead I just try to live it out here in public school.

Third, there will always be a loss. Always. Margaret's kids will say, "I wish I could have known him." And she will say yes.

To borrow a phrase from a picture book I read only yesterday, he is "on a long journey ahead of us."

Lynn said...

I pray for you in the morning. I pray for you at night. I pray for you when I wake up during the night. God is putting you on my heart. I think of your family often. I can't imagine what you must be going through.
On another note, I felt like I saw you at Whitetail this weekend and then today you post pictures where you were obviously there last year. Very weird to see those pictures...not sure what it all means and maybe it means nothing, just that I should keep praying for your family.

luv2run said...

Gut wrenching when you said 12 forever....just gut wrenching!

Tight hugs from a stranger!!!!!!!!!!!!

luv2run

Princess Kate said...

You make me miss Jack SO much and I didn't even know him. Quite a testament to him and his family. Blessings and prayers for you all.

Anonymous said...

Your son's tragedy struck us even more because he looks so much like our Sam, who is just half his age but very similar in appearance to the point where his younger brother saw Jack online and asked whether it was Sam. All three of us pray for Jack and your family each night. May your lovely son send you heartfelt hugs from heaven. He loves you so much!

Kim @ A Brush of Whimsy said...

I'll bet it feels like one thing after another crashes in, things you hadn't even thought of yet that will be forever different than you'd imagined. I really have no words to offer...just know you are thought of and loved from far away.
Kim

Robin said...

you write so beautifully, you make me want to be a better mother. if you do have that little cottage, I am sure Jack will love it for you. <3 Robin

Jen said...

Oh Anna, I grieve with you. So much.

IrishRN07 said...

Your loss is too deep to fathom. I remember how I felt when I realized my dad would never walk me down the isle or meet my children. I cannot imagine how powerfully the grief must hit you when you think of all that might have been. All I can with this do is cry and pray, so I'll do that.
-Maureen
PS: We all fall in love with Jack a little more every time you post about his dreams and his beautiful way of seeing the world.

Leslie said...

Oh Anna, I am SO SORRY.

I am sure thoughts like these and a million others go through your head daily. When you can, keep writing them. We will always be here to listen and keep praying fervently for each of you.

We don't forget you when we sign off. We keep praying, all of us. We are reminded of you through the day, and in our sleep. Each pain that you share, we will pray about.

I'm always BEGGING God for some sense to be made, for peace, for understanding.

Christy said...

Oh Anna. You are such a talented and brave writer. I wish I had comforting words. Just know that I think about you and your family every single day. Sending you love, hugs, prayers, courage and strength. xoxo

Laura said...

Thank you for letting us get to know Jack. He packed a lot of learning, living, loving, dreaming, and just being in those twelve short years of his. I ache for you - thinking of future plans lost.
Hugs to his dear sister - and loving parents.
And prayers - every day.

Anonymous said...

I love reading about Jack's certainty that he would someday be a father. I wonder if that's true of most boys his age? I don't know that I was ever sure I would become a mother.

The classroom work that his teacher shared with you was a bittersweet offering, no? I'm so glad she gave it to you. You needed to have it, to see it...but it must have made your wounds hurt anew, too, to have been given something that came from Jack's head, heart and hands that you hadn't seen before.

Thank you for sharing it with us.

love,
jbhat

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry....I come back everyday to check your blog, to see your beautiful Jack in pictures, to learn more about him, to read your sweet stories and share your special memories. We are all praying for you and will never stop...you and your family are loved so much!!! xxoo

Kate Coveny Hood said...

Oh my heart. This was hard to read. It's true - there will never be ANYTHING that can make up for the loss of that future. Your future will still be beautiful (I know it) - but there should have been more. More of him.

Love you.

Corinne said...

I've been reading your blog for a little while now (since the accident, actually). I am tremendously sad for your family, but I also really appreciate your willingness to share what you're going through. As a teenager, my two best friends were killed in a tragic car accident after leaving my house. I grieved tremendously for my loss, but also for the huge loss their families suffered. Through the years, I've often thought of my friends' mothers and how they must have felt then and now. Although I am no longer in touch with their families, I feel like I have a better understanding of what they felt through your experience. It's really not that different from how I felt, even as a high schooler (and now).... tremendous loss at all the possibilities and what could have been combined with a selfish sadness at what I had lost personally. Thank you for sharing your family's experience. I pray for your family to find peace and comfort.

Anonymous said...

I continue to post and I continue to say the same thing because I am not half as graceful with words as these other commenters are. I think about you daily and I hope one day my faith will come back will come back when I pray for you daily. But I think about you everyday. I read your posts to my husband and we weep for you.

Vodka Mom said...

oh my darling.


I still can't breathe when I think of you. Still.

Gigi said...

In tears again, your loss is so momentous. And any words I have to offer are so piteous. Know that you are being lifted up in prayer every single day.

Anonymous said...

I say this with love...have you thought about having another child? You're still young. Many hugs to you.

Anonymous said...

please, please, please do not let this sound trite, Lord. (that's my prayer as I type.) I'm studying the book of isaiah this year and what keeps resonating is that with the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day...our concept of time is so limited. you will be with jack forever, and ever, and ever, and ever and ever and ever...you get what i mean. does that make it an less painful now? i don't know, but i do believe with all my heart and soul that one day HE WILL WIPE AWAY YOUR EVERY TEAR. "Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see." Do not lose faith.

I also want to second anonymous' suggestion...no one will ever, ever,ever be able to take your jack's place...but love multiplies, not divides-and a baby is a joy multiplier to the nth degree! you've shared you'd always talked about a 3rd...

Debby@Just Breathe said...

It just isn't fair. My hearts aches for you. God has got to have something special in Heaven for all the parents who have buried their children. A pain deeper than no other has to be rewarded. You are always on my mind, in my thoughts and in my prayers. ((HUGS))

Aimee said...

{{{{{{Big warm hugs}}}}}} I love hearing about your special one in a million Jack, he will definitely never be forgotten. Who can forget that handsome lil face with that killer smile? I'm greiving right there with you and your family. Thoughts & prayers, always for the Donaldson family.

Anonymous said...

The moment we learn there is a life growing inside us we dream of our future, of our children's future....of first days of school, of first loves, of graduations, of jobs, of marriages, of grandchildren. Anna, I'm so sorry you've lost some of those "futures" but so glad you were able to experience so many "firsts" with Jack. Thinking of you daily.
Jane

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you Anna with love. Jack was one of a kind; I love that he was busy being 8,10,12, playing, planning, dreaming and doing, being vital xx

Shell Flower said...

I bet Jack's Lego worlds he built had bunk rooms full of kids. There are probably a few broken-hearted seventh-grade girls out there missing Jack, too. How heartbreaking that he isn't here. I am so sorry for your loss. Still. And I love the stories. He's just gotta be out there somewhere still being that cute.

A Speckled Trout said...

I was newly married and had come home for Thanksgiving at my parents house. After dinner, I sat on the couch talking to my twelve year old cousin. The next day she went into cardiac arrest and was airlifted to Childrens' Memorial in Chicago.

She was there and fine and then she was gone. Sometimes I think her essence got sprinkled through the whole family, for it has never felt like her soul flew away, but settled into a different space.

Vanessa said...

Praying every day, Anna. Grace for every step, every day.

Anonymous said...

So hard...

Thank you for sharing him with us.
hugs, love, and ever more prayers,
Lisa G.

Anonymous said...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46131721/ns/us_news-life/ These poor parents have begun a similar journey..I wish you could be there to show them the way..you amaze me Anna..I know that must get annoying, people saying that to you, but really you are so special. xo

Anonymous said...

I am sure Anna will be far more gracious and charitable about the suggestions to have another baby than I felt reading them. Out of love or not, it isn't something that should be said.

When my sister in law suggested we replace my child the first family holiday after his death, I did not react with grace and generosity. I lobbed a book at her face and it went through their bay window.

I said I was sorry.

I lied.

michelle said...

Crying and praying in this moment, and always. Hefty doses of love to you & Tim, and an extra measure to Margaret tonight.
xoxo, michelle

Anonymous said...

You capture a mothers love so perfectly. How lucky Jack was to be in your family, have a mom like you, and what an irreplaceable loss now that he is in Heaven. You are so very brave for writing. And I love the community of comments that offers so much love from far and wide. It makes me see the good in people to read it all.

Heidi said...

Oh, my breaking heart. I'm so sorry and I know there aren't enough 'sorries' in the world, but I am. So sorry. It isn't fair and I don't get it.
LOVE you.

Ross said...

Thinking about your family and all they are going through. I'll keep praying for you and your family. Jack was very special!

Kara said...

You have lost so much, it is true. Knowing that heaven holds greater gifts cannot take away the sting of the gifts he could have continued to offer this world. OH, but I love that Jack thought about his future family visiting his hometown, that he and Margaret talked about names of children to be, and that your family was such a powerful influence in his life that at the tender age of 12 he was already headed in the direction of a family man. Thanks for sharing, Anna. Still praying for each of you.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

And? I was thinking that the last picture was so familiar... Just realized that it was on your sidebar when I first started reading An Inch of Gray (in 2008!)

xo

Courtney {a thoughtful place} said...

Forever 12. Forever your heart. Keeping you in my prayers as you face each moment.

for a different kind of girl said...

You have such a beautiful son. My heart breaks to realize, in such a concrete way, through this post, that you will not experience Jack as the adult who brings his children to you. I wish it was possible. I wish saying sorry could change things. Thank you for sharing Jack and Margaret with us. They, and you, are always in my prayers.

Josh and Rya said...

My kids have an Uncle Lance that we have never met either. (My husband's brother, Lance, was killed in a hunting accident when he was 17). No cousins on my husband's side. It is unfair. I even feel "cheated" not to have known him and have a brother-in-law. I'm sorry for your Jack. This post hit me, my children also have a Grandma Margaret that they only know through my wonderful memories...

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

He must have truly loved the life you were giving him to want to pass it on to his own children.

All I can offer you by way of comfort is to promise that these Jack stories make all of us hold close to what we have today.

I wish there were more anyone could do.

PeachPrenni said...

Anna, This is so hard. I don't know how you don't think about the "what could have beens." I think it's just part of the process. I know I've been away but I'm catching up on all of your Posts I've missed right now. And trust me--even when I'm away, I still think about you every single day. Promise! -Annie P.