Wednesday, June 19, 2013

September 11, 2011


Sunday morning I sit at my desk trying to put into words what kind of kid Jack was. I am hoping to write something worthy enough to be read at his memorial service tomorrow. This desk is where I write my blog, recording the funny things the kids say and detailing my latest thrifty home projects, most of which involve spray paint. It’s been two and a half days since our lives were turned upside down, and I try to be inspiring, honest and positive when all I really want is to turn back the clock.

Beside me is Chris, my high school friend and college boyfriend. He has dropped everything, and with the blessing of his wife and three kids, has flown in from Wisconsin to be by our sides. “I’ll do anything,” he says. “Clean the gutters, take care of Shadow. Read at the funeral. Anything.” He has learned a lot about grief since his best friend dropped dead at 40. He has learned about showing up. So this is what he does, shows up and sits next to me as I try to describe my boy.

Chris and I were dating when my mom died. I had flown back to Virginia from attending a dance with him in Colorado, and the next day my mother died while I held her hand. I had to call Chris and tell him. When he said he’d fly home to be with me, I told him to stay to take part in a wedding where he was a groomsman. I said it, and I meant it, sort of. This was long before I had heard the term “passive-aggressive,” but on the day of the funeral, I really wish I’d asked him to be there. I didn’t know I’d need him, but I did. So now, even though we’ve seen each other only a handful of times in the past 20 years, he sits next to me, and I run different phrases by him.

After a while he says, “Um, Anna, I feel like you are glaring at me like I did something wrong and you want to murder me.” He’s treading lightly, but he’s brave and says it anyway. And he’s right. “I’m glaring because I’m so damn mad that Jack is dead! But I’m not mad at you.” And he’s cool with that, and calmly suggests that maybe I glare at a point on the wall slightly above his head from here on out, and we both know he’s the perfect person to be with me right now.

I get something down that captures a little slice of Jack’s home life, and hopefully gives comfort to those who will be at the service. I describe Jack’s interests, his homebody personality, his humor.  I don’t know how to capture his humble nature, his generosity of spirit, his laughter, or the way his world became our world. Chris says, “I know you aren’t sure you can read this. And people will say you don’t have to, because they want to protect you. But I know you can do it and I think you should.” He’s right. I mean what the hell do I need protecting from at this point? I want to be the one speaking for Jack. I am his mother. So I will.

I look at Chris and think of the sacrifice he made just to show up for us. I don't know if I'd have the guts to do that for a friend separated by such time and distance. I think of his wife and kids who are juggling so many things at home so he can be here. I realize I have something to learn from Chris today.
And I inwardly make a note to myself to share with Margaret that it’s certainly a lot easier for exes to show up for each other in times of crisis if they’ve never slept together.

42 comments:

Loukia said...

I love how all your posts have a lesson to be learned, Anna. xoxo

Jen said...

LOVE the twist at the end :-)

Suburban Correspondent said...

Ha! I like that conclusion!

Amanda said...

Sitting at work crying my eyes out. Thank you for sharing your life with me.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

I hope this is an excerpt from your book, This is priceless. Friendship is priceless. You are priceless.

Nichole@40daysof said...

What an amazing friend. And what a great point. I said to my niece a couple of years ago, "behave in such a way with your boyfriend that you will feel no shame or awkwardness in introducing him to your husband someday."

Jamie Reese said...

It's nice when friends show up. Not all do. Many completely disappear

The Empress said...

There is a lesson in everything, when you look at it through the blessing of grace. God is good to have those lenses on you. xo SO MUCH LOVE TO YOU.

Anne said...

I will be borrowing that lesson to pass along to Gracie! One of the biggest lessons learned after we lost Rip was that most of my friends are better people than I would have been in the same situation. They all just kept showing up.

LeeAnne Simon-Reck said...

What a great lesson to teach through your lovely words! Thank-you again for sharing.

Hugs to you,
Lee Anne

Anonymous said...

What an amazingly generous and brave presence Chris was for you. Nicole echoed your sentiments about relationships beautifully.

This is maybe the first time that you've talked so openly about the anger that you felt; not that you haven't been totally honest, but to say that you felt angry enough to murder someone is very strong, and in the circumstances, more than understandable, even if I can't truly "get" it.

Gigi said...

What a fabulous friend he is. Showing up is the hardest part.

Ashley Brown said...

Love the lesson at the end of this..something I desperately want my daughter to learn!

E said...

Totally didn't see that ending coming. LOVED it!

Cassie @ Primitive & Proper said...

this had me crying and then laughing, anna. you are a gifted writer and a smart woman.

kate said...

Passing this to the teenaged daughter to read ....

Lady Jennie said...

It's too bad I didn't get that lesson when it really counted. I hope I can spare my children of this and let them have the wonder of being with the right one.

That said, I'm glad he encouraged you to speak for your son, as gut-wrenching as that was. He was right.

Magdapkripper said...

Such a wonderful lesson in friendship and life. I'm new to your blog but must say you steadily bring tears to my eyes ;)

laura@imnotatrophywife.com said...

Loved the twist at the end!

luv2run said...

Ive often wanted to show up at your house but the fear has always stopped me! I fear you will think Im nuts, why the hell does it matter to me a total stranger, someone you have never met. Someone a boy has changed her life and I have never even crossed pathes with. I cant really explain it myself!
Thank you for writing!

HUGS!

Anonymous said...

This comment has nothing to do with your post, which by the way was beautifully written. I just wanted to say that I nearly lost my 2 year old last night to drowning. I am an absolute mess and believe in my heart that this was all my fault. I am a terrible terrible mother. I hope that some day I can get past these feelings. My little one survived with what seems like no bad side effects at all. I will find comfort in your words and wish you peace. Although my outcome was different I have tasted a little of what it is like to have the water try to take your dearest loved one. Sorry for any incoherent rambling. Bless you Anna and thank you for your words.

Rachel said...

What a wonderful friend you have, and what a beautiful message. I'm also very impressed with Chris's wife. There are too many who would mistakenly feel threatened by a friendship with an ex.

As a mom, and an aunt who lost 3 nieces (one to drugs, 2 in a stillbirth), I understand the anger. Crying for you, and continuing to keep you in my prayers.

Kerry S. said...

I second that comment hoping this is a excerpt from your book. You really are amazing Anna.
Please don't be discouraged if your book is taking longer to write than you want it to. Give yourself time but don't ever give up on the idea. It's going to be great and help so many other hurting and "want to help the hurting" hearts out there.
((Hugs))

Jenn said...

What an awesome guy. You are that type of friend too, Anna. I've known that about you from the moment I met you. Loved this piece. xoxo

Susan HeadInMyHands said...

Being a friend means being there during the messy times, the difficult times, the times when it would be easier to stay away but when your friend needs you the most.

Elastagirl said...

I love this!!!

Kathy Glow said...

The ending is genius. The rest leaves my heart heavy. I couldn't imagine having to get up and talk at my son's funeral. You are brave and strong. Oh, and genius. :) xo

kc said...

You rock. For reals. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Lastly, if we knew each other in real life, we would be friends.

Rupa Rao said...

Love this post Anna!! You're an amazing lady with equally amazing friends :-) No coincidence there.

Bonnie said...

Two lessons in one in this story that you've shared. The end of the story makes it all the more meaningful, especially as a legacy to your daughter. Lovely. Just lovely.

Anonymous said...

I understand your feeling but I do want to put a different perspective out there.My ex has showed up for me even though we certainly had slept together. Now, if we'd promised a life time together that would be much harder. And if that's what sleeping together means to you, then so be it. I can see your point.

But, my parents taught me to never sleep with someone I wasn't 100 percent comfortable making myself completely vulnerable to. That standard worked for me and is probably why my ex is able to be there for me in times of true crisis. Just putting it out there because sometimes I think girls need a message about what the proper standard is if you aren't going to wait for marriage and too many, once they abandon the "wait til marriage" idea have no good standard on which to make good decisions.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

My ex-husband was one of the first people to show up when I lost my husband. He stayed at the house for hours, cooking and cleaning, mowing whatever I needed. He even goes to the cemetery. And he still comes to fix whatever is broken. He is one of the best friends my husband and I ever had!

Anonymous said...

I didn't see the end coming either, but what an amazingly true point!!!!! that is SO true.

There is one person in particular, my high school sweetheart, that I still miss. Not in a romantic way, because I am very happily married, but I miss in a shared-experience-talked for 10,000 hours way. But we will never be able to be there for each other for that exact reason.

Anonymous said...

Very moving. I am now making a point to 'always show up'--no matter how difficult. It is by no means no more difficult than what the person we are showing up for is going through. I think it took me to my 40s to realize this. I am going to be sure my kids learn this much earlier than I did.

Fabulous writing.

NoVa Mom Jen

Rach said...

Brilliant wrap up there at the end, Anna. ;o)

I'm glad you had someone who was there for you. I know B and I were wrecks and pretty much useless to each other those first few days.

Lisa C said...

Thank goodness for friends that show up.

Love your ending.

xxoo

ashley said...

You seem to attract good men, Anna. First Chris, then Tim...

Hetrick family said...

Oh Anna...I want to be able to explain these things to my kids like you do.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

I agree with Loukia the first comment here, we always learn from you and these lessons will never be forgotten. Also a great lesson for Margaret!

Franny said...

I will always be mad while I am on this earth that the world loses Jacks everyday. I pray often for you and families like yours. You are so brave in so many ways. It's always a kick in the gut to think about how you must feel. God's peace to you and your family.

Kim P. said...

Holy Moly Anna,
There are so many life lessons wrapped up in this one post. It is some of the best writing you have done, in my opinion. I love your brutiful honesty and how you recall so many vivid details while you were in the midst of the worst time of your life. Thank you for putting yourself out there for us time and time again. Your words have such impact.... in the most heart wrenching and beautiful way. Hugs from Purcellville.

tracy@sellabitmum said...

Oh wow - the end just made me sweat like a school girl as I'm so guilty. So true. xoxo