I loved teaching vocabulary to high schoolers. A bunch of 30-somethings out there probably still remember their weird young teacher throwing her arms open wide and bellowing “CA-PAAAA-CIOUS means SPAAAAAA-CIOUS!” to help them remember.
And what about the word CLEAVE? I mean, how many words have 2 opposite meanings? I loved that!
1) to adhere closely; stick; cling, to remain faithful
2) to split or divide by or as if by a cutting blow, especially along a natural line of division, as the grain of wood.
When I think of the hell our family is enduring, I would have hoped and prayed and even imagined that we would be living out the first definition of cleave, but that’s not really the case. We are trying, believe me, we are.
But these past few weeks have felt more suited to Jerry Springer, a Dateline Special, or at least an emergency episode of Super Nanny than our previously “Cleave Definition Number 1” kind of family life. Sometimes it feels as if were are splitting apart. Yet our splitting, or cleaving, does not follow along a “natural line of division” and is therefore brutal and messy and jagged. For there is nothing natural about losing a child. We are sad and angry and confused. This is beyond shitty.
I’ve been reading a lot about grief and how one person’s life and death mean so much to a family, and to the world. Every life matters. As Jack’s accident and death gradually become more real to us as we approach the wretched 6 month mark, the enormity of what happened down by that creek feels like such a blow to our family and to the future.
John Donne’s words resonate with me:
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece
of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by
the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's
death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and
therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for
Being Jack-less make us all feel like so much…less. Our family and our world woefully diminished.
And when I think of Margaret without her Jack, the idea makes me sick. I am simply not okay with it. Never have I witnessed two siblings who complemented each other so well. In my “Mother’s Keepsake Journal” from when Jack was a baby, I wrote: “Jack, your world is going to change in a big way. Mommy is pregnant! I wish I could protect you from the inevitable strife that having a sibling will cause, but then I would also be depriving you of the joy that comes from sharing your life, your childhood, your world view with a sister or brother. You will be connected with him or her longer than any other person in your life…”
Perhaps Jack remembered a time without Margaret, but she never knew a day without him until now.
“Connected” is right.
Jack and Margaret shared secrets, games, and a quirky language. They loved going to camp and school together. The summer of 3rd and 5th grades, they would look at each other and say in weird voices, “OH! I thought it was the carburetor!” No one had a clue what that meant, but it sure cracked them up. We have tons of video clips they made in the back seat of the car that summer, killing time on long trips, making crap up. Weird voices. Weird faces. Precious memories.
They shared a bedroom at the beach each year, even though Jack could have easily ditched his little sister for a berth in the guys’ bunk room. On our last trip, a week before the accident, they watched a Ghost Hunters Marathon on tv. When Margaret got freaked out, Jack comforted her by talking to her softly and sleeping right next to her. Jack never left Margaret out, and she acted as his wingman in the neighborhood.
This summer he came to me and said “Mom, I’m worried about Margaret. She’s not being as good of a sport as she used to and I think people are starting to notice.” This was not tattling but was genuine concern from a boy who had suffered the stigma of sore loser-ship in his earlier years and wanted to prevent the same thing from happening to his “cool” little sister. He wanted what was best for Margaret. Always.
And THIS situation? Does not feel best. Most days it doesn’t even seem bearable. It seems wasteful and heartbreaking and wrong.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m glad our family was close. I am grateful our children had each other for the time that they did. The four of us were bonded, intertwined, sticky, and faithful. But those qualities do not a clean separation make.