Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In the Weeds

I talk to Jack while I mow the grass. I don't say a lot, mainly just, "I'm sorry, Buddy" and "I love you." Over the years we've mowed the grass ourselves, or when the mower was broken for a few years, we hired it out. I loved coming home to a freshly mowed lawn, with the leaves and helicopter seeds blown off of our driveway by an efficient team of workers. It took the pros about 14 minutes to mow the whole thing, and I'll admit I sometimes wondered if we overpaid for such an "easy" job.  I'd forgotten how challenging our yard could be.

Two summers ago we bought a new lawn mower and canceled the lawn guys, because at 12 Jack was old enough to take over the job. His weight was still hovering in the 60's the last summer of his life, finally hitting 70 lbs the week he died. He took to the job quickly, and enjoyed earning extra money to save up for Legos.

After the accident, Tim and I picked the mowing back up again. "Do you remember it being this hard?" I asked Tim. "No. The roots and the hills! Our yard is so steep. How did he do it?" Tim wonders, shaking his head. We are silent. We both feel remorse. Jack hadn't complained, so we didn't know what a challenge our yard must have been for him at his small size. I remember his asking one day if he could get the mowing over with while I was at work. "No, it's too dangerous. Stay inside and wait 'til I get home." I pictured his losing a thumb to the blade like my friend Patrick had in high school, or running over his foot.

Now Tim and I take turns. I push the mower up over high, high roots, cursing as I use all my strength. I roll past the garden bed, along a steep slope, and feel the tension as the mower tilts and threatens to tip me over, down the hill. I let out a moan of exertion as I push through the tall grass. "I miss you" I grunt, my voice drowned out by the mower.

I wonder what it was like for him, at half my size, to do this job. "I'm sorry, Buddy," I say as I criss cross the yard. "I didn't know." Jack's and my relationship was based on huge love and respect, and I have very few regrets. It's as if we knew each other from the beginning of time and trusted each other explicitly. I'd always told Jack he was the strongest person I knew, but I meant his inner, moral strength. Now I think about how he must have been physically stronger than I realized. He never got the chance to spend his mowing money, but he seemed to enjoy earning it.

Weird thoughts go through my head as I mow, like how I'm glad I didn't let him mow that day when I wasn't home because "something bad" could have happened. And then I realize how stupid it is to still really feel that relief now, when something really bad did happen just a few weeks later.

And I realize as I mow, that when I say, "I'm sorry, Buddy" and "I didn't know" that I'm probably not talking about mowing anymore.

I love you, Buddy.

63 comments:

Steph said...

I've been reading your blog since shortly before your life changed that fateful day...

I'm not sure that I have ever commented, though I always read.

Perhaps it's that I had my own 12 year old boy that has hit me so closely in your story.

I am moved to tears with each one of your posts. In this one, I've had the same conversation about my son not mowing while I'm gone just to get it done for the same fears.

What prompted me to post a comment today was you telling Jack he was the strongest person you knew...I'm betting he feels the same about you. The strength you put forth every single moment of your life comes through...

Thank you for so openly sharing your story. You are inspiring and a gentle reminder of savoring every moment.

God bless and so much love to you!
xoxox

Jen said...

Hugs and love to you.

Arnebya said...

The mind is a funny thing indeed. And yes, he was strong; you built him that way.

Loukia said...

I'm so sorry, Anna. The fear of the unknown is my biggest fear of all. None of us know... it is so frightening.

My heart hurts for you today (and every day). xoxo

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful conversation with your boy, thanks for sharing. From what I have read, you have a deep faith in God. For what it's worth, while sometimes I can sense that you might blame yourself for what happened, I really do believe that you are endlessly forgiven and have permission from God to forgive yourself as well. You are a mom trying your best and were doing that same good job even on that horrible day. Love and peace to you.

Anonymous said...

I hope that "I'm sorry" is more about sorrow than self-blame, because it's not your fault.

It's not silly to feel relief that you made him wait, because you did that out of the love that you had, and always will have, for Jack.

This is so simple, just about mowing the lawn, yet I hear your heart and soul in this.

Kristal said...

What a funny picture to see...not funny haha, but funny odd. I've been reading your blog for quite some time now, finding you through Momastery, and I'm drawn to you daily. When my son was 15 months old, he drowned in our pool. With my husband and daughter less than 10 feet away having a tickle war. They never even heard him go in. Fortunately, my husband found him, started CPR, and then EMS got there, and he was eventually revived with no lasting effects. (Not even a healthy fear of the water, sad to say.) But this year, for t-ball, our team was the Dodgers. So when I saw the picture of Jack at the end of your post today, I knew I had to say something.

You are an amazing woman to share your grief and recovery with so many. I know what the week of PICU was like for us, a lot of not knowing and "what if's" and "why weren't you watching's"... There have been many times when my husband and I have talked about that day and been certain of one thing - we wouldn't have made it as a couple had we lost Hunter. So the fact that you and your husband are still together and still showing up for Margaret, and being open with your grief so that she can be open with hers, just makes my heart swell with pride for you. And joy. Because in your tragedy, you are probably helping someone else endure theirs. Or at the very least, be thankful for their blessings.

I am thankful every day that I got a second chance with my son. I believe God has big plans for him and can't wait to see what happens in his life. I am thankful that you are finding joy in and with Margaret, and I hope that you and Tim are finding joy in and with each other.

Much Love and Prayers for you

Sharon Lane said...

Dear Anna, I'm sorry too.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna,
Just a thought - the fact that mowing your lawn was very physically challenging for your Jack probably made him feel so great and accomplished! He knew it was hard for him but he walked away knowing his parents felt he was strong and capable. Kids love that feeling - they love it when we allow them to feel grown up. That was a gift you gave your amazing son. I think about your wonderful boy every day. Love from San Luis Obispo, CA

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna,
Just a thought - the fact that mowing your lawn was very physically challenging for your Jack probably made him feel so great and accomplished! He knew it was hard for him but he walked away knowing his parents felt he was strong and capable. Kids love that feeling - they love it when we allow them to feel grown up. That was a gift you gave your amazing son. I think about your wonderful boy every day. Love from San Luis Obispo, CA

Christine said...

It's so hard to be a parent. There are dangers EVERYWHERE! It's enough to make a mama want to put her kiddos in a nice safe bubble, but, kids don't thrive in a bubble either. They may exist, but they don't thrive. Jack forgave you a long time ago. The hard part, I'm sure, is forgiving yourself. ((Hugs)) to you!

Shenne said...

Dearest Anna:

Beautiful story.

Jack did his best, as did you.

He found he was stronger than you thought he was. As are you.



Cassie @ Primitive & Proper said...

anna, i don't have words to help, i know that. but i am sending you a big hug and a big dose of love. with my neighbors' tragedy, i think of you often these days, because they are going through the loss of two daughters.... and they were lost horrifically, quickly, and tragically. i keep you all in my thoughts and prayers.

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

I bet Jack felt a huge sense of accomplishment every time he tackled that yard! It's the hard things that say the most about us. But then you already know that. And I love that you talk to Jack when you are mowing. It's good to say things out loud! ... Hugs to you Anna!

Anonymous said...

What a great kid! It must have made him feel so proud to mow the lawn---as tough as it was. I am sure he is looking down on you listening and smiling.

Physical exercise is so therapeutic. I talk to myself on my runs (well--jogs). I'm sure people must think I'm crazy.

Big hugs, NoVa Mom Jen

Jen said...

Oh, Ana! In tears once again.

Sometimes when I find myself strict or short-tempered with my small boys, I find myself thinking "what if this is the one childhood moment he remembers when he grows up?" or worse yet "what if these end up being the last words he hears from me?" It does remind me to stop and slow down a bit - be gentler - but it also fills me with that all-too-familiar mommy guilt. It's such a hard thing - knowing when to be the tough mom and teach responsibility, and when to be the fun mom and let things slide.

The thing is, if you raised a boy that didn't feel the need to complain about hard work, who was happy to provide a service for his family, and who did it with a smile and a loving, cheerful attitude, then you did all any mom could hope to do. Jack knew you loved him. I feel confident in saying that. He came from a wonderful, imperfect, loving, happy family, and he was happy, too - even when mowing the lawn. Nothing to regret about that.

Love to you.

Meredith Self said...

wow. another thing about jack that's so beautiful. love!

Anonymous said...

Beautifully done. I don't know if this is what you're writing your book about, but if it is, this feels like the opening page. So specific and even quotidian, but also well integrated to so many other things, and to things that transcend the daily. (And that second picture is just so beautiful. Something about it.)

OSMA said...

Love you.

Keep talking to him.

Mowing grass feels like praying to me. Praying badly bc I curse during hills and gravity too.

I think Jack can hear you. I'm so very very sorry you have to miss him now.

xoxox

Princess Kate said...

I love to mow our yard because I too find some peace in the process. I tend to think about my childhood and the what ifs of life while I go back and forth. You can even catch me talking to myself while I mow.

I always say a prayer when I pass the Jack ribbon on the front yard tree (which by the way is gorgeous in the sunlight these days). Peace my friend.

Heidi said...

You break my heart. His loss breaks my heart. I don't know how you do it, but you do, with heart and honesty and grace. I want to hug you, the bone-crushing kind.:) What an incredible, powerful, heart-wrenching post.

Peg said...

I'm just so sorry. I was getting annoyed at my 13 year old this afternoon for whining about something. Then I read this post. Sigh.

Your writing is simple and powerful. Thanks for sharing these touching memories.

Anonymous said...

This post conveys so much about what wonderful parents you and Tim are, Anna. The fact that you gave Jack a significant responsibility as soon as he was able is so great. I am sure he had pride and self esteem from doing the mowing job despite its challenges. Impressive that he never whined or complained.

You continue to learn about and appreciate additional aspects of your wonderful son, even now when he is no longer physically present. But he remains a blessed presence in your mind.

I have said this before, but his loss from your lives has resulted in his presence in the hearts of so very many others, who otherwise would have been unaware of him. Not fair to you, and never would have been your choice, but Jack is a gift of your family to the wider world.

Blessings to you and your family,
Joan in PA

Adrienne Kerman said...

It's amazing how strong those little bodies can be. You are stronger than you think also. I continue to keep you and your family in my prayers. I was watching the Big C last night and the main character, who is dying of cancer, asks a minister why God has her suffer so much in the process of dying. What is the point? And he replies that it is God's way of gracing those who love her and surround her with the gifts of compassion, mercy and community. You teach those lessons with your sharing. You are strong enough to, through your own suffering, give your readers those gifts. I hope that thought can help you push through the weeds a bit. xo

Debby@Just Breathe said...

I think he was extremely proud that you let him do the lawn. That meant he was growing up. He was probably stronger than you thought he was. It really makes me think when you write these amazing posts. How often we try to protect our children, like not letting him mow when you were not home. But as parents it is what we do. My heart aches with you. ((HUGS))

Salvimom said...

Bless you, Anna. I can hear the depth of emotion in your writing, as well as picture you so well as you go about your tasks. You are such a gifted writer! I can't wait to buy your book. God bless your dear Jack, he was very strong in the physical and in the spirit. Lovely picture, I have a Dodger too! (t-ball) Well, prayers and love to you and yours.

Always,

Ury

Kara.k.O said...

strong and brave...like his mom!! Love you, Anna!

Geri said...

Our sons died by such different means, yet your words touch me so much. It is like you take my thoughts and heart and put them into words for me. "I'm sorry", "I didn't know". I don't know how many times I have whispered those words to our son.
Thank you once again for sharing with us. What you write is so, so important.

The Empress said...

You're getting to walk in his days, through his thoughts, what a beautiful thing.

I love you, Anna.

Anonymous said...

Your loss still feels so raw. I don't know how you carry on but I am grateful for your sharing glimpses of your life. It is so unfair that Jack is gone. I am trying to teach my kids that life lesson, and I think it's so hard to accept it. Why? It's not fair that life isn't fair! I wish for you and your family more peace and less guilt. sending love and prayers.

and what I chase has set me free said...

Thank you for this post! I so often find personal meaning in what you've witten, but this post is one I could have written myself.
Four years ago I sent my 16 year old son out to run an errand for me. He was killed in a car accident shortly after leaving the house. "I'm sorry, Bud." and "I didn't know." Those are my words too. I must have said them a thousand times since he's been gone. And the "stupid" relief thing. I so get it.
You have such a gift! Thank you for doing what I still have not found the courage to do.
You're amazing!

Maggie May said...

You have a very special quality to the voice of your writing. It's as if grief has layed you bare and your writing is the matter of fact accounting of how the world now appears to you, affects you. I find it completely absorbing and peaceful, almost regardless of what you are saying, because it feels like the truth, and that makes me feel calm. If this makes any sense... thank you.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. I think of him whenever I see legos and birds in my yard. I find it amazing Jack can fill our thoughts from so far away. I too, live in SLO.

Rach said...

I'm not sure what to say other than I'm hear and I'm listening. Your beautiful boy WAS strong. You and Tim did a good job assuring he was.

As I've often had to remind myself, hindsight is 20/20. Don't beat yourself up for having him mow. I'm sure he enjoyed the challenge. 12 year old boys are like that. :o)

Hugs to you.

Ellen aka Ellie said...

Vicki's cancer from within, Brandon's sudden collapse, school shootings, gang bullets that break through walls, tornadoes...all stupidly horrible realities that teach no matter how well we parent, we cannot truly protect our children.

I'm sorry it's not fair.

I'm blessed that my son survived a serious bout with depression that had me wondering if I'd come home to find he'd killed himself.

What I imagined, that grief, too many moms and dads I know are living.

I'm sorry I'm glad it's not fair. Sometimes I feel the only people who should comment on what you're going through are people who truly know. My words are trite, but my compassion is as true as it can be from the outside.

Anonymous said...

The magnitude of your loss and the beauty of your writing leave me breathless. I would buy a book by you in a flash.
Jack's accident was not your fault.
Lots of love from Amanda xx

Lisa C said...

Oh Anna, my heart aches for you and Jack.

Much love.

Kierstin said...

Today this has reminded me, again, to cherish my time with my children. I will remember to listen when they talk, hug them longer, help them grow and to learn more carefully. Thank you for sharing your tender heart with us... it means so much to me. xo

Judy Castellano said...

Thank you! Thank you for being the person you are, thank you for writing your deepest feelings and thank you for having such a sweet and special boy that graced your heart and your life and for sharing him with us.

This time of the year is so busy with end of school activities and end of year closing ceremonies for so many extra curricular activities that I find myself overwhelmed and on a short fuse ... I must thank you again today for making me realize that life is short and these busy days are fleeting. I'm going home to hug my kids and I only wish you too could hug your sweet boy.

I hope you find comfort in knowing that Jack is around you, he is in your heart and his spirit will live on forever in each and everyone of you. And I'm sure he was a strong boy, he has incredible role models ;)

The Green Family said...

Anna, I'm still here and listening. I'm not sure why your words resonate with me so. I can almost smell the fresh cut grass and see your face as you say 'I'm sorry buddy' 'I didn't know'. I hope you find comfort in the fact that Jack does know, he's around you all the time probably saying the same thing to you. Much love from Utah.

Christian said...

So beautiful. Thank you for sharing yourself with us. Love to you.

Sybil@PeaceitallTogether said...

I am not sure how you get through each day with so many reminders...small and large. I love how you put your thoughts into words for the rest of us to read, so that we can know, even a little of what you feel. XO

Lady Jennie said...

Trying to get past this huge lump in my throat.

IrishRN07 said...

Amazing. Crying tears and sending hugs to you Anna. Clearly strength is a Donaldson family trait.
xoxo
-Maureen

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

I talk to my husband all the time while doing the yard work. I apologize alot too, mostly because I used to think I did all the work around the house and didn't give him the credit he deserved for doing the yard work. I have never mowed this lawn in our 24 years until recently, I'm sorry Mike for not giving you credit and I miss the teamwork we had. It's alot to keep up with on my own and not nearly as fun. None of it makes sense Anna, none of it!

Jenn Marshall said...

He learned his strength from his mama. I think about you and Jack every day.

Love you, Anna. xoxo

Cynthia said...

crushing. love you so much.

Anonymous said...

This post is so vulnerable and loving...you are such an amazing writer. I echo the comments of another in hoping that the "I'm sorry" is just sadness and missing him and grief and not an apology as if what happened was in any way your fault. It wasn't. You know that, right?
Much much love to you.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I honestly think this is one of the most heartbreaking things I've read here. I understand why you think, "I'm sorry," I do - but I so wish it didn't have to be that way. It takes incredible strength to push your grief uphill every day. And I know I'm not the first person to wish I could take over for a while - even just for an hour or so...

The Carens Clan said...

This post has me bawling.... Continuing to pray for you, Tim, & Margaret. Xoxo

anymommy said...

I have conversations with people while I mop the floors ... and similarly, we use to have a cleaner and I LOVED coming home to a spotless house without having to spend a day on my knees.

We can't know, not everything. Love you.

ashley said...

Anna--thank you for this poignant post. Thinking of you this morning.

~Ashley in Louisiana

Pam ORourke said...

I would like to say what a strong woman you are. I understand completely your pain. I lost my son on March 27, 2011, he was hit by a car on his bike. Although he was 20 years old, he was still my little boy, he was my oldest son. I have a son who just graduated high school last weekend, he is 19 years old. When a parent looses a child it is like no other. The pain never goes away, your heart is still broken into pieces and will never heal. The tragedy of this life event will never go away. I enjoy reading your blog and I wish I was as talented as you to have a blog. Just remember you are a strong family and you will be ok! Prayers to you and your family?

Kara said...

I sing hymns while I mow. It drives my children up the wall, but I can't help it. I feel like no one can hear me, and that feels right. So you keep on mowing, and you keep on talking to your boy. I know the One who counts can hear you. Asking God to wrap his arms around you, Tim, and Margaret, and that, even for just a minute, that He could fill up that space that is now empty.

Betty from NJ said...

Dear Anna,

Nobody knows.

This post really got me today.

We live in what we like to call "God's Country"...a small town in NJ.

There was a bomb scare at my sons school today. They were evacuated while the authorities were dispatched and the parents sat in their houses reading the text message alert that their child was evacuated and knowing that there would be no way to get them God forbid something actually happened.

Thank God it turned out to be nothing. But it was something for that hour that we chewed our fingernails off and waited.

Nobody knows what the day will bring.

I'm sorry.

~Betty from NJ

Anonymous said...

Much love to you. Mariana

moorefamily said...

My heart aches reading this, but that ache reminds me to lift you up to the One True Comforter. You are amazingly strong, sweet Anna. Keep trusting - this side of Heaven. For one day, it will be perfect....for all eternity!

Praying in PA

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna, I have read your blog on and off for awhile now. I pray for you and your beautiful family often, and I am amazed at the graceful way you are handling the horrible circumstance you are in. Completely unrelated but it must be said..you are Jessica Chastain's TWIN! Cannot believe no one else hasn't mentioned it! I hope that this year brings you much joy amidst the heartache

Kat Biggie said...

This is a beautiful post. You are such an inspiration to me. I'm sorry I have never commented before. I hurt for you.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to those who have written about losing a child, being faced with the possible loss of a child, or other very serious family situations. I'm so sorry, even though words are not enough.

Kerry S. said...

Just stopping by to say I'm thinking of you and Jack.

He has touched so many lives of people that never met him in person and won their hearts, including mine.

Steph said...

I'm not able to adequately express how your writing touches me. You have lived through every mama's worst nightmare and have been able to continue to honor your precious son, daughter, and husband with your grace and honesty. Wishing you and your family much love and peace.

dmsmyth said...

I'm so sorry for your loss - my son died nearly 16 months ago and we, too, were so very close. No regrets as far as anything unsaid; just this raw and bloodied heart of mine.