Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lean in or Cut and Run?

 
Friday, Tim and I climbed into the car after an ugly argument. Margaret was already at the campground  a few hours away with my sister's family. This trip was starting so differently from those in the past: big fight, no Jack, no Margaret, no Shadow. Just two angry grown ups wondering why we were even bothering. On those other trips, I'd pray out loud as we sat in our driveway "Please God keep our family safe and bless our time together."  We'd pull onto our street, and right after we'd round the first corner, Tim would pat the top of his head, then his pocket, and we'd turn around to get his glasses that sat on the tray next to the TV remotes. The kids and I would laugh. The rhythm of those trips was predictable. Now, nothing is.

I thought of the mother of the murdered girl in "The Lovely Bones" who cut and ran. She ditched her family and went out west to work in a vineyard. I did not respect her decision, although I could see why she'd made it. It felt tempting as Tim and I began our drive. But I'm more of a stay-er, a sifter, a sorter, than someone who runs away. Usually.

We could have bagged this trip again, the way we did last summer, but we really, really wanted to try it. The tension between us diffused and was gone by the time we hit the curvy mountain roads and pulled up to our camping spot. A handful of teenage boys, including Jack's favorite cousin, tossed a ball around and grabbed cheese balls by the handful out of a huge plastic barrel. Ouch.

Margaret and the rest of the crew were about to go tubing on the river. I hadn't seen her in almost a week, so I said I'd go too, even though I was nervous. I wanted to reconnect and be brave. Margaret and her cousin pulled out ahead of us with the teenagers and adults, and I didn't see them again.

Before I knew it, I was sharing a raft with three very chatty elementary aged kids we'd known for years but only saw on these trips. Once we started down the river, there would be no getting out for the next two hours; we just had to float where the river took us. No cutting and running here. Our first camping trip without Jack, at our same familiar campsite. Surrounded by beautiful, suntanned teen aged boys. Floating on a river of.....WATER....and being charged with keeping three kids alive. It was a lot. 

In some ways it couldn't have been better. I had to stay focused on the children, so I was less focused on missing Jack. Also, little kids have no filters, so our conversations ranged from the joys of peeing in a river to "I'm just so sorry Jack died." "We miss Jack." "What happened to Jack?" "Does a body keep growing once it's buried in the ground?" I explained that Jack's body was cremated, which means it was burned up not buried. "I'd hate to have to watch that," said one of my little buddies and I agreed that I would too. We talked a little about God and a lot about their classmates at school and spiders. It felt good to just get it all out there. How many times have I wanted to say to someone, "I'm sorry so and so died" but have held back?

On the raft, I had to be the responsible adult, the cheerleader, the motivator, not just the broken one, and it felt good.

A huge bald eagle swooped down and sailed right over us then on up the river. We whooped and hollered. Nature was beautiful. Yes, it was dangerous, and unpredictable, but it was also good.

At one point our raft got hung up on a tree stump in the water. This had never happened to me before. I couldn't dislodge it for some time, and I became afraid. The wide, peaceful river was NOTHING like the raging creek that took Jack's life. Nothing. But I was still scared. It had started to rain. We decided we were: cold, tired, scared, hungry, and we all had to pee. During our stuck time, as the water rushed around me and I stood on slippery rocks in the river trying to dislodge the raft, I told the kids that this would be a great time for us all to pee, so we did, and we laughed, our teeth chattering and lips turning blue.

A few minutes later, we were safely ashore again, ready for campfires, fried food, and lightning bugs.

Last year this trip would have been too much. This year it was do-able.

This whole spring and summer has been about making decisions about our family's future. It has been a mix of discerning when to revisit the traditions of the past and when to cut and run. There is not one right way.

But we are glad we choose to camp.

p.s.
When we got off the rafts, the rain stopped and we had a rainbow!

Then, when we glanced at this photo my nephew took of the fire, we thought the guy on the right looked a wee bit familiar. What do YOU think?


We  now have a Facebook page! Would you "like" An Inch of Gray on Facebook?



47 comments:

OSMA said...

Oh Anna, I always need to shave my legs again after reading your words because my skin is riddled with goosebumps the entire time. Holy crap, you had to go down a river...with water...and get stuck...with kids who all had to pee. That right there is what I call manning up. Womanning up. Love you all. And yes, that face in the camping pictures is 100% Jack. And a rainbow? No doubt in my heart your Jack was there. Love you little mama. xoxo

Karen L. said...

Loved your sweet descriptions and the bravery. Each new "first time" afterward will become just a little but easier, though never just without thought for you. What encouragment to know that we can go on, not "cut and run" like some do. Only "in Chrise", for sure! I do think that Jack made his presence felt in that pic----absolutely; a gift.

Princess Kate said...

I think about all of you every day and always pray that you are finding your way. I hope you know that you are loved by so many.

Lisa said...

The Lovely Bones...such a hard book to read, but I, too, even not having experienced anything remotely like that fictional mom or like you have, could relate to that impulse when I read that book. I am glad that you camped, and more importantly, that you are glad you camped. One moment at a time. No wrong answers. Yes. Much love to you. I hope you have a lovely summer.

Anonymous said...

I'm not on Facebook, but I'm really happy you are now, so that your writing can reach that many more people.

That is a gorgeous photo on many, many levels.

I'm SO proud of you, and of Margaret and Tim, too. You WERE brave!

There are so many scriptures about not fearing. You chose freedom from fear--not the same as not being afraid, but staying in the river, peeing in it, even, when you had to, but staying in it until you got to the end. The anger and self-doubt that started the trip. Answering those hard questions and being the protector. Being around teenage boys. All of it. You leaned in.

This was a big, big, big deal, and you did it, all of you. So proud. You are amazing. So, so proud.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

My heart is with you but I can't begin to imagine how difficult it is to try to be normal again or what they call "the new normal." I am so glad that you went and it sounds like Jack was with you the whole time. I know it is not the same as having him here but I do believe in sign from Heaven. ((HUGS))We just had my dad's 90th birthday party and the night of the celebration we had a rainbow and I know it was from my mother. We played somewhere over the rainbow at her service 31 years ago.

Recovering Church Lady said...

My heart feels so glad for you as I read this post dear Anna. Each of these steps is so so hard but the sense of relief and accomplishment must feel so right. You are a brave and courageous woman.

Ralo said...

Anna, you are so brave. Thank you for showing us it can be done.

Loukia said...

You are most certainly one of the strongest people I know, Anna. Such strength and love. Love to you and your family always. Believe me when I say I think about your family every day.

mollysmith222 said...

Crying. I don't ever know what to say and yet, I read your blog and get so much out of it. You are such a wonderful writer, thank you for sharing. I say a prayer for Jack all the time, and I know HE is fine so I mainly say a prayer for you, Tim and Margaret. There is no doubt in my mind your beautiful son is with you. I wish it was physically. Much Love, Molly

Sybil@PeaceitallTogether said...

You did it! You made it! I have been wondering how it went. It was so good to read this :)

mollysmith222 said...

Crying. Oh, Anna, I never know what to say but I always get so much out of your posts. You are an amazing writer and I thank you for sharing. I always say a prayer for Jack but I know HE is fine, it is mainly for you, Tim and Margaret. Good for you for carrying on with family traditions for Margaret's sake and the other kids/cousins. I have no doubt in my mind, Jack is with you. I just wish it was physically. Much Love to you... Molly

LauraBeth said...

Love, Anna... Sending you love.

Love, hugs, and prayers from the other side of town...

Stumbling Towards Perfect said...

Ah, yes. The runners. I can't either. Instead, at times, I imagine I look very much like an indignant child in God's eyes; arms crossed, scowled, scrunched up face, "Fine. I'll follow wherever you lead me - but I DON'T LIKE IT!" And yet, always He manages to wrap an arm around tired shoulders -- to point out a rainbow, or the raw truth of a child (Finally! Someone who just SAYS.) or to whisper a memory across the heart. <3 Love and Blessings, Anna.

Noah's Mom said...

Ahhhh...you did it! You made it through and Jack would have been so proud of his Mama. He is with you...in heart & soul...NEVER to leave you. SO many signs of him there! You are awesome and honest and wear your heart on your sleeve, and we are so very thankful that you choose to share all of this with us.
Love to you & your family,
Lee Anne

The Empress said...

Oh, yes.. the guy on the right> He was there. xo

A Speckled Trout said...

Picturing you on a raft with some chatty, unfiltered kids makes me happy for reasons I can't figure out. Maybe because it's so normal.

I saw the picture around the fire the other day on Facebook not getting the connection until I clicked on it. Then I said, "Ohwowohwowohwow......"

Oh wow to you, Anna, for all of it.

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

Yes. I am so proud of you, and so glad to hear about the trip -- that you were able to do it this year whereas you couldn't last -- and I'm going to tell the story to a very special woman who is a year more raw in her grief and can't yet fathom that things will ever get better, even marginally. Ach... I'd forgotten about The Lovely Bones. That book was a gut punch, as I recall.

Lesley UK said...

Hi, I know I don't often leave a comment, but I've been following your blog for a long time. You said once that what happened to Jack tested your faith, well, it did the opposite for me. I have now turned back to God, and I have you and Jack to thank for that. I think God set you the task of looking after other peoples' children, which must have twisted you inside out, but you did it, and the other parents must have trusted you too. Another test set and passed. I honestly believe this is a turning point for you and your family. Hold those you love close. Running away solves nothing. You've had the Blessing of two wonderful children, and an unbelievably supportive husband and friends. In a way I envy you. you have so much love and faith and support. Jack left for a reason, and I know that so many all over the world have been inspired by his story. It has affected me more than I can tell you. 'With God, anything is possible'has now become the strength in my life.So thank you, and thank you Jack. Blessings

Anne said...

Right after we lost Rip, and when I was trying to and got pregnant with Gracie, I saw rainbows all of the time. I haven't seen one in over a year now...despite looking very hard. Sometimes it makes me sad, but it also makes me realize that it was no fluke that those signs were there when I needed them most. Much love.

Thrift Store Mama said...

I can feel your pain in this post. Even if my regular, typical, predictable suburban life there are brief moments where I feel like cutting and running.

What a relief to have had that time to spend with the children. What a gift.

Laura said...

Jack was there. He will always be there ~ letting a little glimmer of his sweet self shine through when he knows you need it. He must be so proud of you.
xo

GrahamForeverInMyHeart said...

It must be so difficult to be somewhere so filled with memories of Jack. It's even harder to share that time with Jack's friends and family.

I still avoid places/situations like that, but perhaps I'll reach the point where I can participate once again. I believe deciding to "lean in" is a very positive step in your healing journey.

monicac2 said...

Thank you for sharing your journey with us; you are a true trailblazer of emotion.

I don't know where my life will take me, but I do know it won't be free from pain. I thank you for giving me (and others) a roadmap, a guidebook, the sense that someone traveled this road before (and survived); it is truly a remakable gift that you are sharing. God bless you and your family.

SouthMainMuse said...

This was so beautiful. Though only knowing of your unthinkable journey from afar -- putting yourself in a river again. Wow. I learned to love tubing as an adult. I grew up swimming in the ocean, but now live where a trip down the river is much closer. It's often a birthday gift I give myself. So glad that you were able to take this step.

Michelle DeRusha said...

It's progress, right? Big progress, if you think about it. Like you said, last year this trip would have been completely out of the question. This year, though it was difficult and challenging, you went, you made it, and you had some good moments. It's progress.

Kids are so good about talking about the hard stuff. When my mother-in-law was dying a couple of years ago, I had some hard, hard, blunt conversations with my kids about bodies and burning and cremation. I cringed, but I made it through each conversation as honestly as I could - it was good for them ... it was good for me.

Arnebya said...

I've been sitting here with this window open trying to think of something to say. I am proud of you for not letting the water win. I remember rereading The Lovely Bones after I'd also seen the movie. I kept wondering if I could leave, leave other kids and my husband to grieve/deal alone. Of course I don't know, can't know what I'd do in a horrible circumstance like the death of a child. But that would be my desire at times, I'm sure -- to run. I just don't think I could go. I'm a stayer. And worse, I'm a stewer.

I'm glad you all camped this year.

cynthiasolc said...

Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ.

I'm so glad you didn't run, I'm sure Jack is too.

Today, by some turns of events I got the chance to spend some time in Eucharistic adoration. This road, it's not an easy one, but God is with us, holding our hands - always.

He wanted me to read this today, and I would like to share it with you - Lamentations 3:16-33.

so I say, "Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the LORD."

...

The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in him."

Let us always have hope in Him.

God Bless!

Melissa Dale said...

Anna, you are one of the brave ones. You have the courage to face your life head on. I guess you can choose to stop living or keep on living. It is always a choice and you choose to keep on living. You inspire me.

Kiri (The Angel Zoe Kindness Project) said...

No matter how far that mother in the lovely bones ran, she couldn't escape, she took her grief with her. Leaning in we find the sweet in the bittersweet I guess.

Anonymous said...

I didn't cry over "The Lovely Bones." Honestly, I found it a bit silly and maudlin and unrealistic. Your writing is much better, to be honest.

I don't find faces in the fire or believe that rainbows are a sign from dead relatives. I am a little envious, sometimes, of people who do. I wish I could.

forphilip.com said...

Today I went to the Farmer's Market in town. First time I've been since Philip died, and never once did I go with him. Still, I came home and cried. Families were everywhere, and I remember when Philip and Natalie were so young and I was that innocent. Good for you, retreading ground with such potent memories of Jack. Good for you, that you can see still what beauty nature has to offer. And my heart is with you, for the pain you still bear, for all of us who have to live the unthinkable.

Jenn Gruden said...

Anna I am awed at your capacity to go down that river like that. I kind of needed something like that today, thank you. I don't know if I have left a comment before; I lost a baby, which is not the same, but I know a little bit about that.

I wanted to share with you that after we lost our Emily, my husband did have that feeling, to run. She was our first baby, and he had hand-renovated a lot of our house during that pregnancy, building a hugely solid railing to protect her and a hand-designed mosaic to welcome her in the front of the house. 5 weeks after she died, he accepted a new role at work that involved basically moving 5 hours away. After several months it was clear to me, anyway, that we were adrift -- adrift from each other too.

I was supported by my work in working remotely and I followed him and we sold that house; later he followed me back to our home city. It was so tough and we had a bunch of arguments. We made it though (not that we might not have; these are not sure things) and are celebrating 19 years of marriage this year, and have two boys. I would say...he started to really connect again /years/ later.

So...the point of all that is...hang in there.

You are not alone in your sense of aimlessness or whatever it is and there is an 'after' -- ground does come, but it takes so much more time than you would ever think.

I will hold you in my thoughts. I am so, so sorry this happened to you and so very glad for your writing. All the best.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to all those bearing the unbearable. There's nothing I can say to make it okay, but I am truly sorry.

anymommy said...

I believe he is there, and I don't believe in much. Beautiful and painful and so much truth. I don't know what to say. I'm glad you went? I wish I knew when to stay and when to run? I think you're incredible.

thejugglestruggle said...

Your words always touch me so. Thank you for sharing your story.

Your journey was just the right thing at the appropriate time, it seems, for you to take the next right step in healing.

God's blessings on you and your family.

mzzterry said...

This morning I "stumbled" across your blog & have spent a couple of hours reading your family's story. Thanks for life lessons I needed to be reminded of. God bless you as you live your new normal

Anonymous said...

Anna- Your words and thoughts never cease to affect me. I am also moved by your readers and their comments. " Deep and profound," is what comes to mind. We all come closer to the healing of our own hearts through you and your blog. So thank you for being honest and real. God bless you and keep you. Sherri

Lynn from For Love or Funny said...

Hi Anna,
I think of you and your family often. In fact, I thought of you last week when I saw my nephew, who is Jack's age. Sending you all many good wishes for strength and happiness as you continue to adjust to "the new normal."

Lisa C said...

It could've been so hard answering those questions but children have a way of getting right to the point and addressing feelings and reasons, etc.

How brave of you all (especially Margaret to have gone ahead, alone!).

The picture gave me goosebumps....

Heidi said...

What?! An Inch of Gray is on FB?! Okay, I need to go 'like' that. Now.

I could feel the ache and the hard-ness and the wonder of your trip. You brave, beautiful soul.

Leaning in with you...

Sherri Newman said...

Wow! This was a big step for you. I'm so glad you all could talk about Jack. Out of the mouth of babes...true honesty. I'm glad you leaned in! Hugs!Sherri

Anonymous said...

@Lisa, you made me hear this in a new way. The topics were so sad that I didn't quite pick up on how it would be a true relief to get to the point and speak openly.

Masala Chica said...

I do believe you guys will ease into a new family rhythm. One which Jack is still a part of. Most of us struggle to find those patterns even when we haven't been through what have. I am hopeful and believe we can find that grace when I see how fully you commit to finding yours.

You all amaze me every day with your stories of love and fierceness.

Love you all.

Lady Jennie said...

I have big tears rolling down my face and I'm not even sure why. Whenever you write - whatever you write - it always touches such a cord.

Kara said...

I'm glad you guys went camping. I really appreciate you sharing that you and Tim fight, that everything isn't huggy and fine all the time. It helps me know that I can stick it out, too. I'm so glad those kids had you in the raft, and that you had them, and that all the right things were said.

Jenny Robbins said...

Why am I waiting so long to respond to your posts? Because I'm rarely in the time/space to "go there" when I receive them. When I am, my Kleenex and I read several at once.

I had to respond to this one because I, too, remembered the mom in The Lovely Bones! About 2 weeks after my 19-year-old drowned, I remembered her affair (I think with the investigator, right?), her leaving her husband and remaining child and living a resort-type lifestyle at a winery. When I read the book and my son was perfect and healthy, I could not fathom that a mother could cut and run, especially in a situation where parents must certainly cleave to each other for support. I thought, surely, this author has no children of her own to be so unrealistic.

But two weeks after Kade's drowning, on a scenic drive home after one of my visits to the mountain town where he drowned, I remembered that mother and fantasized about cutting and running. Just going. Leaving my husband and toddler. Having an affair. Several. Relocating somewhere completely different. Starting a new life. Then another.

It's funny how now that I lost a child I don't think of it as so far-fetched and unrealistic (the thought, anyway). Nothing is far-fetched and unthinkable any more.

I liked reading about your tubing trip. On the first anniversary of my son's passing just this past June I took his friends whitewater rafting with the company he worked for. I could relate to your experience of it being so difficult to be around water, but refreshing to be engulfed in nature. Heartbreaking to be around your son's friends, but rejuvenating to see the joy on their faces.

Thanks for sharing your experiences, giving us an opportunity to relate with the un-relatable.