Some really neat things happened around Jack's birthday.
Tim and three friends ran a 5k in his honor, and one of our neighbors ran a 1/2 marathon.
On Saint Patrick's Day, the night before his birthday, we gathered at a Mexican restaurant with a big group of Jack's best friends and their families. Don't you think Mexican food when you think St. Paddy's?
People came and went as schedules permitted, ate dinner, visited, and looked at family albums. Three of Jack's classmates drew amazing portraits of him to give to us. I know that when I was their age, I was struggling to make a line drawing of a SHOE in art class, so the skill and love that comes through these drawings is astounding!
We were supposed to leave the restaurant at 8, but we stayed until closing time, sharing stories and laughing a lot.
On his birthday, which was snowy and cold, Auntie Liz ran 14 miles in his honor, while I nursed about 14 cups of tea. Two of my friends joined her for the first 5 miles, their hair covered with ice, the wet snow still coming down.
Friends decided to do 14 acts of kindness, and we got to hear the stories pour in: of Lego sets given to children in the hospital, toiletries donated to women's shelters on the west coast, and even of grace extended to someone who had done something very hurtful.
Two of Jack and Margaret's friends went with their mom to a local grocery store and waited by the bakery. Each time someone came to pick up a birthday cake, they gave out a gift card for 14 dollars to help pay for the cake and then told Jack's story. This took guts and creativity, and one of the recipients was so touched she went home, Googled our story, and re-donated the money to Samaritan's Purse in honor of Jack. So many acts of kindness, so much love.
One of the neatest stories came out of a rural high school in West Virginia where my brother works. Our friend, an English teacher, developed a lesson plan around specific posts on this blog. The students were so moved that they decided on their own to commit to doing 14 acts of kindness for Jack's birthday. In all, these amazing teenagers committed to doing 3,000 acts of kindness in Jack's name! For example, one boy gave a veteran a ride and spent time visiting with him at a fast food restaurant. A girl put positive quotations and affirmations in every drive-thru bag at the McDonalds where she works, spreading love up and down a major highway. Forty other English teachers from all over downloaded the lesson plan to use with their own students.
Each signature on this poster represents a student who will be doing these acts of kindness! Isn't that beautiful?
When this same English teacher was on a school trip 3 hours from home a few days later, a stranger offered to pay for her coffee. "Why?" she asked. "Well, I'm doing these 14 acts of kindness in memory of a boy..." The love was spreading!
These acts helped motivate Tim, Margaret, and me to do 14 of our own, and it helped us think beyond ourselves for a little while. We made "blessing bags" for our cars-- Ziploc bags filled with snacks, new socks, toiletries and a few dollars, to have ready when we encounter someone in need.
Cards, beautiful Lego keychains made by a friend, 14 luminaria on our door step, a stained glass window for our wall, flowers, and prayers from all over the internet, helped us get through the day.
Thank you so much!
My favorite jewelry designer, of Holly Lane Designs, created a beautiful pendant with Jack's favorite Bible verse on it. The Mobius Strip design is a perfect nod to Jack's love of puzzles, as well as God's ability to make the impossible possible.
The rest of the week, I was in birthday recovery mode, which I've noticed is pretty common after a major holiday. The buildup and anticipation are the worst, with our feeling weepy, irritable, and hopeless, and then it gets a little better afterward. Kind of like PMS for grief.
Five days after Jack's birthday, 8 family members and I went to a restaurant after Margaret's soccer tournament. The bill was NOT small. When it came, the waiter said it had already been paid for. "What?" We looked around, confused. Surely there had been a mistake.
"No," the waiter said, "Someone paid and said it was for Jack's mom.'"
Life is hard. Life is good.
So grateful for all the lights that flicker in the darkness.