Monday, June 10, 2013

Charging Ahead


Margaret is now a rising 7th grader!

The end of the year hoopla led to a lot of flashbacks to the end of Jack's 6th grade year. Hard to believe that from that point on we had exactly 3 months left with him.

As we stood with Margaret in front of her friends and their parents at her 6th grade dinner to read the "charge" we'd written for her, Tim and I wept. Not a gentle weeping, but choking sobs. I know that tears are cleansing and honest, but I wish so much we had been able to keep it together because this was supposed to be Margaret's evening. We intended to praise our beautiful, intelligent, spunky girl for all of her accomplishments in grade school, and launch her into the next stage of her life. We would share about her strength, her wit, her work ethic, her magnetic personality, and her huge potential for the future. We would tell her she could do all things through Christ who gives her the strength she needs (Phil 4:13). Of course all the parents understood our tears, but try to imagine being 11 years old, standing up in front of 40 people while your parents sob openly, and you just have to remain there, facing the crowd.

"I felt like an alien," she said on the way home. I think that may be the BEST, most accurate description of how I have felt as a griever, and I'm so proud of Margaret for putting her feelings into words.

In many ways grievers feel like aliens, trying to navigate a planet that is foreign to us. While we may have once thought we fit in, those days are clouded in our memories. Our new found understanding of what is important (eternity, love, relationships) and what is not (gifted programs, promotions, money, church politics) leave us feeling separate and on the margins.

We are reluctant prophets because we have neither the stamina or the inclination to stand on a street corner proclaiming our new revelations. We are tired. We are hurting. And what's the point of sharing anyway, when our knowledge has come at so high a price? When every person who lives will eventually learn these truths on his own, through the inevitable losses to come?

I think of Margaret, who did not have the luxury of learning about loss as an adult, or in a gradual, natural way.  At an age where being even the slightest bit different is a burden, she feels different in a significant way. If I could, I would take that burden from her. I'd carry it in a sack with me, alongside my own grief and pain, until she reached adulthood. Until she'd had a chance to experience other losses-- of a pet, a friendship, love, of a dream or two. Then I'd let it out slowly so it could settle gently around her shoulders and not knock her to the ground.

And if I could read her "charge" to her again, I'd tell Margaret that she brings light with her everywhere she goes, and that light will never go out.


68 comments:

ScrappinLita said...

God's blessings as you navigate this painful journey.

Margaret indeed has a bright light about her. Definitely the kind of alien I would enjoy meeting.

faithc said...

That was just beautiful. Be gentle with yourself...

Erika said...

thank you for your post- today, as always, they are just what I needed to hear. (((((hugs)))))

Jessica Watson said...

Oh I am so sorry Anna, there is just no easy way to do what you are doing. I wish you didn't have to bear the pain and watch your daughter bear the same. My kids are just now beginning to understand that they lost a sister and my daughter recently asked "how do I be a sister to one that died?" I wish I had a good answer.
Hugs to you.

Anonymous said...

Anna,
Margaret is a beauty, inside and out. And, your writing really does astonish me. Your messages are so important and impactful, and they read like poetry. That 6th graduation is emotional for all (we just had ours too), but it sounds like yours was brutal. All of us out here, I think, wish we could send back some poetic words that could make it better for you, Tim and Margaret. I am so glad to hear that Margaret felt comfortable to tell you how she felt, and she really did perfectly. It seems to me that her willingness to be honest with you and Tim is such a healthy thing for her. Thank goodness she does not feel like she must keep it inside, as I have seen other grieving children do. Her loving and honest connection to you and Tim means you are doing such a great job as her parents. Love from San Luis Obispo, CA

Maggie May said...

Anna I cannot say that I can imagine how you feel, because of course I can only try. But my childhood was full of terror, abuse, lonliness and loss, and the resulting absolute and soul filling knowledge of what matters and what does not had entered me by the age of 19, and left me feeling like an alien amongst many for the rest of my life, so far. And so because of that I say that I think we are the same aliens, and there are more out there, who have had their 'souls sharpened' as C.S. Lewis says, by the edges of human experience. I love the way you share the truth. xo

Sybil@PeaceitallTogether said...

You must feel like clinging to her so tight, to keep her from reaching that milestone, that place where Jack was. If only you could take the pain away, and return it to her slowly. This verse from Matthew just came to my mind...I need to share "God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted." I don't know how it will happen, but I know it is the truth!

Amber T said...

Oh Anna, how beautifully and painfully written.

At 24 I am losing my father to a dementia and "I feel like an alien" is the perfect way to describe my constant social discomfort. I want to fit in with the young ladies my age... But can't stand another conversation about going out, annoying co-workers, and mascara. I long to worry about just those little things some days, but don't want the loss to go unheeded. My dad was one for finding the lesson in all things and I know he'd want me to realize that most things are fleeting... And the ones that aren't are the only things worth investing oneself in. Damn him for being right!

While your charge feels petrifying now for Margaret, it'll be a most cherished memory later when she experiences another loss - big or small- and allows herself the opportunity to grieve alone and in community. Not every person whose lost someone can do that so gracefully (though it feels so not-grace-filled).

You're a blessing to Margaret. And to the rest of us out here getting to look in. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

There are no words to describe how sorry I am that Miss Margaret is learning about loss at such a young age. She is beautiful and strong, and you must be so proud, even through some difficult, understandable tears.

Anonymous said...

Anna,

I get it completely. Our family has faced tragedy and loss of our teenage nephew. Yesterday was our son's high school graduation. I wanted to toast him and wish him well on the next chapter in his life. There should be so much hope and promise at that age, and yet he knows, far too well, how things can change in an instant. He knows the deep pain of losing a close friend/cousin. He should not know this pain at this age. It was too hard to give this toast without breaking down.
I believe your Margaret and my son will carry with them a depth of compassion that will, in some way, help them "be the light" for people they haven't even met yet.
Thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

Ann Imig said...

We're all so proud of Margaret AND you!! You both radiate beauty and generosity, light and hope--even as you struggle.

xoxo

anymommy said...

This beautiful piece of writing made me sob openly. I'm beside you as much as a reader can be, shoring up the flanks.

Peg said...

Ah, the otherness. How very astute of Margaret. I find myself in the constant battle between wanting to scream about our loss and wanting to keep it private and just be "normal." I want the girls to not always be "the tragic Merrill girls" but some days it amazes me that they get up each day and go to school. I wish my boys didn't have to have the otherness rub off on them as they try to explain cousins/sisters/our family.

lovely post. you hit it the grief bubble on the head as you explained a wisdom one gains about knowing what is important when it's a wisdom you wish you and your children never had.

positive vibes being sent your way :)

Stephanie said...

One of the greatest gifts and charge you give Margaret is this blog. As one who learned about loss at a much younger age...and one who was desperate for stories and feelings about the one lost and the ones who suffered the loss I can say that someday, sooner than you might think Margaret may find your words and wash in them. Your honesty and your love is beautiful, and Margaret feels that as well.

Ellen aka Ellie said...

Read it again, in a different setting.

Eliza said...

She is going to grow up to be an amazing, compassionate, strong adult, and she will always make you proud :)

Anonymous said...

So beautiful, Anna. Please continue to write. You have such a gift. I can't wait for the book! Margaret is so pretty and you can see her light shining in her photos. May God continue to lift you up in your loss. You have my heart.

Karen from Memphis

monicac2 said...

Margaret is absolutely beautiful!

May God hold and keep all of you close as you make this journey. I pray that all of you would feel peace, love and even joy in the days ahead. God bless you!

Anonymous said...

I love it how Margaret never lets you and Tim off the hook! I really do, as for me, it seems to say that despite all of the awful and unexpected changes your family has had to go through, she still just tells you straight how she feels, even after a little public emotion. I think that says a lot about the relationship you have with her and also about her strength and wit and huge potential for the future. It sure does sound like her bright light will lead her to great things and I know it will also always lead her back to you. As always, thank you for sharing.

Meredith Self said...

What a threshold to cross once again, that sixth grade graduation. And after 7th grade starts, she will be forging a new path for you as parents, eh.

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

Graduation last night for Chad sure pulled on my heart. And it was a sort of grief, a sense of loss of his childhood. So it's already an emotional night to watch the milestones happen.

Sharing with you in the grief. Love you.

Jamie Reese said...

An alien. That's it exactly! I'm sorry she's had to learn this reality at such a young age

Gigi said...

Beautifully written, as always.

Congratulations to Margaret on all her achievements. I know her bright light will lead her to great things.

Sherri Newman said...

Could not have expressed it any better than this.

Sending you a big wrap around hug!

XOXO

IrishRN07 said...

tears...and hugs.

LeeAnne Simon-Reck said...

My heart breaks for you and your dear family as you make your way through this pain. I love how you put into words your new-found understanding of what is important in life and what is not...and how through pain and hurt, eventually everyone will learn this too. You are a true inspiration and wonderful Mother. Thank-you for sharing your journey.

tracy@sellabitmum said...

Oh Anna. xo

Stimey said...

Love to you.

semplicemente ... j said...

Congratulations to your beautiful Margaret.

Amanda said...

That was so poignant. And so very,very true oftentimes. And thank you for being so real.

All the wishes for a peaceful summer and start of a new chapter for Margaret.

Christian said...

I want to echo the commenter who said "Be gentle with yourself". You are going through a pain greater than most can even imagine. The lessons you speak of are not lost on your readers - you teach us and guide us with your grace.

Suburban Correspondent said...

Much love. You'll make it, and Margaret will, too, and all these experiences will go into making her the adult she is meant to be someday, God willing.

A Speckled Trout said...

I think my mom has been around death her whole life. Her father died when she was four and then a litany of other relatives. She lost two children at childbirth, my dad a year away from retirement. She is the kind of person who shows up for the hard stuff - will sit and hold the hand of the dying and then the hand of the caregiver. I have seen her do it over and over.

She gets the big stuff, and that love - the real love that God asks of us - is not abandoning those who are in their darkest hour. She is as comfortable around death as she is around life because she experienced so much of it when she was so young.

Her name is Margaret.

claire plante said...

Anna,

Hugs and love to you. I am so sorry, every day, about the price of your knowledge, as you so eloquently describe it in this post.

I thought of you yesterday as I mowed the grass, and thought of Jack pushing that mower around your hilly yard. What you wrote about him and his strength, was beautiful. Thank you for sharing him with us.

Love,
Claire

Ashley Brown said...

God Bless your family during this time and you for your realness and honesty.

Jenn said...

Have never commented, but just feeling the need to let you know I pray for you and yours: Be near, Lord Jesus. Be near. God bless you and your family.

OSMA said...

Margaret's light is as real as her honesty is raw. Yours is too even if it is hung in such sorrow. I wish I could shoulder your pain and shield you from any more hurt. So I pray to learn how.

xoxo



Hillary said...

Anna, I read your last four. Wow.

I hardly have time to write, so I'm terrible about reading even blogs I love, but I'm glad I stopped by here tonight. I will say a prayer for your writing....will you say a prayer for mine?

The Empress said...

I'm glad everyone's in bed in this house because it's me with the choking sobs for you, your family, for the loss of your boy. I can never say it enough times, I am so sorry.

Lady Jennie said...

Oh Margaret - there are so many of us who think the world of you (who you don't even know). Your light and spunk and humor and wisdom shine through in everything your mom writes about you. And it's never lost next to Jack.

So you have all these amazing qualities and you have an inner strength that others don't have.

Geri said...

Speechless, and again grateful for your sharing.

LauraBeth said...

Anna...

Many congrats to Margaret! She is an awesome child of God.

And hugs to you, Tim, and Margaret, as always.

Love and prayer from the other side of town...

Kara said...

"We are reluctant prophets..." that paragraph was perfect and beautiful and true. Margaret is gorgeous and looking so grown up.

MKaySigler said...

You're writing, your truth-telling, your beauty that shines through with each post....They fills me up and shows me that amidst pain there is still hope and tremendous love. Thank you, Anna!

MKaySigler said...

Your writing, your truth-telling, your beauty that shines through in every post....they fill me up and show me that in tremendous pain there is also tremendous hope and love. Thank you, Anna!

GrahamForeverInMyHeart said...

To compound the alienation of having lost a child, trying to protect your remaining child becomes very painful as well. My 27 year old daughter is grieving terribly over the loss of her 23 year old "baby" brother. She does not consider herself an only child, yet she no longer has her sibling with whom she can share her memories and her future. It's so sad and complicated.

It is very painful to have to attend these kinds of events which are so loaded with memories, hopes, and dreams. My husband and I have chosen to avoid all social events this past year...especially weddings and graduations, as the memories are too raw. However, you don't have that luxury. Margaret needs you to be there with her. You're doing the very best that you can, given the circumstances. You're all on an unfamiliar path which can only be managed one day at a time.

ashley said...

Thinking of you, Anna. Margaret is gorgeous, and I love that you describe her as "spunky." A very good trait, indeed.

~Ashley in Louisiana

Lisa C said...

My heart aches for you all this morning. For your loss. For Margaret feeling different and awkward at a time that should've been hers alone. It's inevitable she'll share her milestones with the memory of her brother.

No child should carry the burden of a lost sibling but in truth, it made me a more realistic adult and more aware of our precious lives and relationships.

Kristina Kaye said...

Do you have an email address? I would like to ask you what I should do for an acquaintance of mine who lost their child in a tragic accident this past weekend. All my mind kept coming back to after hearing about it was you and your family. Please let me know how I can contact you more privately. You can also email me: kristikmccoy@yahoo.com.

Anonymous said...

I'm sending you ALL another big {{squeeeeezy}} hug. It's meant to congratulate and console, and even to compliment. Your voice is so clear and true.

You know, for me, even just reading your blog and being a part of your community makes me feel that sense of otherness a bit too. I have gained perspective that I wouldn't have had, I don't believe, if you weren't sharing about this harrowing journey that you and your family are on. It's helping me be a better, more aware parent, and to focus on just LOVING as best as I can, while I can. It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day, and to get wound up worrying about stuff that maybe doesn't really doesn't matter in the end. I feel just a little more aware now.

jbhat

Bluebird49 said...

Words that so accurately describe those of us who carry along our grief in the hole in our hearts, in our memories, and our relationships. Even in our limbs grieve---lacking the physical touches to and from the children we lost! And like another reader, since a childhood filled with trauma, I've always felt somewhat alien! Thankfully, I know Margaret will ever know of such things! Anna--it's so good to hear how wonderfully you express yourself---and how you and Tim have raised beautiful Margaret to express her feelings so well. Wish my parents had been able to give me that gift!
Sherry's mom

Kathi said...

I am continually slayed by your honesty and humanity; how fortunate the world is, *and* *your* *children* are, for having a mother like you. I have never lost a child, but I have a best friend who has, and she continually tells me: "Anna really 'gets' what it feels like." What an honor and privilege it is to read words for the kinds of feelings that there really *are* no words for .... or not enough of them. Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy reading the comments and stories, but they're especially touching to me for some reason on this post. I'm so sorry for all the losses mentioned, whether terrible abuse in childhood, serious challenges with family members, or grief that feels confusing and that raises very hard questions.

K A B L O O E Y said...

You just did tell beautiful Margaret, this time without sobs, or at least none that obscured your words (which were, as always, clear and rich with insight and grace). Love to you all as you try to bear your burdens.
signed, a former 7th grade alien.

macac524 said...

In bearing witness to your journey, through the words on your blog, I've come to genuinely care for a family I do not know. I cannot fathom how heavy your heart must feel at times, grieving for 2 children in different ways. Like so many readers of this blog, I wish this were not so...for any of you. I am sorry.

ddkos9598 said...

What a beautiful post. I get it, for different reasons. You're amazing

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Margaret!

You look just a little bit older in the last picture... and wiser.
I mean, you really don't look like an alien at all. LOL! You look like a beautiful young lady with a lot to look forward to.

Love,
Coach Jess

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

Margaret is beautiful, I know you are all proud and I know Jack is too. Your words have taken my breath away once again!

Kathy at kissing the frog said...

The idea of loss as gradual - it's a nice thought, but it doesn't always happen that way. I guess it did happen that way with my boys in that they were losing their brother bit by bit each day...

And the ending, oh how I understand this. I said good-bye to my son's preschool, and it felt like I was losing pieces of Joey all over again. I think that will happen over and over again for us, and our other children will reach a place where they understand how it is. Much love, Anna.

Jennifer Staszak said...

None of us ever want to be the messenger, the example, the reminder. But when we are, and we choose to reach others, that's for a reason. I love Margaret. Someday she'll understand that your tears last night were not just about Jack, but this frame of time that you have to man up and walk again, no matter how scared you are. And that the fear is born of your great love for her. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

How is it your words repetitively dissect my jaded heart over and over? Thank you for putting into words what so many, even those of us who grieve, can not. Thank you for reminding me to gentle with others and what really matters.

Sonia White said...

you inspire us all. Every minute. Every day. For always. Hugs again and I hope your day is going better, Sonia

MaryBeth said...

Thank you for putting the words together that express so much the heart of grief!

MaryBeth said...

Thank you for putting words to the heart of grief!

Rach said...

I'm so sorry. How utterly painful that evening must have been for all of you.

Yes, Margaret nailed it--it IS alien.

Many hugs for you. Milestones are really hard and just plain suck, and you all passed a biggie.

Lesley T. said...

I'm yet again at a loss for words after reading your beautiful, poignant, profound ones.

Sending love to you and your family.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I really loved this one Anna. If only we could share burdens...I wish I could help with yours.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Margaret shouldn't have to feel this deep loss and it would be nice to be able to hide it and share it at a later time. I do know that she will understand why you couldn't stop your tears when she is a parent herself. Our world is filled with Aliens who are grieving parents like you. God has a special place for you in His heart and in Heaven. ((HUGS)) I do believe that He gave us cats and dogs to teach us about death as children. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.
Love, Debby

Lisa D. said...

Good gracious, Anna. That was the single best description of what it is like to live on this side of grief that I have ever read. I know you hear it a lot, but what you write here, it matters. The words, the love and the honesty. The no BS truth. It matters and it makes a difference. I am so grateful. Keep on, keeping on...