Last Thursday night was the worst. Even though Thursday, the second day of school, wasn’t the actual DATE of the crapiversary this year, it felt like it was. It was like one big flashback from hell.
Every moment of that day took us right back to that Thursday a year ago, but we were helpless to change the outcome. A rainy morning. A day of work. Conversations with colleagues. The drive to the school carpool line. The humid air was heavy, as were our spirits. As five pm turned to six, I thought, “Why couldn’t we have been eating dinner like we usually were? Like we are now? Why did the electricity have to be out? Jack wanted to upload his Lego projects from the camera! Didn’t the other kids have homework that day?”
We went to bed remembering how it felt to climb into bed a year before, little Margaret in between us, hoping that sleep would erase the horror of the previous hours and bring our kid back to us.
Friday was hard, but not as brutal.
When Saturday and the actual date of September 8 arrived, we felt much better. Peace surrounded us. I’ve learned not to question this, but just to appreciate and accept pockets of peace when we get them.
Cards, flowers, new blue ribbons all over town and even on our local boys’ football helmets, emails, and many acts of love like Jack’s dear friend Courtland coming to mow the grass let us know that no one was forgetting what day it was.
When I stepped outside to get the paper, I saw hundreds of origami birds in the tree in front of our house. Our bird feeder tree. Our Easter egg tree. Cranes, geese, and many other birds swung in the breeze, celebrating our own Rare Bird and taking us back to his first word—uttered at a freakishly young age--when he saw the origami birds above his changing table.
The day felt covered in prayer, and indeed, so many of you were praying for us. My lovely Monkee sisters at Momastery wrote Jack’s name on their hands as a reminder to pray all day long. Photo after photo of “Jack” on hands of all ages and colors lifted us up all day long. I wanted to grab the tiny chubby ones and give them kisses and squeezes. It felt like the burden was spread out and shared all day long.
I’ve thought so much about this communal aspect of suffering.
If we—Tim, Anna and Margaret-- have to suffer no matter what, being separated from Jack, does it make sense to have others suffer with us? Would it be better to spare them? Saturday we experienced what it feels like to have a part of this burden carried by someone else and someone else and someone else all over the world. And although it may have felt a little like we were asking too much of others, it also felt right and holy.
We went to the cemetery to see the newly installed bench. Which turned out as well as something so crappy could. We laughed, we talked, we said a prayer. After that we made a run for the border to sit in “our booth” at Taco Bell. And yes, I tasted my first Doritos Locos Taco in Jack’s honor.
If you saw us, joined by my sister and her kids, you would have noticed a lot of laughter and silliness and fun. His name came easily. We remembered him with love, not pain, which has been an inexplicable blessing since day one of this nightmare.
We headed home right before a Tornado warning kicked in. Yep. Seriously. Out of nowhere, the sunny day turned dark and windy and violent rain poured down. And even with that, our shitty neighborhood creek remained empty, just as it has been all summer. Well.
Hunkered in the basement playing Apples to Apples, of course we kept thinking of that storm exactly one year before, but still we laughed and played. We did a puzzle in Jack’s honor.
Afterward, we started an early movie. While we were inside watching “The Hunger Games,” our neighbors were preparing a stunning surprise for us. Luminaria lined the long driveway. Each paper bag had a note about Jack on it. His teachers, friends, and neighbors shared memories, and it was beautiful to read that others could see what we saw in him.
In the other direction, directly over our house, was an enormous double rainbow.
Yes, while we were inside watching a movie about kids competing in a match to the death, our dear friends were being lifted up and encouraged by God. We don’t get a lot of rainbows in our town. I’ve rarely if ever seen one here in my 40 plus years. Photos flooded in from friends across the country, of amazing sunsets and rainbows. Reminders of God’s faithfulness. Reminders that life does not end. And we felt grateful.