Friday, June 22, 2012

Transitory Joy

When Jack was 6, in first grade, I saw him standing by the window, a distraught look on his face. As you remember, Jack felt things deeply. I figured he was having friend trouble, perhaps being made fun of because of some of his quirky behaviors.

"What's going on?" I asked.



"I'm just so sad people choose transitory joy over what's important," he said.

Whoah...WHAT???? Insert screetchy needle being lifted from a record player sound here unless you are too young to remember what I'm talking about.

What did my little six year old know about transitory joy? What did I know about it? And why was it getting him down?

Turns out his class had memorized this (not uplifting but timelessly apt) poem:

The Flies and the Honey Pot
by Aesop

A jar of honey chanced to spill
Its contents on the windowsill
In many a viscous pool and rill.

The flies, attracted by the sweet,
Began so greedily to eat,
They smeared their fragile wings and feet.

With many a twitch and pull in vain
They gasped to get away again,
And died in aromatic pain.

Moral:

O foolish creatures that destroy
Themselves for transitory joy.


Even at 6, Jack was a patient person. He was not given to greed or excess in his desires or appetites. He could understood this poem and could already recognize how many people could be drawn in by what appeared to be seemingly sweet, but was in truth harmful.

Fortunately for us, this was about the time Lindsay Lohan started going off the rails post "Parent Trap" so we always had a tangible example on hand.

I tell you this story not because Jack didn't himself enjoy the transitory joy of a cold Dr. Pepper, a great joke, getting to one more level on a video game, or staying out extra late on a warm summer night. He enjoyed all of those things and more, and that was good.

But Jack also saw the appeal of boundaries and restraint. And even as a six year old, it appears he was beginning to understand that real joy comes from the eternal, not the transitory.

Wow.

70 comments:

Christen said...

Wow. wow. wow.

Amazing story and an amazing kid

Anonymous said...

Dee from Tennessee

Wow - is all I've got. Truly, waaaay beyond remarkable. (I would have loved to have your face when he said that & you without a clue where it was coming from. )

Jack "got it" at such a tender age.

Loukia said...

What an amazing child.

luvrun said...

I enjoyed reading this post! He is a smart boy!!!!!

luv2run

Theresa O said...

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G - always the first word that comes to my mind about Jack...and of course A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E!! What a tender and warm-hearted boy. Thinking of you...

Kir said...

OH Jack, you teach me something everytime I come to visit your mom. Every single time.

If we all lived like that, it will not be in vain. I hasten to say, I will, for Jack, because at 6 he was so much smarter than me at 42.

thank you for sharing your stories of him with us. He enriches my world, even now.

Leeann said...

What a gorgeous story. That just took my breath away.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Such wisdom from a child!

And to Kir's comment, I add my Amen!

Deb said...

this is why i love literature. i wonder what Aesop would have said if someone had told him he would touch the heart of a little boy some 2,500 years in his future. perhaps they are chatting more about this now.

Amanda said...

Wow is right!

Laura said...

So, really . . . does it show on some ticker somewhere on your end how many times I click back and forth between a post and the comment section? I click on comments after reading and start to write, but then find myself so blown away by what I've read that I have to click back and read it again. Then repeat. Then do it once more for good measure. Then, maybe click back and stare at that beautiful face, look deep into the soulful brown eyes, and try to make some sort of sense out of the senseless tragedy that happened to your dear family.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your wise, wonderful son with us the way you do. He is shining so brightly in the hearts of so many.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Wow. Thank you so much for continuing to share Jack with us.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Still missing the heck out of that little wonderboy.

Jennifer said...

Wow is right. Your precious boy who felt so deeply now feels only the wonder and glory and fullness of joy of eternity. Hang in there. You will be together again (I know that you know this).

Jennifer said...

Wow is right. Your precious boy who felt so deeply now feels only the wonder and glory and fullness of joy of eternity. Hang in there. You will be together again (I know that you know this).

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear that he knew of the joys of boyhood, even while he was learning to understand what really matters in life.

On that note, I am realizing I probably shouldn't have taken Aesop fables so literally when I was younger--all those animals...I guess I was confused about the intended audience. I'd probably be better adjusted today if I thought the words of wisdom didn't just apply to a greedy crow or a lazy hare.

jbhat

Geri said...

I want to thank you again, as I have done before. as have many others, for sharing your Jack with us. He was indeed a unique and wise child, and I have been pondering transitory joy since i read this. I will no longer be saying my smart aleck remark that "so and so is only (fill in the blank) years old, what do they know?" 6 year old Jack just taught this 55 year old lady something.

Kara said...

This is why your writing is amazing: that I can get teary over transitory joy and your sweet Jack, and then read a sentence about Lindsey Lohan that causes me to spit my iced tea onto my laptop.

Love all the lessons from Jack.

Four in Costa Rica said...

I love Jack's insight.

I also love that photo and can't believe how much he and Margaret resemble each other. Such beautiful children inside and out!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I think many grownups could learn a thing or two from this...

Gigi said...

So many adults can't grasp this concept! Wow.

twingles said...

I love your Jack stories. I just wanted to let you know that you are doing a great job of letting us get to know him - every part of him. For someone with twin boys not much younger than him, I find myself constantly amazed by him.

Teachinfourth said...

Sometimes those who are the youngest amongst us have the biggest gems of wisdom.

Jack sounds like he was that kind of kid.

Thanks for sharing pieces of him - and yourself - with the rest of us.

ella said...

Totally would've thought a poem like that would be way over a 6-year-old's head. I think we sometimes underestimate kids. Your Jack got it, and that makes me smile. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

Oh, the sweetness! Those little hands gripping the chains on the swing...

So simple, yet so profound, that some things have a seeming sweetness, but are harmful.

Praying for God to keep watch over you this weekend.

Lisa said...

Wow...so wise...wise beyond his years. I think many of us could learn from that sweet boy.

IrishRN07 said...

Ok, sad truth: I was lighting up a cigarette when I sat down to read this post. Jack, thanks for the lesson. Needed that.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

The more I read the more I am convinced that Jack's wisdom was bigger than he was and some of us live a life time and never get that wisdom. And thru you he is teaching us all!

Anonymous said...

wow. what an amazing person. thank you for sharing him with us.

Recovering Church Lady said...

wow is right. Wisdom beyond his years. Sweet memory.

Riham & Michael said...

My English may not be good enough, and I haven't encountered the word "legacy" a lot, and definitely not about a young boy. Knowing Jack, through your blog, I don't think that "legacy" is an exaggeration... Jack's legacy continues and always will, this unique 12-year-old boy who had more life during his short years on earth than most people have in a "lifetime"...
You're still in our thoughts and prayers
Riham

Anne said...

Anna,
What an amazing child! So many beautiful memories.I am speechless!
((((Hugs)))
Keeping you all in our prayers.
Anne

mgh said...

I continue to be astounded by how much I love this boy that I barely knew. An amazing little mind he had.

Zena said...

Oh... I remember reading this fable when I was six or seven years old, and I never forgot it... I guess part of my present way of thinking comes from my early readings which touched my soul in so many ways. Now your amazing boy and your beautiful story will make my memories even better. Thanks for sharing, the photo is precious

Stimey said...

That is pretty incredible. There are a lot of adults that still haven't learned that lesson. What an incredible kid.

Anonymous said...

May I add a PS to my earlier comment? This isn't relevant to transitory joy, except in as much as inspiration points us toward joy that does last. I have been quietly following Jean (Stimey), and have been inspired by her courage in her exploration of an Asperger's diagnosis. (Of course, choosing NOT to explore such a diagnosis could also be a courageous choice; it's not about one choice being more correct than another.) Both Anna and Jean have the kind of courage that I'd like to have more of in my own journey through life. So, so proud of you both.

Marinka said...

Although I'm obviously too young to understand your needle off the record reference, Jack's comment stopped me cold. Amazing, Anna.

Anna Davies said...

This made me laugh and cry at the same time. I love hearing stories of Jack in his "Jack-ness" ... and I truly look at you as an inspiration of how I want to be a parent someday (right now, 29, so right up there in terms of time, but a cynical New York single chickie—trying to change that)

Bottom line: Thank you for sharing your story, and the story of your family's journey. Every time you share a Jack moment, my mouth drops open—he was truly a beyond special kid (and is, up in heaven!) and he is manifesting Change on this Earth with every memory you share

<3

Single, childless, eggs-aren't-getting-any-younger-and-freaking-out, NYC editor Anna

Princess Kate said...

Such a sweet boy with wisdom way beyond his years. My heart aches with sadness. Hugs and peace to all.

Anonymous said...

A very deep "woah" from the bottom of my heart.

It reminds me of the Proverb - like a city without walls so is the man who lacks self control. That kid had some great walls around his castle!

Lady Jennie said...

oops - and that anonymous comment came from me. I non-robot. I don't know why my name didn't register.

Lady Jennie said...

Oh wait. And now my anonymous comment disappeared too. It was there! I promise.

What I said besides "woah" and "wow" was ...

it reminds me of the Proverb - like a city without walls, so is the man who lacks self control. That kid had some solid walls around his castle.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

So amazing....the wisdom of Jack at such a young age. I was glad you explained it as I do not have that kind of wisdom. I love what he grasped from the poem.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

The code number on my comment was 24...today is 24 and I got married on the 24th twice!!! Just had to share this :)

Anonymous said...

I cannot tell you how deeply and helpfully this entry of yours has touched me (in part, because I am a private person). I *can tell you that what comes through you of your experience of losing Jack is changing lives, my life, for the better. I am a stranger but all my love to you and yours. Keep writing what you're feeling; you are channeling deep wisdom.

the mama bird diaries said...

What a special, beautiful boy.

Anonymous said...

This hits home for me tonight. A few hours ago I sat in a restaurant with my two kids (ages 17 and 19) and my parents. We were celebrating Grandpa's birthday. I had to ask the kids multiple times to put their cellphones away. After the second or third time, I felt like ranting and raving. But I didn't because I didn't want to ruin the birthday dinner.

Tomorrow I will talk with my children about their love for their grandparents, their grandparents' love for them, and if it was really worth sacrificing an hour of quality time with their grandparents (whom they only see a couple of times a year) just to find out "whassup" with their friends. We will talk about transitory joy.

Jack indeed was a wise soul to "get" transitory joy at such an early age. Kudos to the teacher who taught this concept in the classroom.

Jenefer Maron said...

Today I went online and found your blog really amazing, I think you have an amazing creativity I am happy to learn from you even can't be met in the real world.
Pet Insurance With Pre Existing Conditions

Leslie said...

Oh my LORD. Wow. What a spirit and heart Christ put in your boy! Truly. I crave knowing things about your kids, both of them. THANK YOU for recording all of these things for us, Anna - THANK YOU.

Praying for you, Tim and Margaret.

Meredith Self said...

Real joy. Lasting joy. wow. That Jack is amazing.

Me, My Life and I said...

Simply beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Wow indeed. What a blessing your boy was and continues to be. Love never ends. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us through your beautiful writing, Anna.

Mandy said...

He was an incredible child. Such depth and understanding. x

The Bipolar Diva said...

how truly inspirational. what an incredible kid he was. you must be so proud.

Anonymous said...

Anna
I have been reading your blog since we lost jack. I have never commented just used the blog to check on you all and read your always eloquent posts. I have written you and Tim a letter that I revised so many times it's pathetic. I never sounds like I want it to so it continues to be a work in progress. Guess I am more of a talker than writer. Haha! I just wanted you to know how much we think of you all and pray for your family. And that we missed your families at Jess Judy this weekend. We all felt close to jack while we were there and spoke of him several times. I understand why you couldn't come but wanted you to know you were missed. Hugs to all and hope to see you again.
Kim Derico (dericoka@ab.edu)

The Empress said...

WOw.

That left me breathless.

Thank you, Jack, for teaching this old lady something she can now teach her children.

Carrie Stuart said...

Wow! Jack is just amazing. I don't even know what else to say. It's such a bittersweet thing when a child feels things so deeply. On one hand, it's a blessing that he gets what is important...on the other hand, you wish he could be spared the grief and just be a regular, care-free kid! Thanks for sharing this story.

Lady Courtney said...

Indeed WOW! Just another example of how very special Jack was. :)

Nicole said...

I love him.

Justmekpv said...

Love, Love, Love.....I wrote about this same topic. I titled Flying or Falling. I'd appreciate your comments if you get the chance to read it.

www.peacefullivingnet.blogspot.com

Ashley Austrew said...

Jack continues to amaze & inspire. What a special person.

Amanda said...

I had to come back and say that this post is changing my life. I keep reminding myself of what Jack said and the poem and Proverbs 25:16 in relation to me cleansing myself by running and eating better. I feel the bad leaving and allowing God to replace what I harbored most-food. That kid is one special boy and thank you so much for sharing him with all of us.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That was just about all she could say. Wow! Thank you, Dear Anna.

DawnGes said...

You are WOW Anna. You and Jack. Much love and many prayers, DawnGes

anymommy said...

I'm not sure that I've ever thought about transitory joy at almost 40. He's an incredible boy, Anna, and he has taught me so much.

Heidi said...

I love how Jack continues to teach us, Anna. Wow indeed.
Thinking of you lots today...

Varda said...

Love this, and you. Also since you are not much on the Twitter and that's my usual notification method, I wanted to let you know this post is linked in my June Round-Up of What I Loved on OTHER People's Blogs http://www.squashedmom.com/2012/06/june-round-up.html

MissingMolly said...

Incredible insight and compassion from someone so young. What a bright and beautiful soul, your Jack. xoxo

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

I heard that record player scratch in my head too. That's some incredible boy you had, Anna. And thanks to you, he's inspiring us still. And my, that's pretty impressive first grade teaching; around here they memorize poems about honey bees and rainbows.

Kim @ A Brush of Whimsy said...

Such a cute story!