Monday, July 8, 2013

ALL CAPS!

My CAPS key got stuck today while I was trying to write. It made me think of one of my favorite books, A Prayer for Owen Meany, because Owen's words are always represented by ALL CAPS due to his very unusual voice.

It was the first book Tim ever gave me, way back in 1992, and we both really liked it. I was surprised because Tim wasn't that into God back then, and the book has a strong spiritual focus. He and I had no idea then that we would marry and one day be raising an unusual little boy of our own. One who would surprise us with his wisdom and his steadfast love of God. We didn't know that it would take us a long time to learn to appreciate his gifts. Or that we'd too be dealing with a freak accident and grappling with God's role in all of it, the way the narrator must with the death of his mother.

The narrator, Owen's best friend, looks back over a lifetime of memories and pieces together the important, sacrificial plan God had for Owen's short life.

I do not claim to know what the plan was for Jack's life. I have hints here and there, glimpses of lives changed, faith strengthened, a longing for heaven, and relationships restored. I also see the other side: dreams shattered, faith in crisis, and broken relationships. It's all very interesting.

What got me thinking about Owen a little more today, after my computer started behaving normally again, was the idea that all of these strange disjointed parts of Owen led up to one critical moment of fulfilling his divine purpose.

My thoughts were not so lofty. In fact, I started thinking of just one single aspect of Jack's personality. You see, I recently re-read a letter from his Cub Scout den leader, in which she wrote of Jack's quiet, calm demeanor, his wisdom, maturity, and his thoughtfulness. She wrote of the respectful way he served as a good influence on his peers. This is similar to our own experiences with Jack and those echoed by Sunday School teachers, camp counselors, etc.

Here's the thing. His school teachers would NOT say the same. Uh-uh. No way. Their words are: smart, creative, clever, and humble. But never quiet or calm!

Let's just say Jack and the principal were not strangers.

When we hear of Jack's classroom antics, we wonder about this side of his personality. Tim and I would get so mad at him, because we knew he could focus and be diligent, so why why why would he choose to stir up his classmates with his crazy games, weird noises, and make them laugh at all the worst moments? Why did he get up once during math class and start eating his lunch? Why?

But then I think of Jack's classmates, who were his closest friends...

I know it's a stretch, but could any of this have served a purpose? Even a small one? So that when these young kids experienced the first big loss of their lives they could look back at Jack Donaldson and remember him with laughter, the kind of laughter that makes your stomach hurt and tears stream down your face? Yes, they would have cared about a quiet, obedient kid in the corner, but would they have had the stories to tell? Would they have  been able to say with confidence that they KNEW him and he was a big part of their lives?

The handful of kids had been together since they were 6 years old, so I'm sure they remember the other parts of Jack too:  artistic, smart, tearful, easily frustrated, kind.

But I think it's the laughter they'll remember most.

41 comments:

Heidi said...

I was going to get all excited that I would be the first to comment, but, alas, no. Comment moderation. ;)

What a beautiful writer you are and what a beautiful post. Truly. Right now, this second, I needed to see this. For Ben's sake. Thank you, Anna.

Anonymous said...

Anna: this is beautiful! I think there is so much well-thought out truth in your words. Love, Mariann

Anonymous said...

Those boys, who knew Jack from when he was a little boy, only six years old, surely will REMEMBER all the times when he made them LAUGH OUT LOUD so hard that their sides hurt with great LOVE.

Lisa said...

Lovely post. I posted a book suggestion on Momastery the other day - not sure if you saw it. I just read "Love Anthony" by Lisa Genova. Beautiful story, asking many of the same questions that you are in your post - one of the characters in the book has lost her son. I don't know if it would be too difficult to read or just right, but the resolution at the end of the book was perfect in my opinion. As is your explanation of the laughter and memories Jack has left behind. Much love.

Anne said...

I LOVE that book!! One of the greatest culmination endings in literature. And so cool that you are thinking of Jack's life and death in the same manner. I don't doubt that it served a purpose, just like in Owen Meaney. I love this post!!

Kim said...

May you always be able to remember and hear his laughter in your heart.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, as always.

New Mom said...

That's so perfect! As a former eighth grade teacher, it makes me laugh to think of him getting up to eat his lunch. In the classroom it would've been maddening, but now that I have a boy of my own and after reading so much about Jack, it's endearing. Thanks for writing, I continue to be blessed by every word.

Jenn said...

I requested that book at the library but when I saw the size and the other books I had in my arms, I put it back on the shelf and told myself I'd pick it up another time.

I love how you remember Jack. You are so selfless to share so much of him with those of us who never had a chance to meet him. Every time you post something new, I rush to read to get another glimpse of Jack. Such an incredible kid. xoxo

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you have read 'Mister God, This Is Anna' by Fynn. It deals with loss and I am hesitant to suggest this to you as it may be too much but on the other hand it is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. Hands down!
I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your heart and mind.

Meredith Self said...

In the mind's search for meaning, you sure find and express beauty.

Can't. Wait. To. Read. Your. Book.

Love you.

S. Taylor said...

Still praying and reading in Michigan!

Anonymous said...

Anna, your Jack, even though I never met him (although I feel that I have met him through your words), means so much to me. I am all the way across the country from you, yet I check in every day to your blog, to see if there are more stories about this amazing boy, his incredible parents, and his lovely sister. When I comment, I worry about sounding trite or corny, but I keep wanting you to know the huge impact your boy and your family has on me and my family. I KNOW I express my love more to my family and remember to be in the present moment and APPRECIATE those moments because of Jack, Anna, Tim and Margaret. Love and appreciation from San Luis Obispo, CA.

Japolina said...

I loved that book too. I read it when it first came out and it is one of those novels that sticks with you. My sister's son was born with dwarfism four years ago and it reminded me of what a sweet soul owen was. Books are so amazing!

Kat Biggie said...

laughter is the best way to remember a child!

forphilip.com said...

I think the meaning we make out of our circumstances is up to us, which is why we have to pay attention. And there isn't "one" meaning to Jack's death. The more you tell his story, the more you'll see what's true and what's connected. My son brought so much to my life after he died; both my daughter and I marvel that our "outer" lives have improved since he died...she's truly blossomed (she's 20), and I've never felt so connected to people I thought were not there. I always felt lonely, like I had no friends. Then at his wake, I took a look around and realized there were so many women who were there; what was I thinking? Right there I knew Philip was reaching out.

Yes, he's brought so much into my life but I'd give it all back to have him here. But I can't. And every time I say that, he sort of pokes me to remind me he IS here, he's always here for me to talk to. I'm blessed in that, at the same time I'm overwhelmed by the loss of his physicality. And on and on. I wish you love and peace, Anna.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you have read 'Mister God, This Is Anna' by Fynn. It deals with loss and I am hesitant to suggest this to you as it may be too much but on the other hand it is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. Hands down!
I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your heart and mind on this blog.

Lisa said...

Beautifully written...and yes, I'm sure they remember the laughter and the fun.

Loukia said...

I love A Prayer For Owen Meany and actually took it off my bookshelf the other day to read again! Your Jack sounds like the perfect boy. Again, this post made me think of so much, and again, I am praying for you all, and wishing you so much peace and strength. xoxo

Rach said...

Having taught fifth grade in a small private school, I feel I know the environment in which Jack's other side thrived. I can see him in class and his classmates (who knew him SO well!) and hear the laughter and feel the teacher's frustration and even laughter. There are some kids, who no matter what they do, you just love them.

I don't think it's a stretch at all to say the reason Jack was as he was is just as you say, so his friend would have such wonderful memories of him and laugh on the retelling and make YOU laugh with the retellings.

Loss sucks. Grief sucks. But, sometimes, just for a moment, laughter can take the edge off and turn it all bittersweet.

Stumbling Towards Perfect said...

Oh, my! Oh, MY! I want to hug you so bad right now! See, that was Avery. And at school --- she would not. stop. talking. She was giggly and goofy -- and that last day? The kids remember her walking into class dancing and singing. All day long she danced around and sang at the top of her lungs. "That's Avery!" And yet, she had this strange stillness; peacefulness. A wisdom beyond her years. And that LOVE for Jesus Christ! Way more than I understood at the time. (Now I do. Now I get it.) Those kids... God knew what He was doing: giving them comfort in ways that they needed. Giving them memories and stories that conjure up smiles and laughter. Giving them hope.

I've never heard of this book. But you can bet I'll be getting it. Have you read Tear Soup yet? I love it. So very much so.

((hug))

Lisa C said...

This is what I love about memorials, rather than funerals. The chance to hear other people's stories and perspectives.

I'm amazed at the pictures and stories you can share from Jack's life. At times, that must be comforting to have his memory so close.

As always...much love.

And Lisa...I saw your recommendation on Momastery and passed that book on to many of my friends with autistic children or who've experienced loss. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

"Why did he get up once during math class and start eating his lunch? Why?"

Personally, I would find it marvelously independent and hilarious if my kid did this -- especially if he was otherwise a good kid & good student. I guess I think of it this way. I personally did everything ( and I mean EVERYTHING) I was told to do and everything that was expected of me -- from both parents and teachers -- when I was a kid. All the way through high school. Made life very easy for my parents and teachers but guess what -- it nearly killed me. I have never quite recovered from it. It was self-censorship of titanic proportions. I imagine that Jack was hungry (I'm guessing). He could stay still and stay quiet about it like he was suppossed to do -- and like he did most of the time -- but this particular event was like a pressure valve. He didn't feel like suppressing his needs in that moment . (Or maybe he was just goofing and I'm projecting way too much!) Either way, I think it's adorable. ADORABLE!

Peg said...

My Aidan is also such an ALL CAPS kind of kid too. Funny, sweet, insightful, but also a total jokester in school. Such an insightful piece of how Jack has impacted his young friends. Lovely writing my friend.

Alison said...

Love your Jack stories. Truly.
(Always reader, sometime commenter. Must improve.)

Courtney {a thoughtful place} said...

To hear the giggles of those boys . . . to know Jack had a personality that was dynamic, quiet, insightful, and feisty all tied into one. Such blessings. That is one of my favorite books, by the way. I continue to follow along and read your beautiful and honest thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I love this book and am so glad you know it.

It's not a stretch. Life isn't a bunch of coincidences, it's a carefully orchestrated stage.

Anonymous said...

I think you are on to something....so insightful.

Marinka said...

Beautiful, Anna.

Amazing how many sides we all have.

It made me smile that Jack and the principal were not strangers.

xox

anymommy said...

Omigosh yes. I hope so.

tracy said...

Oh Anna. So beautiful. I need to check out that book. xo

Anonymous said...

As the Momma of one of Jack's classmates, I think God definitely gave us wisdom to understand the higher purpose of Jack's classroom antics. I've thought this before myself. When they think of Jack they do laugh and smile. On the flip side, I'm wistful for what twists my daughter's wit would have taken as I know she misses her sparring partner. My husband secretly audio-taped a dinner conversation during his childhood and his brother repeatedly said "I want some chocolate milk" throughout but was never heard. I wish I had audio tapes from our dinners (1st-6th grade) because our favs were the "Jack" stories. God not only used his school personality as a salve for these children but to make six years of school a delight! Love you!

Mama Mel said...

'A Prayer for Owen Meany' is my favorite book. I keep a tattered paperback copy of it and re-read it every few years.
My almost-three year old daughter talks in ALL CAPS too. Hoping she settles down a little because preschool starts in September. ;)

Anonymous said...

Did he possibly have undiagnosed ADHD?

Princess Kate said...

Thinking about you today.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Your posts are always excellent. I am sure the boys will have fond memories of Jack but I also know their hearts are forever changed with him being gone. I don't like these life lessons but I do trust in God's plan for all of us. ((HUGS))

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit uncomfortable with the question about whether Jack may have had ADHD. It doesn't feel so comfortable, not in the context of an essay that makes it clear that Jack's naughty behavior was a choice; no one chooses to have a learning difference. His exuberance at school was so puzzling because he was well able to choose self-control, and he even showed maturity beyond his years. (I'm NOT saying kids with a learning difference are immature or out of control.) What I read was just a celebration of his unique personality and the possible larger meanings behind that.

Laura said...

Watching Mariano ~ and thinking of your sweet Jack.
xoxo

Anonymous said...

seriously? ^^^^. Some comments are kind of pointless, ridiculous, aren't they?! :) Missing. The. Point. :)

Erin said...

Beautifully written, as always. What a special boy.

Lady Jennie said...

I didn't know Tim wasn't into God at first - he and Matthieu will have so much to talk about when they finally meet. :-)

I'm pretty sure I read Owen Meany, but I absolutely remember the movie that was loosely based on it - Simon Birch. I cried so hard in that movie I came into work the next day with my eyes all puffy and red. There's something about God using the lives of "small" people that is so incredible.