Friday, August 10, 2012

Looking Back, Looking Forward



We didn’t ride in limos to the funeral. It never crossed my mind. I just hiked up my gray dress and climbed into my brother’s new pickup truck with Tim and Margaret by my side. Running late because our printer ran out of ink and I couldn’t get a clear copy of the eulogy I had written, we pulled into the church parking lot just a few minutes before the service started. Someone had used an orange cone to save a space for us.

“Oh crap,” I thought, “We forgot to have a visitation.” Following my mother’s service, many years ago, I regretted not providing a place for people to come together and talk about her and process her sudden death at age 46. I told myself I’d remember that for future reference. Except this was the future, and I’d forgotten. Darn. Why didn’t we think to open up the social hall of the church over the weekend for people to laugh and cry and “Why?” and “What if?” about a boy swept away in a creek? I realize now, that although we forgot to plan a formal opportunity to do so, pockets of people were in living rooms, cul de sacs, on phones, and even the aisles of the grocery store doing just that. Talking, wondering, processing.

I guess there was simply no time for thoughts of limos, visitation, or even putting a picture of Jack in the paper with his obituary (a regret of mine) because we were just in survival mode, plodding through the shitty hours, unable to slow things down or turn back time, much as we wanted to. Reeling at the short amount of time between letting a healthy boy go out to play in the rain on a Thursday, and somehow celebrating his short life on Monday. Getting through. Getting it done.

I also didn’t think of explaining to Margaret what goes on at a funeral, even though she’d never attended one before. “We’ll sing a few hymns, and then the pastors will say nice things about Jack. There will no body or coffin there. When we walk in and out, everyone will look at us. Afterward, Dad and I will be busy talking to people, but you can hang out in my office or outside with your friends if it seems like too much.” I didn’t think of having that conversation until much later. Grief books suggest such a conversation, but I didn't start reading those until after the funeral.

And a limo? Didn’t dawn on me until several months later. Limos are great ways to transport relatives, especially those from out of town, to a funeral or a cemetery so no one has to worry about driving or directions.

But we aren’t fancy people. In fact, I drove myself to my own wedding in a 1987 minivan, wearing shorts and a button front shirt to avoid messing up the veil affixed to my head. No hoopla. It was low key, limo-less, and I regretted that a teeny bit at the time.

But not for Jack’s funeral. I am now so glad we forgot! Because Margaret likes fashion, fun, and the good life, and someday that girl WILL have the chance to ride in a limo. To prom, to her wedding, to a fabulous movie premiere… somewhere. Somewhere other than her brother’s funeral.

63 comments:

Serenemeg said...

Ive been reading your blog ever since Momastery mentioned your terribly unfortunate story. Never have I posted a comment but please know that I check your blog daily. If not to just see how you are doing, but to give me strength and gratitude to deal with life's ordinary and mundane tasks. I think of you and your family often and though I'm not terribly religious, I do consider myself spiritual. There is a saying that gies something like " religious people believe in hell and spiritual people have been through hell." I believe you are both. But through it all you seem to carry yourself with grace dignity and meaning to your life experiences. I wish you all the best.

booksandcandy said...

I was just thinking about you and your family today. I comment often but never have the right words to say. Just please know I am thinking of you and your family often.

the mama bird diaries said...

Thinking of you Anna. As I do everyday. Xo

Julia said...

I love this about you. You are real and maybe "not fancy" (your words not mine) but certainly a class act not to mention intelligent. A visitation is nothing compared to your blog and the ability to comment on here in writing.

I wouldn't have been able to make it to a visitation...but I'm glad I have this to tell you the impact your sweet Jack has made on me and my friends who I sent this way. It will never be fair...ever.

I look forward to M's prom pictures in front of a limo someday..

xoxo, Julia

Jamie said...

Looking back, months removed, it's easy to see things we may have missed. At the time, though, breathing is about all I was capable of. I had almost zero to do with my son's funeral. Now I think of things that I wish I'd done differently. But, none of those things would have "helped", because nothing really, truly matters when you're burying your son. Sully's birthday is coming up in September, and I know you're coming up to the 1st anniversary of Jack's death. Praying

Pam@OurAdventuresInHomeImprovement said...

Such a touching post. I hope she has amazing memories of being in a limo when she's older.

Take care,
Pam

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

So glad you didn't even think about the limo. A pickup truck sounds perfect and real, just like you keep it real with every word you write. Hugs to you Anna!

Anonymous said...

Something about that orange cone just gets me.

I'm sorry to hear you regret not including Jack's photo. You capture him beautifully here, and no one could forget that gorgeous smile, having seen it even once.

And yes, Miss Margaret has all kinds of adventures in store for her.

A Speckled Trout said...

I came to your blog thru Miss Mustard Seed, and shortly after Jack's accident I had a meeting with my writers group. I told them your story, and along with my sister, we talk of you often. Your grief, your family, your spirit, your writing. Your everything.

We worry about you, Margaret and Tim. A lot. I was thinking of you this afternoon, knowing that one year is approaching and how surreal this must still feel. Thousands of miles away in Kansas I send it up for you while I'm doing laundry, grocery shopping or cleaning up the kitchen.

The visitation for Jack remains ongoing.......and likely to stay that way until we all have the pleasure of meeting this boy whose family has become so special to each of us.

And yes, limos should be for the best days of your life.........not the worst.

LauraC said...

I went to my senior prom in a pickup.

I think of you all the time, and continue to pray for you and Tim and Margaret. I have a son and daughter, 2 and 5, and my heart continues to break for you. But I hold onto them a little bit tighter not knowing how long I'll get them, and I hold onto them a little bit looser, knowing they are not mine, but the Lord's.

mgilbert said...

I want to echo the other comments you have gotten on the post. I have never posted either, but know that I pray for you and your family often. I know that the one year anniversary of your son's loss is coming up, and from losing my dad suddenly, I know how that thought can take your breath away. That first anniversary is a day both like and unlike any other in the grieving process: full of memories, full of tears, with some added significance. But somehow, when you wake up on the 366th day, a weight is lifted ever so slightly. There will be no more "firsts" - which of course won't take away the sting of the 2nds and 8ths and 10ths - but it is a weight lifted all the same.

Jess said...

Thinking of you all every day.

I love that Margaret still has a limo to look forward to, and many, many happy memories ahead.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I would never have thought of that! But it's so true...I'm glad that there is one less negative association for Margaret. I wish she didn't have any...

I miss you Anna!!

Ellen aka Ellie said...

What a perfect perspective.

middle child said...

I cannot even pretend to know your grief. But I can say that I am glad you are there for your daughter and looking forward to things.

PeachPrenni said...

Love this post Anna. You're right...Margaret will get to ride in that Limo one day and it will be a happy one. This is why you are so amazing--your ability to turn it around--to look ahead. God Bless you!
xo
Annie

Recovering Church Lady said...

Some things that are forgotten were meant to be "forgotten". Good for you to even recognize how a limo ride would affect your daughters future life, even if you didn't recognize until much later.
Blessings on your beautiful family.
Susie

lacachet said...

I've been reading since Marinka of "Motherhood In NYC", posted about the loss of Jack. I wanted to mention that perhaps an obituary and photo could be published in your newspaper, on the one year anniversary, of his loss? A family, here in Seattle, does that every year, for their 17 year old son, and every year I think how nice it is, that he is celebrated, in such a way. Just a thought.

sweetpagene said...

every time i read your posts my heart breaks, i shed a few tears and i leave uplifted, with my faith in god a bit stronger and a firmer conviction that we will be with those we love forever and peace and hope in knowing that eventually "god shall wipe away all tears from [your] eyes." thank you. god bless you.

NanaDiana said...

Awww...I always feel I am right there with you on your "journey". Have you considered writing a grief BOOK that deal strictly with losing a child? I imagine there are a lot of people in pain that would search it out- xo Diana

Japolina said...

I love the idea that her first limo ride will be for a happy occasion. Hugs to you all


Julie
Www.japolina.blogspot.com

mgh said...

I so love you. I almost didn't come to Jack's funeral. Because somewhere along the line I had learned that funerals for for the family to grieve. I thought I would be a distraction or an intrusion. And I didn't wait in line because after seeing your tenderhearted husband trying to hold his shoulders up, I decided that YOU did not need to comfort ME. And so I decided to do exactly what you noticed here... ask all of those big questions (and share your blog) with whoever would listen.
I went to the service because a friend told me that you, of all people, would correct me and tell me that funerals was for ALL those who grieve. Thank you again for all you've taught me.
That Margaret... such heartache at such a young age... but she has the BEST mom ever.

KM CK said...

I started following your blog about a month ago.
My newborn son was born and died Sept. 5, 2011. When I found your blog my heart ached for your family as we were not the only ones grieving the loss of our son, in survival mode, time standing still, and lost during that week of September.
My thoughts and prayers are with your family as you approach the 1 year mark.

Laura said...

No quickly planned visitation could begin to compare with the ongoing visitation you have right here on this blog. Jack is thought of daily ~ by those who had the privilege to know him in person, and those of us who have met him and come to love him through his dear Mother's beautifully written words.
xoxo

That gentleman's lady said...

A wonderful way to look at it.

Here's to hoping for much much joy (and limos) for Margaret -- and the rest of you too.

Lady Jennie said...

There should a survival book - easy to read - for even before the funeral, if nothing else than for the extended family to know how to help out.

I'm glad Margaret will associate good memories with a limo though - actually that would never have crossed my mind to hire one - I'm pretty low-key too.

Deb said...

i just came from a funeral this morning, for a 15 year old in our community who tragically took his own life. It was comforting to come home and read this post, which does a great job of capturing the magnitude of these horrible occasions while also remaining hopeful. to be able to do that is truly a gift.

Anonymous said...

I checked back because I like to see what others have written, and wanted to say how sorry I am to hear of the other losses mentioned. Truly heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading since Momastery mentioned you and I have thought of you and your family several times a day for months. Please know I'm praying for you.

Why don't you post his obituary this September? No regrets. And when you lose your son in a terrible tragedy, you can make your own obituary rules:)

Heidi said...

I'm catching up on your posts today and, oh man, I wish I could have seen you at BlogHer. I thought about you and wondered how you were doing...if you were alright. I'm glad to read it went well. Actually, I laughed when I read your comparison. You are a beam of light.
I especially loved this post. I could picture it all and I love that you're a truck girl, not so much a limo girl. That your love for Jack and your family is everywhere. It doesn't matter that you didn't remember a few details. You love your boy - that's what counts.
I think of you and your family so much. xo

B. said...

Bless your sweet, sweet heart. Mine breaks for you today as always after reading your post. Again, thank YOU for sharing and blessing me.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

OH how I had read this sooner! My husband passed away yesterday morning. I debated on the visitation and the obit, and decided no, now I wish I had! Will this burn in my chest ever ease? My husband heard many of your stories of Jack, I hope they just ran into each other in heaven and realize how they are connected! blessings

Meredith Self said...

What an interesting perspective about Margaret's engagement with limos for the rest of her life. Holding Margaret (and you and Tim) in love as each new day unfolds and life continues on.... I love you.

Meredith Self said...

Laura. I'm sorry for your loss. All my love. Meredith

Brown46545 said...

I've never posted on your blog before, so here is my maiden voyage.

I had to laugh at some of your comments (being a mom who lost a son as well gives me that right I think!). When you lose a child (or a deeply loved person - who is the world to you) suddenly, etiquette goes out the window. Who in their right mind would know the right things to do for their child's funeral? Nobody!

Margaret and Tim are lucky to have you! And we readers are lucky as well.

Anonymous said...

Laura, sorry to read this.

Anna, you could post a 1 year memorium with a lovely picture of Jack.

I hope Margaret has many, many limos in her future.:)

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

I have to tell you something only you can understand right now. Today I woke up feeling so empty wishing I could just somehow feel my husband, I just feel empty. My husband loved dogs and always joked that he wanted to come back as a dog that lived as well as ours do. I walked outside and some strange dog I have never seen just walks up to me and is so calm. I feel apart! My heart aches so...

Anonymous said...

Laura, Your comment was for Anna, so I'm sorry if I'm over-stepping my bounds, and I know I can't understand your pain, but I wanted to say how very sorry I am for the loss of your beloved husband. What a lovely moment with the dog...Please be kind to yourself.

Anna See said...

Dear Laura, I hope you got the email I tried to send from my car today. Not sure if I did that right. Just want you to know how very, very sorry I am for your loss. My heart aches for you and your family today as you mourn the loss of your dear husband. LOVE the story about the dog. That is AMAZING and beautiful. I do believe God is very creative in the ways he comforts us at times like this. You are so loved! By God, by your husband, and by all of us who will remember you in our prayers. xo

Kara said...

I can't explain it, but I am so relieved that you didn't get a limo - you are so right about Margaret not having memories tied to a car that may take her to prom or her wedding or just out with you for a crazy girl's night.

Theresa O said...

Don't regret Anna because you did all you could do to survive that horrible evening, the horrible days to follow....no mom ever would know how to "plan accordingly" to such a tragedy and and you have survived, you have kept on going and trudged your way through a nightmare - you have tried to stay positive for Margaret and you have certainly given Jack the best mom anyone could have had...the memories are so cherished by you -your words and how you express your love for Jack is endless, and is simply beautiful...so don't regret. Because I know Jack is telling all his friends in Heaven what a perfect mom, dad and sister he has...and one day - just one day - he will be there greeting you with that beautiful smile, feeling so lucky to have you again. Just as you with him. But until that time, keep doing what you are doing. Remembering him and keeping his spirit alive. He is around...I was at my friend Michelle's house in Vienna this weekend...and a black & BLUE butterfly would NOT leave us alone...it was surrounding us constantly...first thought that came to mind -- Jack. Butterflies and rainbows....always get a feeling it's a sign from Heaven above. Much love and hugs....

Princess Kate said...

I'm thinking of you guys with every rare bird, every blue ribbon, every Thursday, every storm, every lego I see. I hope you can feel the prayers and comfort I send daily to your family. Peace my sweet friend.

Anonymous said...

Yes. It's a silver lining.

love,
jbhat

Sharon said...

Today was the first day back to school for my kids. Which has reminded me of last year and that soon it will be the one year anniversary of Jack's death. I never knew your son, never had the pleasure of meeting you or your family. I only know him and you, Margaret and Tim through your blog. Through your beautiful writing. So for me, in my heart, you are family and I cry for you, for Margaret, for Tim and the loss of Jack on a regular basis. I have quit trying to figure out why Jack's death has so profoundly affected me. It just has. I'm not even sure why I'm writing this to you? Maybe, I'm just hoping that it might make you feel better to know that there are others who are grieving with you. Probably not though. Just know that you are loved.

ella said...

I've never understood the whole limo at a funeral thing. To me limos are a sign of a fun special event. So glad Margaret's future limo rides won't bring back sad memories.

Sometimes your posts blindside me and I find myself crying again for your sweet family. This is one of them. Sending a big hug your way and of course my thoughts and prayers.

Chimmy said...

a very brutiful silver lining for sweet margaret.

laura - my heart aches for you and i'm praying for peace, strength and healing from the deep pain.

thank you for letting us into the recesses of your heart anna.

Angela said...

i love your writing. i love your mothers heart. i ache with you daily and have since i heard of the passing of your beautiful boy. every day i have with my beautiful boy i cherish that much more because of you.

Angela Riesterer from Vancouver, Wa

OSMA said...

We had a great big ridiculous stretch SUV/limo thing for my grandfather's service. Nobody even remembers renting it. Felt like P.Diddy's prom date.

Agreed, it is good the limos can be reserved for Margaret's dances, girl's nights, and other celebratory occasions.

Also, I'm so sorry for Laura's loss too. Will be holding her in my heart as she begins her own way through.

xoxo

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

Just wow. Wow.

The Empress said...

Reading this post makes me realize how much I respect the slow introduction and sharing of that day with Jack, with us.

Even though I'm sure the impulse is to tell us everything, as a way of never forgetting, you're slowly taking us in to your life.

And that makes me feel like what we have here is earned trust, and love.

Thank you for making our onlife relationship with you very real.

It was wonderful, wonderful to meet you, Anna. I wish we would have had time to talk, but I know so very many wanted to be with you.

Mandy said...

It looks like Margaret had a great birthday and one day she will get to ride in a limo for awesome things and happy memories. xx

Ann Imig said...

Love the ending. I also like that you have compassion for yourself, knowing that just getting through those first days made for a heroic feat in itself.

Ashley lizza said...

I always use to read this type of blogs and honestly speaking your blog is so touching that I can't told you.
We provide limo on hire in New York at Airport Limo NYC

Jessica said...

I am so glad you wrote about this because I was the same. There were so many things I didn't plan for my daughter's service and I have seen other people since, who have these carefully planned out beautiful services and I just feel inadequate somehow. Like I didn't do enough at that last moment when I could do something for her. But I was like you, in survival mode, and limos and visitations were not crossing my mind at all.

Anonymous said...

How beautifully you write, Anna, and how beautifully you think.

It's neither here nor there, what I'm about to say, but I find it so easy to write to you, to comment on your blog, to find something to say.

I so wish you had your boy intact at home.

with all my heart, I wish you well with continuing to process it all. You deserve some peace.

Sending you and your family best wishes.

Lots of love, as always.
Kxx

Meg McCormick said...

You know, that's a good point. You don't want Margaret's future happy limo experiences to be clouded by sad memories. Fancy, schmancy... she'll get there, and so will you.

Lisa said...

There are so many little details that aren't attended to in those first days after a loss...and while we sometimes wish we had done x, y, or z, well, often it seems like the omissions are ok..and may lead to better associations in the future. Thinking of you...

Mrs4444 said...

Wow. If ever that stupid "everything happens for a reason" quote made sense, I guess it does now. I'm glad you didn't take a limo, too.

the Hawks said...

oh sweet Anna, I love your perspective. these little gifts, even in forgetfulness, that you give your daughter today and still honor your son. every word i read of yours somehow increases my love for my own son and daughter. you are a good mother.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

You are so unbelievable in your writing and how perfect that her memory of a limo ride will not be about death, loss and tears.
((HUGS))

Debbie L. said...

I found your blog through a friend who blogs on Dose of Reality - Ashley. I have been following your story for quite some time now, and I am always moved by your words - your honesty, your pain, your very "real-ness" about losing Jack. I feel as if I know exactly who he was through your words. I usually find myself reading this, with tears in my eyes and not even realizing I am crying, and then smiling at the funny stories you share about him. I have an only son who is so much like you describe Jack, and he is a special soul, too - and your story has made me value him even more (if that is even possible), as it is a constant reminder of life and how quickly it can change - sometimes in the best of ways and sometimes in the worst of ways. I cannot imagine your pain, your loss, your life as it has to be for now, but I can tell you that, like me, there are so many others who are pulling for you, crying for you and with you, praying for you and your family and friends - the ones who really knew Jack - and while none of this truly makes it any better, I do hope it makes it bearable, one day at a time. There just are no words (even though I have written a few here!), but there are many emotions. I do love the way you write, the expressions you use, the vulnerability in the way you write. Thank you for sharing all of this with all of us.

Jill said...

You could still put an obituary in the paper for Jack if you wanted to. It wouldn't be weird or out of place one year later. Just a thought because you said it bugged you that you did not when he died.

xoxo

Anne Jhonson said...

Very well written and nice blog is this.

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