Friday, October 26, 2012

To Thrive not Just Survive

Spent the morning at the mall, one of my least favorite places to be. I would so much rather have been here with you!

Even though I didn't take the kids to the mall very often, it's still a minefield for grief.

My looming 25th high school reunion necessitated a visit. The weird thing about this event is that it's for the whole school, all graduating classes since 1962. That means I'm going back as a student ("Beer is Great! Sex is Heaven! We're the Class of '87!") as well as a teacher (93-99). My outfit needs to say, "She's still got it!" (If I ever had it in the first place) but not, "Methinks Ms. Whiston doth try a little too hard." I'm not as worried about seeing my peers, because the 20th reunion wasn't that long ago, and we're all in the same boat age-wise. The students, however, haven't seen me since I was in my 20's! Twenties! Just don't want the whole thing to be jarring for them, you know?

Of course I've debated going at all, because I know it will be painful. My last day teaching was the day before Jack was born. I left school on a normal Wednesday evening, and by Thursday morning I was phoning in lesson plans from the hospital because Jack had decided to show up  two weeks early. Being with him was the place for me, and though I missed the students, I never looked back.

Now, I will likely receive hugs and love and condolences. I will probably still ask the standard questions that used to seem so mundane, but  now I realize are loaded for so many people with the realities of cancer, infertility, loneliness: "How are you? Are you married? How many children do you have?" 

The overpriced dress I found today is clingy and quite possibly falls into the "trying too hard" category. I'll leave the tags on and see what my wee clothing expert has to say about it. Give a tween a Pinterest account and see how quickly she becomes a fashion expert. If I return my cougar dress for a lacy light pink Taylor Swift number with nude pumps you'll know who's responsible.

As I left the mall I saw Mrs. Davidson, a mom from the neighborhood I grew up in. I never knew her well, but she's a lovely lady and was immediately recognizable to me. I've seen her over the years in the grocery store and such, but I don't know if I've said hi. You see, her son died in a car accident not long after he was out of his teens. I never knew what to say to her beyond "I'm sorry," so I didn't say anything at all. I didn't know then that sometimes "I'm sorry" is all there is to say. Today I hesitated, then said nothing once again.

Despite being right outside of a big city, we live in a small-ish town. Surely she's heard about Jack. I'm wearing his photo around  my neck on a beautiful necklace sent by a blog reader. While I desperately wanted to say my very belated "I'm sorry, and I'll never forget," I also wanted to ask her about this pain and longing for our only sons. Would it abate? Does one even want it to? I think I was afraid to engage. Afraid to ask.

And now, with this horrible news coming out of New York City of two children killed by their nanny? Sometimes the sadness seems too much.

So I smiled, swung my little shopping bag in the air, and kept walking.

But Mrs. Davidson's roots were dyed her trademark black, while my grays were springing out this way and that. Her toenails were painted a beautiful coral . And she was spending a Friday morning at the mall, of all places, perhaps buying clothes for her next trip to see her grandchildren (please let there be grandchildren!) or meeting a friend for an early lunch.

She looked put together. She walked with purpose, her head held high. She didn't look like she was slogging through her day.

Maybe that's what I needed to see.

60 comments:

Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog

Sybil said...

I love reading your blog. I have not been following for long, and don't know your whole story, but am always struck by your honesty and vulnerability. I recently shared your link on my own blog when talking about the importance of sharing your grief, sin, or pain with others. Just wanted to say, thanks for continuing to write, even when it's hard. Also, I really hate the mall, too!

Recovering Church Lady said...

Grab any bit of hope that walks across your path. It is probably not an accident.

Maggie May said...

You are always looking, so you do see. Thank you for sharing with us Anna. I think of you and your Jack often.

Arnebya said...

Sometimes, I love the scenarios we conjure up when we don't really know a person because oftentimes it's better than what the person is actually living/feeling. Of course I don't know this for Mrs. Davidson; she could very well have been slogging through the day. But, you opted to see what she is putting forward, not wonder about what she was hiding. I wish I had that ability more often. Best part? She too probably looked at you and saw not what you see/what you imagine others see, but the best parts of you (with the hope that you're faring ok).

I hope you'll show us your borderline slutty, oh! sorry, trying too hard dress. :o) I'm glad you're going.

Issas Crazy World said...

I don't know if this will help you to hear it or not, but I figure now may be the right moment to say it. My great aunt lost her youngest in a boating accident. He was 14 at the time. Bobby. He was two years younger than my mom...so he passed in the early 60's. Anyway, a few years ago she and I were talking about grief and I asked her how she moved past it. If it ever stopped hurting quite so bad. She said yes and no. That even in her 90's she has never forgotten or gotten past it. That it hurts less most of the times, until the moments when it hurts. She told me that time heals most anything except a loss of a child, but that the pain does lesson over time.

Sigh. I have debated saying this for 20 minutes now. I suppose I'll leave it. What I want to say, is that I don't believe your Jack will ever be forgotten. Not by you and not by anyone. Just hopefully one day, it won't hurt so bad all the time. My great aunt turned 93 this year. She still tells Bobby stories that make his siblings and cousins smile.

In other news? Tweens make the best clothes decisions. My oldest always tells me what not to buy. Trust Margaret. :)

ashley said...

Thank you, Anna, for once again echoing my thoughts. Just read about the horrors of NYC and immediately switched from the news to your blog hoping that you would have a new post to inspire and entertain me. You did not disappoint.

~Ashley in Louisiana

Tracie said...

I love your words...your thoughts...some have been my exact thoughts..wishes..

I saw the necklace and it's beautiful. I have a ring that I purchased from NellandLizzy.com - it has my son Griffin and my daughter that I lost Emma on it - I love it because it has both my children on it. Check out the site - I think you'll like it.

Andrea V at {5 under 8} said...

This made me crack up. You need a dress from Unique. I got together w some friends this weekend from college, my annual trip. They all asked how's "inch of grey?". Oh you mean "Anna?". They all love your blog!

Princess Kate said...

Still thinking about Jack EVERY SINGLE DAY and always praying that peace and comfort find you all. I won't forget Jack and your family and I will always be here to hold your hand.

E. said...

I really liked this post Anna. It was so subtle and nuanced. Not that your other posts are not also, but this one felt even more so. Your not reaching out to Mrs. Davidson, holding back, not knowing what to say exactly, despite all that has happened was very poignant and honest and I felt it so strongly. And the vision of of Mrs. Davidson was so precise and lovely. Your writing gets stronger all the time. And I can't tell you how much I appreciate your honesty.Let me re-phrase that... your carefully considered honesty, because plain ole unfiltered honesty is not always edifying. You are ALWAYS edifying.

{sue} said...

Anna, you are beautiful and you will look simply lovely, I'm sure of it. (And you always have Margaret as insurance.) I don't know the answer to the big question, but I do know that God has thrown some people and things in my path this week that I truly needed to encounter, so I'm putting Mrs. Davidson and her pretty toenails in that category.

A Speckled Trout said...

I had just read that story about the nanny in NYC and.......oh dear God.....what a horror for that family. I still think of that woman on the east coast who lost her kids and parents when her house went up in flames on Christmas Eve. I hope that she and the Mrs. Davidson's and Mrs. Donaldson's of the world know that their pain is not forgotten by the rest of us, and should we see you at the mall and not speak it doesn't mean we still aren't so very sorry for that which we have managed to escape.

Kim said...

Brutiful. Hugs.

Anne said...

Anna what a beautiful necklace you were given! I have to tell you I have never been to any school reunions.Just not my thing.I figured if I have not spoken to those people in all these years then I really don't need to go.Time goes by and people change and not much to say.
Keeping you all in our prayers <3
xx
Anne

Laura said...

I started reading your blog last spring - your writing about your son Jack and losing him touched me deeply then. And now, even more so as my son was killed in a car accident just about 6 weeks ago. He was 18, just 3 weeks shy of his 19th birthday. I too am wondering if the pain lessens or will always feel so horrible.

Today, I hit a 'minefield of grief' when I received a letter addressed to my son from his bank telling him that, now he had turned 18, he would have to switch to an adult account. Just hurt so much to read.

Thank you for your so very honest writing. I hope you realize how helpful it is for other people.

Take care.

Anonymous said...

"And the vision of of Mrs. Davidson was so precise and lovely."

Agreed. You will look beautiful at your reunion, no matter what you wear.





Deb said...

really nice post, Anna. I too hate the mall, and I've never ventured to a school reunion of any kind. but i'm glad you did (or will do) both as it brought you across Mrs. Davidson's path. I agree that that's probably no accident. the picture of Jack is super sweet. I see why you want to keep it close.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

I think it was!
My friend who lost her son... when asked how many kids she has says 2, she did, she does, ones just not here on earth, but he is still hers.
(Hugs)

john dunn said...

I love that someone as gorgeous as you worries about looking OK. My daughters are very judgemental...they want me to look good but not too stylish or young. And "beer is fun, sex is heaven...." Oh it brings me back. I am hearing some healing and normalcy sneaking in to your posts. Worrying about looking good, awkward moments with people we sort of knew, it's great in its' own way, just life.

Abandoning Pretense said...

This was a very powerful post. But yours always are. I wish you would have gone and said hello. Will you next time? You will be so happy you did...

xoxo

-Kristen

Anonymous said...

Laura,

I'm so sorry.

tracy@sellabitmum said...

Now I'm sad that we didn't use that motto for our class of '87. We were lacking creativity I guess. You will rock the clingy dress. Love this post. Love you.

Jennifer Swedlund said...

Shush.

Bluebird49 said...

Oh dear Anna, you are so beautiful, inside and out! My daughter was in the class of '85. YEs, there will be some difficult moments, but for the most part, I hope you will enjoy it.

To Laura--who just lost her son---it will lessen, the pain...but over time, although he will always be in your heart. The hole left by his death will never be filled, trusy me, I know from experience.

Issa's comment was so right on. If you ever have a chance to say more than less to a parent whose child died, maybe think about bringing it up sometime, I always love hearing Sherry's name mentioned, rather than people pretending she never existed. That's just me, though.
Have fun at the reunion--you're gonna knock them out!
Love, Sherry's mom

Jody Casey Feinberg said...

Anna- you are a brave and wonderful soul. There will be grandchildren and coral pedicures in your future. Just checking in on you and want you to know how much I care (even if we've never met). Jody

The Bipolar Diva said...

What ever you choose to wear, you will be beautiful. And as for the neighbor going about her life, I can say from experience that the pain is always there, it just somehow over time gets easier to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Oh Anna. So much to say.

I too graduated in 87,but never heard that chant. Funny! Embarassing, though.

I think you should wear something that makes you feel amazing. Confident, happy. Think Kate Middleton...minus a hat, maybe.

My heart goes out to Laura. I'm glad she has found you though. You have helped so many--those in the hell of grieving, and those who want to be able to offer support.

I am sure that Mrs. Davidson somehow divined that you were there and that you got it/ got her. I'm glad she was looking good too. The next time you see her, you'll know better what to do or say.

And for the record: Malls are the worst.

love,
jbhat

Anonymous said...

Anna, I have been following your blog for over a year now but have never commented. You are a beautiful writer and Jack was a gorgeous boy. I think of your family often. Thanks for being so open and vulnerable and helping your readers to keep life in perspective.

I think a Taylor Swift dress with nude pumps would be smokin! Good luck at the reunion.

Nomads By Nature said...

I think thriving would be the hardest thing I would give myself permission to do. You are so brave, Anna, I know you will get there, in perfect timing.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

I think that is exactly what you needed to see. "Hope" When I saw my friend in Chicago who lost her 12 year old son 12 years ago I saw a Mrs.Davidson on the outside. She looked great and all put together. After spending time with her I believe it does abate or reduce in intensity but only by a small degree. I don't think you would want it any other way. She now has two twin granddaughters who surely help her heart and I pray for your future with grandchildren. ((HUGS))

Anonymous said...

Laura, I'm so sorry for the loss of your sweet boy.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Sherry was lovely. So sorry for your loss.

Ellen aka Ellie said...

I would imagine, because that's all I can do, that she would have welcomed your contact and conversation. As a member of an awful club, she would have wanted to help you and love on you. Perhaps you can look her up another way for a meeting at another time?

yourfriendrobin said...

I never know what to say either. Sometimes I say something anyway and I worry about making them feel worse. Sometimes I say nothing and regret seeming callous. Sometimes honesty is the best policy and I say that I wish I knew what to say.

Rupa Rao said...

LOVE this post, along with every other single oneyou write. Your writing is so powerful and so full of honesty. I'm sure you'll rock the clingy dress. Let us know whether Margaret approved the dress or not :-)Think about you all often. Yet another well wisher -- Rupa

Mrs Changstein said...

I just don't believe in coincidence or luck. I think that God sent you a 'hope sighting' - just like your Jack sightings. Amazing what God allows you to see in coral toe-nails! :) Savor those bits of hope, and tuck them into your heart - to be pulled out in the darker times. Praying for you, and thinking of you so often.

Jules said...

Dear Anna:
I can't imagine what you & your family have been going through. My heart aches for you. I hope that you find some peace knowing that you had Jack for those precious years & that you gave him a good life.

I read this post & it brought back some memories for me. 2 weeks before my 16th birthday, a friend was killed by a drunk driver. She was in the car with her parents. We were not best friends but we were good friends. We had gone to elementary school, jr. high & were now in high school together. We had some different friends & even though we had changed, we were still friends. We had gym together that particular year & had been getting changed next to one another each gym class & catching up. We had been talking about boys that we had liked & on the night that she was killed, a boy had called me that we had just been talking about. I couldn't wait to call her that Saturday to tell her what had happened. Things had gotten away from me & just as I was about to go to church, my mom saw it on the front of the newspaper. It was horrible. I went to church with my sister & cried the entire time. When they said her name, I sobbed so loudly that the entire church could hear me. She was a special person who was robbed of what her life was going to do with her.

Over the years, I have stayed in touch with her family. They had always been so kind to me & they have a special place in my heart.

When my daughter was born, we chose to have her middle name be my friend's name. I wanted it to be something special to me. I wanted her to know that she had gotten her name from someone who had meant so much to me. She knows it! I made sure to contact her family & let her know & they were thrilled to know that we had done this.

It has been more than 20 years since my friend died but I think of her so often. I remember the song that she did her 6th grade music video on. I remember how we went together & stood in line to get our cabbage patch kids. I remember how our parents would take turns driving us to church. I remember her cool hair cut that was really different from everyone elses but she wore it like a champ & I thought that was pretty cool.

I want you to know that people will remember. They may not say it all the time...but they will remember. Your son is in the hearts of many. Hopefully they will share with you that he is in their hearts.

I wish you peace. I hope that your family can feel the prayers that your blog friends are sending you. (sorry for my long note. My computer would not let me email you directly)

He will be remembered!

Naina said...

Anna,

I read all the time and have never commented - but I wanted to let you know that I think of you and your family often. For my birthday, my fiance bought me a beautiful pair of Stella and Dot earrings from your trunk show. I love them and think of Jack whenever I wear them.

Also, are you a DZ? I think we might be sisters :)

With love,

Naina

Naina said...

Anna,

I read all the time and have never commented - but I wanted to let you know that I think of you and your family often. For my birthday, my fiance bought me a beautiful pair of Stella and Dot earrings from your trunk show. I love them and think of Jack whenever I wear them.

Also, are you a DZ? I think we might be sisters :)

With love,

Naina

LauraBeth said...

Anna...

Sending you, Tim, and Margaret some extra prayers and hugs today and the next few days...

Love, from the other side of town...

Anonymous said...

@Jules. That was so moving. I'm glad your email wasn't working. Thank you for sharing.

Lisa said...

I don't think that seeing Mrs. Davidson was an accident...sometimes when we need that little nudge, it comes at just the right time.

Thinking of you...

Erin said...

Oh Anna...I don't even know how I found your blog, but I am often moved by it. I am so sorry for your loss and I pray I never understand your grief. When my brother died, I remember running into people who, I could tell were debating saying something and didn't. As you said, sometimes "I'm sorry" is enough. Just acknowlegement. I'm glad Mrs. Davidson is looking fab. Yay her! I often enjoy thing more as a way of honoring my brother - a sunset, a beautiful day. I notice and celebrate it for him. He would want that. Wear your sexy dress and enjoy your reunion! But please get those roots done first! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you as Sandy arrives.

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you from the Colorado Rockies as we follow the storm out here. May you be safe and know that you and your family are in the thoughts and prayers of many.

Princess Kate said...

My prayers are with you on this rainy night. I hope you can feel the love and support I pray for you all.

anymommy said...

Yes, I get that last line. And I think you have a gift for seeing that courage and spark, which touches me with every post you write.

Lady Jennie said...

Anna, I thought I had responded. I already see you thriving. I'm not saying enjoying, but pushing through the muck without getting sucked down into it.

Leslie said...

Wow.

Praying for you.

Ann Imig said...

You're ever in my mind during this storm. Tears, prayers, and strong faith that you will find your center again.

No go rock that dress.

Heidi said...

Head held high...that will be you. You saw hope in her and my hope is that hope will carry you.
Like Ann said, now go rock that dress!

Child of God said...

Hi Anna,
Stopping by to check in with you and let you know I am thinking about you and praying for you and your family during this storm. Praying all is well and you are all safe and sound.

<><

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Mama Mary said...

Thinking of you during this storm, Anna, and praying for you and your family. And yes, I think that is exactly what you needed to see. Have fun at that reunion!!!

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

I've been thinking about you all thru the storms yesterday and the aftermath today. Peace my friend

Anonymous said...

thinking of you all during this sh!tty weather
oxo

Princess Kate said...

Just thinking and praying about you and your family.

Loukia said...

Anna, I continue to think about you guys and pray. And after the tragedy in NYC, I don't know how many horrible stories like this I can handle to hear. I want to tune out the pain, the horror, the sadness. As a mother, we feel this pain so deeply, we can put ourselves in other people's shoes, and when they're suffering, we wish there was more we could do. Hugs to you, always.

PeachPrenni said...

Anna,
As always you are so insightful! I think this is exactly what you needed to see...a mother who lost her son who is going on and living a productive life. There is HOPE in that! I bet you look great in that dress and I hope your Reunion is wonderful!
Much Love,
Annie