Wednesday, July 18, 2012

For the Record

I'm going to pick up Jack's medical file from the pediatrician today. I needed Margaret's for some back to school stuff (yes, it's only July!) and I figured there was no need to leave Jack's there anymore.

No need.

I'm writing this BEFORE the pick-up, because knowing me, the aftermath will be more conducive to sitting in the parking lot reading and crying than sitting at this desk writing.

As parents, we all try to keep meticulous records of shots and well baby visits. We keep folders full of speech therapy notes, report cards, scout awards, and test scores. We track medications and side effects and weigh the pros and cons of every decision.

I found my own yellowed shot record from when I was a baby, written neatly in my mom's small handwriting. With 3 kids within four years of each other, Mom didn't get around to filling out my baby book, until after I found it EMPTY in 2nd grade. It was not unlikely to see grocery lists and phone numbers scrawled on the back of report cards and other important documents in our house, because the probability of finding both a working pen and a blank piece of paper within reach of our kitchen wall phone was highly unlikely.

But our shot records? Were completely filled out and filed away carefully. For they were our tickets to summer camp, sports, and eventually, college. They showed that even in the chaos of busy family life, there was a sense of constancy and order.

For Jack, I have folders full of documents, plus a journal of hopes and dreams I kept for him as baby and young child. We have all of his school work, because he loved to look back through it. We have our family Christmas card from each year, one for each child, tucked in a folder to give them as adults.

I pretty much know what Jack's medical chart will look like. Nothing too unusual, aside from his hovering below "0" on the weight chart. At one point I had them write, "Dad weighs 140-145" across the top to let it be known I was not starving my son. But the doctors were never too concerned with his weight because it was...consistent. Jack was Jack was Jack.

There will be many positive strep tests, administered never after a sore throat but always, for him, when he seemed listless, and a quick touch of his forehead and a glance at his "sick eyes" would let me know something was up.

There will be the physical from 2 years ago when both kids got to go down an office corridor we'd never seen before-- The Secret Hallway! We waited and waited and the kids managed to follow my admonishment of "Don't touch ANYTHING!" while still entertaining each other with their games and making the doctor smile when he saw how much they enjoyed each other.

I know the chart will say Jack weighed exactly 70 lbs, because when I took him in 3 days before the accident because of stomach pains, we discovered after a summer of situps and pushups and increased eating, he had finally gotten out of the 60's just in time to enter 7th grade!

The chart probably won't reflect how Jack was so very ticklish, that any manipulation of his midsection brought in a bevy of witnesses, because his laugh was so incredible, and his smile so big, it was actually entertaining to see him writhe on the table for a bit.

I think in a way, a child's orderly medical file can seem a sort of talisman against the bad in the world. We may hold the belief that if we stay on the proper schedule, with dental cleanings and check ups and specialists when needed, that our children will be okay. And with the many advantages of our Western world, thankfully, that is very often true.

Until it isn't.

Until a standard WBC test comes back awry.

Until neighborhood fun turns to shit in a way no one would ever have imagined.

Until...

Until...

Until you are forced to realize that life is not what you thought it was. That the control you thought you had was an illusion. Until you learn the secret that so few people know or even want to know: that this world, with its joys and its sorrows and its structure and its chaos is really just a sorry imitation of how the world was meant to be.

And you will long for that other world, while still living here in this one. And you realize now that fear is pointless because whatever it is you feared is not what you now face. And all that fear and planning didn't keep tragedy at bay. And you learn to live in this exact moment more than you ever have before because try as you might to grasp it, the past has slipped through your fingers, and the future you face is unrecognizable.

And you continue to keep up your folders and files and the structure of your life, because you find comfort in the rhythm of it. And you will keep living and loving and never giving up because that is who you are, but you'll have one foot poised waiting for when it is your time to blow this popsicle stand, and when that time comes, you will have no fear.






82 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think of you everyday Anna. Everyday I wish and pray you and your family have some comfort, some relief in your emotional pain. Thank you for sharing and reminding me that these boys sitting here are precious gifts.
With love, Jackie in NY

spedhead said...

It has been a while since you reduced me to absolute sobbing Anna. Selecting a grave stone and picking up medical records are things one may not think of unless forced to. I can't say enough about how amazing your gift for writing is, and how it touches readers like me. Your love for Jack is so evident. The loss so excruciating. I thank you again for sharing. His story continues to make me live and love more fearlessly, as well as having a little more faith. Praying for you and your family. Always.

Christy said...

Oh my gosh Anna. So beautifully written. So tragic. Weep away in that parking lot, and let it all out. You are so amazing and full of grace, seriously. Sending you hugs and love and prayers and strength. Thank you for making me appreciate this sleep-deprived moment for what it is: another moment with my precious family. Love you.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

You are always in my thoughts and prayers. Excellent post Anna and I am sorry for your journey through grief. ((HUGS))

practicingjane said...

These last 3 paragraphs are stunning, full of hope and truth. Praying for continued living without fear.

Anonymous said...

I, too, think of you everday - even though I don't know you other than your very wise words through this blog. I heard someone say the other day, "You can't do anything about the cards you're dealt, all you can do is play them well." and that quote made me think of you, because Dear Lord your cards SUCKED this year, but my how you have played them well. You are amazing. This post particularly spoke to me, thank you!!!
Jess in Nebraska

mgh said...

I think about you EVERY day. Not posting as much... speechlessness has really set in. But I am always reading and always praying.
This post demands a response. Perhaps you understand me better now than ever? The last 2 paragraphs make me weep for you. I learned so early that control was an illusion. I would gladly have kept this secret from you.
I am still questioning why God choose to offer us both an up close and personal lesson about life and death at the same time.
The last sentence really connects. When I spoke to the counselor, I said I want my daughter to live without fear. When I spoke to Jeff, we pledged to parent with no fear. But it seems that we are doing the same things... creating a new structure, a new illusion of order... settling into a new rhythm.
At my funeral, please have them play "When I get where I'm going..."
I so love you... wishing you a fearless day.

Stimey said...

Sending love and strength your way as you walk into the doctor's office.

What you write here is such truth. You can prepare and prepare and put up walls, but it is so rare that what we expect is what actually comes.

Rita Mosquita said...

Anna, I am relatively new to reading your blog and have been reading your posts for a few months now. I cannot imagine losing a child and I admire your ability to blog about Jack. It must be therapeutic as well.

When I was 6, I lost my mother. Last week was the anniversary of her birth, and death. I normally realize it is the anniversary week, but last week was harder than I have ever remembered it being since I was a child.

I wish not one had to go through what you have had to go through, and I wish the same for me.

Anonymous said...

I'm still thinking of you and praying for you. Many people are whether or not we comment daily. You're in incredible writer and mom. Moms are forever. ox

Princess Kate said...

I'm sending all my prayers your way as you pick up Jack's records. This whole situation SUCKS big time. Oh how I wish I could change everything for you.

Suzy said...

I'm praying too -- another unimaginable task. We would all go right there with you to that office today if you'd told us time and place. With you in love and prayer.

Casie said...

Perhaps this is a reach, but here goes. My grandfather died last year; we're ten days shy of the one year anniversary. He only had three daughters, no boys. As a result, he came up with boy names for each of his girls. My mom's boy name? Jack. One thing about him that has always driven me crazy was that he could draw a bird in one continuous line and i never could get it down. In any case, I like to think of them in Heaven together having a great time.

Kathy at kissing the frog said...

So much love and many hugs coming your way. I have often considered getting Joey's school record, but never his medical record. This post had me crying because a mere three weeks before we found out Joey had cancer, he had his kindergarten physical. It was all perfect. I clearly remember his pediatrician's face, full of absolute shock, and undoubtedly a little guilt, as he visited Joey in the hospital that first time after his seizure.

Thank you for sharing this with us, with me. You make me feel understood. Sending all the strength I have to you when you open that file...

Suburban Correspondent said...

"That the control you thought you had was an illusion" - one would think that losing that sense of control would be freeing, but it sure doesn't feel that way.

Anonymous said...

Amen and peace to you! Mary in NY

Valley Girl said...

I'm crying, and I have nothing to say. My heart is with you this very moment, as are my prayers.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

All so true. In a way living and surviving in this life are very much the same thing. We all eventually come to know that in one way or another. Maybe that's when we truly grow up.

L said...

You are a miracle. Weeping with you.

LauraBeth said...

Oh, Anna... Oh, Anna...

Continuing to send my love and prayers and hugs to you, Tim, and Margaret.

With love from the other side of town

Anonymous said...

Once again you break my heart and yet lift my spirit with your writing, Anna. Thank you for continuing to shine a light through the prism of your terrible loss.

“Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.” - Joan Didion

Sending you love and light from California

Judith said...

I will add my "ditto" to all of the previous comments. I DO think about you and your family every day, we pray for you all and I think your gift for putting your feelings into words is amazing. There is absolutely nothing to say to make it better for you - if there were, we ALL would have said it months and months ago! Just know that you touch our lives. That Jack will not be forgotten. His gifts continue to bless lives around the world. We see that and know it. And Jack knows, too. Thank you Anna, for sharing.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

Perfect message for me today as I am learning it is all so true. My husband was just diagnosed with lung cancer and lesions on his brain and in his stomach. I've been pulling all our insurance, medical, personal papers together for the days ahead trying to be in control, but the truth of it is, we're in for a ride, trying to wrap my head around what that is going to look like for him, our 4 kids and myself. Thank you Anna!

Annie said...

So beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I think of you and your family often. You're in my prayers.

Gigi said...

Sending hugs and prayers - I know by now you've picked up those records but wanted you to know that you and your family are in our hearts and prayers.

Robin K said...

I think of you so often....and maybe have commented once....I live close to you....in Fairfax...I remember that day almost a yr ago and that rain...and I watched that water rage through our little dried up creek bed. Then I read about Jack a few days later. I just can't even put into words how sorry I am for your family and it's horrendous loss and pain and grief. Not a storm goes by now that I don't think of those once dry, seemingly harmless creeks that runs along my street...and I'm reminded daily how little time we really have here.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing that I can even add to something so powerfully expressed, except that I am so very sorry, and also, that after your mention of the doctor seeing how much Jack and his sister enjoyed one another, I feel moved to pray for Miss Margaret today.

God bless you.

DeeBee said...

This post is fantastic. Powerfully expressed, spare, perfect.

Anonymous said...

Devastating. Just devastating.

Love to you.

Amy in CT

Jackie said...

I don't post often but I had to today. I admire your strength and your writing. I wish you and your family peace. Sending a big hug to you today from Georgia!!

Kim said...

Anna, I think of you and your family every day. Truly. Know that there is a mom out here in Western Loudoun County who aches and prays for you, Tim and Margaret daily. You truly are a blessing and inspiration through your writing, even when it is wracked with your pain and suffering. Keep on keeping on. Jack was/is so blessed to have you as a mom.

Kara said...

Its so weird the way my heart swells when I read what you write. I hear Truth in your words, and I'm telling you those last three paragraphs grabbed me in the guts. I hate that you know what you know but am grateful that you share.

Kristi said...

Anna: I too have just recently started reading your amazing blog. Such unimaginable pain you and your family have to endure. I think of you every time I hear the song "No Matter What" by Kerrie Roberts and thought it might bring some comfort. Jack was lucky to have you as his mom!

A Speckled Trout said...

How can a record ever reveal the value of that boy and the mother who writes so, so eloquently about his life and loss?

In my thoughts. All the days we have.

Anonymous said...

I am not one who prays often, but I have prayed for you, your family and Jack almost daily since I began reading your blog. I will say an extra prayer tonight. My little boy and I found a birds nest just outside our window a few weeks ago. I checked on the baby birds and the mama bird often each day -- each time thinking of your sweet Jack.

Julia said...

We either die from disease or accident. Unfortunately for you, Jack left the house one rainy afternoon to play outside like a boy, with other boys. And the creek was swollen and the currents ran deep. And he was too small for the strong current. And God was there. The. Whole. Time.

And the aftermath is so much worse than the instant. And I cry for you. Because I have a boy, too. And we give them roots and we give them wings. And ultimately we know they are God's child. And He will be there with them. The. Whole. Time.

Anna, you are a very, very good mother. I read your blog way before this terrible day and your love for your children oozed around the humor and sarcasm. Those medical records will prove it. There is no vaccination to prevent accident.

We can live in fear of losing....or love while we have them. You loved that boy and through this blog a whole lot of us love him, too.

xoxo, Julia

NanaDiana said...

Something like this adds to AND takes away the fear....xo Diana

NanaDiana said...

Something like this adds to AND takes away the fear....xo Diana

csmith said...

We all try hard to hold onto that illusion that we have some control, that our puny efforts will insure the safety of our children. I read your blog everyday, although it continually shatters that illusion, because you remind me to hold tight to what I have RIGHT NOW, cuddle that baby a little longer, listen to one more silly joke from that boy, braid that girl's pigtails once more. Thank you for that. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

rosetells84 said...

Damn. God bless you, Anna. You're so often in my thoughts and prayers.

Kirsten said...

This post really touched me, yet I am having trouble thinking of something to write here. So beautifully written Anna.

Terri said...

Anna,
You have been such an inspiration to me. To hear that you get out of bed and go through the everyday routines of life when your heart is screaming with pain and loss is a measure of just how strong you really are and what boundless faith you have. My life has changed quite radically as well, not through death but through a dreaded illness. I, too, am learning to face the world each and every day when NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME AGAIN. I can only hope and pray that I can do that with the same grace and faith that you have shown us all. (((BIG HUG, ANNA!!)))

Cami said...

Anna- this was such a powerful post. Continued prayers for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Just crying....medical records....so normal and some how so not. I am just a mom juggling and doing the best I can and now.....well...now I just stop and.I smell them. Thanks Jack! and thank you for sharing him... going back to crying.....not that it changes anything, but a strangers is crying along with you because no mother should ever have to cry alone.

The Bipolar Diva said...

Oh, this post hits home hard. Tomorrow would have been Isaiah's eighth birthday. You're right the world we imagine is an illusion and when that illusion shatters nothing seems right with the world. Tomorrow we will gather together, each with a message attached to a balloon. We will pray, we will cry and we will release the balloons for the angels to carry to Isaiah. We'll send some for Jack as well. Much love. Teri

MissingMolly said...

My already broken heart breaks for you. The illusion of control...yes.

I'm so, so sorry, Anna, and I'm thinking of you and your beloved Jack and sending LOVE. xo

Mel said...

My heart, a kindred spirit who also misses a son who is gone, my heart aches and breaks for you. If I could envelope you and your family in my arms, rock you like children, tell you it will be okay, give you back that sense of security...I would. Just as I try to give it to my daughter even when I know it is not necessarily true.

Lisa said...

Oh, Anna...prayers for comfort. I can imagine that those records will hold so much...and so little. Thinking of you.

Pam Priester said...

Not a day passes that you don't come to my mind and touch my heart. Today's post of yours? Makes me catch my breath. Poignant. Eloquent. A miracle that you can pen these words.

As someone else posted, wishing we could all stream into that doctor's office with you - we'd fill the lobby, the parking lot and the streets of Vienna! We all are remembering precious Jack!!! We all want to scream the significance of his life!! Crying with you and standing with you Anna. Much love.

OSMA said...

I'm here reading, aching in your words. As a parent, I have been fooled into thinking there is control in lists, charts, kept appointments, and unbroken promises too. To know it's always temporary order in constant chaos is one thing. To live it is another. I cannot stand that you have to live it, Anna. Always praying for the jagged edges to soften somehow even though I'm sure they just don't.

xoxoxo

Erin

Laura said...

I wish I had the right words to help ease your pain. Even if I could come up with a few winners, there is no way I could string them together in the magical, beautiful, breathtaking, thought provoking, 'holy crap, how does she do that?!" way in which you do.
Love and prayers ~ always ~ for you and your sweet family.
xoxo

Pip said...

I wish I could sit in that car park with you Anna. You are so right, I've never been so fearful as I have become since my son was born. I have so much more to lose now than ever before and I know it's fleeting. Love and prayers to you xx

Leslie said...

Anna, I can't imagine how awful that was for you yesterday. I hate it. I AM SO SORRY.

Courtney said...

I came to your blog this morning because I was listening to a song on the way to work that reminds me of you and Jack. I looked up the lyrics to find the name of it ("Lament" by Robbie Seay Band) and discovered the song is copyrighted by Birdwing Music. Of course.

I am a stranger in California who thinks of you and your Jack often. Your writing is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with us.

IrishRN07 said...

Cannot tell you how much and how often your writing moves me.

Lesley T. said...

I'm sitting here with tears streaming down my face.

You are an amazing writer and mother.

Scary Mommy said...

This took my breath away, as your posts frequently do. You are so incredible.

Ashley Austrew said...

Those last 3 paragraphs...

I don't have the words, except to say thank you for sharing yours.

Law Momma said...

I have not been as faithful as I had intended to be as a poster on your blog. For that I am sorry. But I want you to know that I think of you and your husband and of Jack and Margaret daily. You are an achingly beautiful writer and an achingly beautiful soul.

Kristin said...

Thank you.

tracy@sellabitmum said...

You are an amazing writer. An amazing woman. Amazing. Love. Tears here. So many tears.

Jennifer Colgan said...

I cannot imagine the pain you are in. I'm so very sorry for your loss, and I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

mia said...

anna, my heart is breaking for you... i continue to lift you up and hope that you know how many love and support you...xoxoxo

Anne said...

Anna,
We continue to pray for you all.I wish there was something I could do or say.All I can do is pray that the pain of your broken hearts will heal.You are all always in my thoughts and prayers.
xx
Anne

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

It's amazing that any of us can survive in this world with the knowledge that tragedy could be just a blink away. It must be our minds protecting our psyches. For while I KNOW that anything could and may happen at any moment to any number of people I desperately love, I cannot function if I focus on that potential loss every moment. I let it consume me occasionally, and then have to shove it back down where it belongs.

I can only hope that your day at the doctor is less painful that you imagined it to be. But if it was another horrible situation, I hope you are surrounded by love and feel Jack's presence with you...

Julie said...

Just beautiful. No other words.

Kristin said...

Anna, I have followed your blog since right after you lost Jack, and I marvel at your strength and insight often. I can't imagine what you've been through and continue to learn and go through every day. Mother to mother, I send you love.

Jayme said...

Hi Anna. Its very nice to "meet" you. A friend of mine who has also lost a son...linked to your site...and I spent the entire day yesterday reading your blog. ... I'm so sorry. Your story is ... beyond words. And I don't know you all...but I feel...changed a little reading about Jack. Feel more urgent in my desire to let my kids know they are loved by us and the Lord. Urgent to instill the WORD in my children. Urgent in my praying for them. Urgent in my desire to have the Lord working his will over them. I know its crazy...but Jack gave me that gift of pushing me to be a better mom. And tonight...I was thinking about your family while getting ready to head for VBS. I threw my shirt on my bed...and read once again what it said...but this time was different. It said, "Everything is possible with God." My breath caught. I'm so glad you were chosen to be Jack's mommy...because I think you are the best to keep his story going to bless others with. Thank you.

The Empress said...

Oh Anna.

If only I were there.

I just want to be there to go with you to pick this up.

Because i love you so, and you've made me love Jack.

xo

Lisa McDevittLisaM said...

Anna this was a very powerful post. That second to the last paragraph I've printed it, framed it, and posted it in my office. As a divorce attorney my clients facing a scarey and unknown future will undoubtedly see the beauty in your wisdom.

Your insight into the human condition is remarkable.

Meredith Self said...

Thank you for sharing the raw challenges of facing illusions about realities of life. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for sharing you. Thank you for sharing Jack. Loving you. You are on my and in my heart always .

Heidi said...

This is stunning. Powerful. True. Thank you for this, for you, for your sheer will and guts that is a light to all of us.
If you were here I would get Scott to make you a lime margarita because he makes the best ones, and we would just sit and drink and be. I enjoy you so much.

Fiona said...

I'm another parent who has seen the other side of the coin. We used to live such simple lives full of hope and joy and in an instant it was snatched away. I worried about all the wrong things and I now know its never those things that happen, but something you'd never expect. This fact alone helps people like you and I to carry on. We don't try to insure our lives anymore and dare I say it, we live in the moment more. It's a really shit deal but we only had the illusion of choice before. I think of jack and your family lots and your blog continues to support and inspire me. Lots of love, Fiona x

Lady Jennie said...

I just wanted to say that I am here, and that it always feels important for me to be here.

EatPlayLove said...

I cherish your words Anna. I wish I was going to be at Blogher to meet you and see you read!

Jennifer said...

"And you will keep living and loving and never giving up because that is who you are, but you'll have one foot poised waiting for when it is your time to blow this popsicle stand, and when that time comes, you will have no fear."

I love this. So well-said Anna. Come Lord Jesus, come. May it be sooner than any of us expect.....

Michelle said...

I cried when I read this. It is so true that we do everything as parents to make sure our kids are as healthy and happy as possible. I know it doesn't compare, but I found myself very angry when my daughter was diagnosed with brain tumors..it seemed that all of that careful work was for nothing. Your words give me hope, Anna. I hope you know what a difference you make.

the ::packs:: said...

Oh my, you are such an amazing woman and writer. I can't believe how you just wrote exactly the way I feel in those last few paragraphs. We are different now. Sending you lots of love and tears of understanding. Hugs to you. Kelly

Anonymous said...

Thank u so much for reminding me of love. And the crappy days that I will miss

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog today so spent some time "catching up". You write so beautifully. It is honest, from the heart, and humorous at the right times. I can't add anything any more profound or comforting than all the other commentors.
I hadn't planned on crying the morning away but have. But more importantly, I have to say you have incredible communicating skill! Love your blog, your personality, and your strength.

Cheryl said...

I somehow navigated to your blog from my Facebook page and have been reading your story for the past hour - crying and yet marveling at your grace, wisdom and honesty. I firmly believe that even though we may find ourselves in places that we don't WANT to be...it is in these places that we are exactly MEANT to be. I will pray for your continued healing and strength. You help us realize that you can take a breath and a step after tragedy.

PeachPrenni said...

Anna,
I never read this one. I don't know how I missed it?! It's incredible. I could really feel your words when you talked about fear being this foolish thing because we're not in control. And heaven sounding welcoming? Got that one too!! I get it. I so get it. You are amazing.
Annie