Friday, January 3, 2014

Ages and Stages

You might remember that Jack didn't like looking young for his age.

I told him he'd appreciate it later, much later;  lucky Tim looks about a decade younger than he is. Stinks for me. But being small and looking young rankled Jack. In his (obligatory) letters home from summer camp in 5th and 6th grade, he lamented that there were a few boys in other cabins who made fun of him. They would call out insults as Jack and his buddies walked around camp, "What are you doing with them? You look like you should be in the 2nd grade cabin!"

I know it sounds weird, but it really bothers me that Jack is "stuck" as a 12 year old in so many hearts and minds, not just because of the obvious sadness that he's not able to be alive and well with us right now, but also because I hate that he didn't get to have the growth spurt that he wanted that so badly. I wonder if he'd be embarrassed that he's remembered as a boy, not a teenager or a young man. Souls are souls are souls, and even from the first days of mothering Jack and getting to know him, his soul struck me as wise and mature, as if he'd known me for 1000 years. But in our memory, Jack is 12, and always will be.

All around me are markers of what his life could/should be like now because I see teenage boys all the time, but the truth is, we don't really know what Jack would interested in at this point. I mean, it's pretty obvious that he would have liked Minecraft or an iphone and PlayStation 4 if he'd lived long enough to experience them. But what would he be involved in in high school? Debate? Would he be running cross country? What would be his hardest class? Would he be driving us crazy? Would he have joined the youth choir at church, even though his singing was a joyful noise more than anything else?  Would he have a girlfriend? How many of our interests and loves at age 12 can define us for the rest of our lives?

***
We spent time at my sister's house for New Year's Eve. Jack's favorite cousin, just 9 months older than Jack, had gotten his learner's permit 3 days earlier. We sat in my sister's little car as he carefully chauffeured us around the neighborhood. We praised him for how long he stopped at the stop sign and how he smoothly pulled in and out of the garage. It was wonderful to share this moment with our nephew, and we are so proud of him.

But oh, the absence and lack. It was painfully obvious that he was pulling ahead of Jack once again. As he must. We discussed grown-up movies and told slightly off color stories, that would have been unthinkable just 2 1/2 years ago, but that made my nephew grin. We included him more in our adult circle than ever before. It was time. But it hurt.

And that's really what Christmas and New Year's were like. Honoring the past AND moving ahead in necessary ways. Embracing traditions like Christmas Eve lunch at Chevy's, the candlelight service at church, and watching It's a Wonderful Life together on the couch. The poem scavenger hunt to find that one last gift hidden somewhere in the house.

There is stability in knowing that I'll cry every time I hear: "To George Bailey, the richest man in town!"

But there were new parts, too, like giving Margaret the chance to connect more with friends, and our family socializing more with friends, some of whom knew Jack well, and others who didn't know him at all.

Invariably, each time we had people over to the "new" house over the holidays, someone would pull  me aside and say, "I can really sense Jack's presence here."

And it was true.

Not necessarily 12 year old Jack. Or almost 15 year old Jack. Just Jack.

51 comments:

Peg said...

lovely lovely post. Liam asked me the other day if Aunt Jeanne is the same age in heaven or can she decide. He thought that you get to decide every day. I like that idea. I know it probably sounds like a worn out record, but I am so sorry for your loss. I look at my silly 13 year old boy and think of Jack often even though I never knew him.

tracy@sellabitmum said...

Oh Anna, Happy New Year. I love this - and the past and future and tying them all together - even with holes and gaps and sadness and allthethings. I love you.

Julie said...

As always, beautiful. You remind me to be grateful for every day as it can all change in an instant. This New Year's, instead of resolving to be more organized or for Michelle Obama's toned arms, I vow to pray, be quiet and still and utter "thank you" more often. Blessings to you and your family for a happy and peaceful 2014.

Franny said...

Jack is now older and wiser than us all, and knows all about the stuff we humans have fun or not so much fun with on earth. Our minds are too human to see him beyond his lovely 12,... but someday. Just know that he is no longer 12. We just SEE him that way. I know you know that, but remember he is so much more than 12 now.

Christine R said...

This is beautiful, Anna. I have been thinking some of these same thoughts recently, about how Jack is "still 12" and how hard it must be not knowing what he would be like today. Much love to you. xoxo

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I think that people would sense Jack anywhere his family is. Love you!

Kerry S. said...

New year's love to you and Jack and the whole family.
I almost didn't comment because I didn't have anything big to say, but I just wanted you to know we're still out here thinking of you all and sending love and hopefully some kind of lifting/supportive energy along with it. <3

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's weird that it bothers you that he's remembered at the age of twelve. Although we're promised another life, I don't think this one is just a dress rehearsal. We're meant to enjoy the goodness of life, including growing taller and enjoying all the physical confidence that comes with that. And it is hard to say what his interests would be as he began his high school years. I believe God is interested in our growth and see no reason why that wouldn't continue in the life to come, but that doesn't make it any less heartbreaking that Jack didn't experience his young adulthood. I'm so very sorry.

Sybil@PeaceitallTogether said...

I read this as I sat with my own son, at five, putting together Legos, which I remember were a favorite of Jack's. What I love is that you can express sadness and hope in the same post. You have a beautiful way with words and I always love reading here. XO

Anonymous said...

Please know that it is precisely because Jack's laminated pic at my kitchen sink looks like a 12 year old... that you all will get 100 prayers a day for as long as I live! We, too, wince at every milestone without him... like when my girlie blew the PSAT out of the water as a freshmen and I knew Jack would have done the same and they'd have compared scores. My husband asked this fall how long Jack's pic would stay in it's perch (out of concern for me), but understood when I told him it was there forever! Love you! PS I still treasure the memories of that dance at the end of 6th grade... that and the graduation dinner displayed his maturity beyond his years!

emily said...

What a beautiful post (as always). Happy new year to you and your family.

Sharon Lane said...

Hugs to you Anna.

Karibean said...

This brought tears to my eyes. And this sentence: "Souls are souls are souls, and even from the first days of mothering Jack and getting to know him, his soul struck me as wise and mature, as if he'd known me for 1000 years" --Oh my goodness, I could have written that line about my three year old, I feel exactly the same way. I can't imagine the bittersweet taste of holidays for you, but please know I'm thinking of you and sending you love!

Noah's Mom said...

Oh Anna, I love this post (as I do all of them). To think of Jack always as 12, and to just wonder and think about the 'what would he be doing now' questions, is hard. Although in no way can I compare in that way with the grief, because we still have our dear son with us here on earth, but I, too, wonder about him (age 15 with autism). In a sense, he is "stuck" in time, physically growing, but will never drive, never date, go to college, or have a family. So, I look at him and wonder what his life would have been like...and I cry. But please don't think I am comparing, I share in your grief when I read about Jack, and I know that it could be any of us at any given moment. I don't know if I made sense, just sending my love to you and your family.

J J Madden said...

Gosh what beautiful, difficult expressions. That I was lucky enough to have my "glue" son home for Christmas makes my heart hurt for you even more. You are brave and strong.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, and poignant, Anna, as always. Still praying for you. Love,
Paula (Across the Pond)

Leigh Ann said...

Hugs and Happy New Year, Anna. This was a beautiful post.

Mel said...

Oh, honey, as a mother who has lost a son, I ache for you. For the son that you lost and for the parts of him you didn't get to know.

LauraBeth said...

Hugs to you, Tim, and Margaret...

Blessings to you this new year.

With love and prayers from the other side of town.

all.things.fadra said...

I lost my high school best friend only a year after we graduated. She's eternally 19. Never married, no kids, no lines and gray hairs. She's stuck at 19 and yet sometimes I look to see if I see her face in a middle-ages crowd.

I don't know how you face every day. Just empathy alone made this difficult to read but it's a comfort to know that you can go on.

all.things.fadra said...

I lost my high school best friend only a year after we graduated. She's eternally 19. Never married, no kids, no lines and gray hairs. She's stuck at 19 and yet sometimes I look to see if I see her face in a middle-ages crowd.

I don't know how you face every day. Just empathy alone made this difficult to read but it's a comfort to know that you can go on.

NanaDiana said...

Yes- You can move but the essence of that family member moves right along with you- God is good (or bad) that way. I hope the New Year is a good one for you, Anna. Blessings- xo Diana

Julia said...

I love the last sentence.. Just Jack. Because when I think of Jack, I somehow try to imagine it as if it was my son, Will... And no matter if he was 12 or 16 or 24 or 40, he would always be just Will. Grab on to that nephew of yours and enjoy his growth and know that while Jack missed out on that here on this earth, he was saved from the pain here on earth but is still with you. Anna, a day doesn't go by that I don't think of you or Jack or Margaret... and if that isn't a legacy, I don't know what is. All for the glory of God...we are all here all for the glory of God.

NancyS said...

You sum it up so eloquently as you always do. Holidays so hard ... I have posted here before as we lost our Eric, Big Cat,just a couple of weeks before you lost your dear Jack. Eric was a few years older but the pain is no less - I watch Eric's friends as they have graduated from high school and explored the experience of college - I celebrate .... and cry in silence. We also have a nephew close in age - his triumphs are celebrations but also in the dark of night cause for PAUSE ... what IF? Every day is a choice as you know. I choose to remain in touch with Eric's friends and am thankful they do the same. We feel Eric's presence too ... in so many ways and places. Your strength helps so many. peace.

NancyS said...

You sum it up so eloquently as you always do. Holidays so hard ... I have posted here before as we lost our Eric, Big Cat,just a couple of weeks before you lost your dear Jack. Eric was a few years older but the pain is no less - I watch Eric's friends as they have graduated from high school and explored the experience of college - I celebrate .... and cry in silence. We also have a nephew close in age - his triumphs are celebrations but also in the dark of night cause for PAUSE ... what IF? Every day is a choice as you know. I choose to remain in touch with Eric's friends and am thankful they do the same. We feel Eric's presence too ... in so many ways and places. Your strength helps so many. peace.

Jennifer Marshall said...

I never met Jack, and yet I feel his presence every time I read your words or talk with you, Anna. And I love that. Loved this beautiful post. Happy New Year. xoxo

Rach said...

That time warp. I hate it.

Hannah's cousin Miles is six weeks older. It's still hard to see him sometimes, seeing all she could have been doing.

In some ways, for me, it's gotten easier, and in others, not at all. You find your own way and muddle through it the best you can. :sigh:

I'm sorry for your loss, Anna, I truly am.

Hugs.

Asha Bailey said...

I can't imagine what you are going through. All I can do, is thank you for helping me focus on what is most important and continue reminding me to keep perspective in life. Love and prayers to you, Liz, and the rest of your family.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Well said, your words are always so on track and inspiring. I'm glad Jack is present in your new home.
((HUGS)) Everything I see my Norfolk Pine tree in front of the house I think of Jack.

Mariah said...

What a beautiful post! Happy New Year to you guys!

Sherri Newman said...

Sending you a big HUG on this one. So many wishful moments and a creative imagination doesn't help much as hard as we try. XOXO Sherri

Sherri Newman said...

Sending you a big HUG on this one. So many thoughts of what would he/how tall would he be. Even an active imagination doesn't help. XOXO Sherri

Rachel Elizabeth said...

Every time I read, I am shocked by your ability to access how you are feeling and express it so well. I hope you continue to find peace and joy in this new year.

Mrs. E said...

Anna, this post particularity moved me. I read it twice, and cried twice while speaking about it with my mother and my husband that evening. Oh how my heart breaks for you- I had never met your darling boy, but I think of him often.....and will always.

Anonymous said...

My sister died when I was fourteen and she was twenty. Last summer my brother reminded us on her birthday that she would be old enough now to apply for social security. Oh my... we never stop thinking of her as our oldest sister...she is still integral to our family constellation, all these years later...love to you your family, especially Margaret

Anonymous said...

My sons are now 20, 22 and 24 but I still see the little boy faces in them...I can't help it. They almost look odd to me all grown up. I can so strongly see them at that pre-teen age.

At the risk of sounding bat sh!t crazy here, I lost my best friend when we were 17 (I always think about how she never got to experience the internet, cell phones, HD t.v. etc.). I was going through a really bad time about a decade ago, and a stranger showed up and helped me...I swear it was my best friend in a mid 50 year old body. It was so eerie, her eyes were my best friends eyes, her mannerisms, her words. She knew my whole story before I even told her. After helping me she told me "You've always got an angel looking out for you". I think Jack will show up one day but don't expect him to look like the young boy you remember!

Kim P. said...

Anna, Jack's presence will always be where you guys are. With the love that you guys carry for him...how could it not be? Thank you for all the intricate stories that you weave together so that we learn a little more about Jack. As a mom of three kids, two boys who are 15 and 13, and one girl who is 11, I can relate to all of your blog posts in some way, shape or form. You always tug at my heart strings and make me a better person for it. Please don't ever stop sharing about this sweet, quirky, unique boy who has changed so many people lives for the greater good. Much love to you and your family in this New Year. Sending you a huge hug from Purcellville....and can't wait to hug you one day in person...when your book comes out.

Andrea Mowery said...

Every time I read about Jack I sense his very real presence in this world. You said it perfectly - Christmas is a time to look back and cherish the past, but also look forward to future hopes. Thank you for sharing your memories with us. xoxo

ella said...

This was beautiful. Happy New Year to you and your family. Love you guys. xoxo

Lady Jennie said...

I'm sad that Jack didn't get his growth spurt too. It strikes me that, while he was an old soul right from birth, the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these - the children.

I'm not saying anything specific so that might be confusing, just sharing the first thing that comes to mind.

Heidi Cave said...

I am nodding along through the entire post. I get this. Sometimes when I'm with my kids, I wonder what Betty would have been like with her kids. Because I know she would have had kids. Or when Annie is posing for pictures with her friends, I ache for all the silly and funny things Betty and I did for a camera. I know it isn't the same as losing a child - at all. I just remember thinking often of how she wouldn't grow older and we couldn't share in our milestones together. And, oh, I know how this season conjures up the past.
How beautifully written, Anna. I love, love this post. Heartache, sorrow, beauty and all.

Robin @ Farewell, Stranger said...

I can imagine. Sort of. Those milestones must be hard. But I'm so glad you're able to enjoy seeing those moments for others.

Sarah said...

Lovely reflection.

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

Beautifully written and thoughtful as always Anna! I've often thought about how those who leave us too early are forever in our hearts and minds "stuck" at a certain age. We move on without them because we have no other choice. But the moving on feels like leaving them behind and that is a very difficult part of the journey. Hugs to you sweet Anna!

thejugglestruggle said...

My prayers continue for you as you continue in your journey toward healing. And as you always so beautifully do, I am able to share in your story through your words. Thank you for that. Through his life and your words, Jack isn't done leaving his mark in the world, that is for sure.

anymommy said...

Tears, and love, and this is just so moving and wise. I always say the same things to you, but I deeply, deeply appreciate reading what you write about Jack.

And I think you will find this funny too: I loved that old show Will & Grace and one of my favorite episodes was the one where Jack had plans for a one man show called "Just Jack" always said with jazz hands. The character doesn't remind me of your Jack or anything, but he was loving and quirky and fun and I pictured Jack doing jazz hands on a cloud at the end of the post and smiled. You give such a strong sense of your son through your words.

Jamie Reese said...

As of tomorrow, 1/11/11, Sully has been 16 weeks 2 days for 3 years. I like to think of him playing with friends, but at the same time I want to have my little baby boy to rock and cuddle one day

Galit Breen said...

Oh Anna, this is such an honest and real post. I love how you honor past and present.

Mama Mary said...

This made my heart hurt and smile at the same time. I can only imagine how that car ride must have been with Jack's cousin. I love how much support and love you show to him. And I cry at that line in that movie too. Every. Time. We are all rich in our own ways. And Jack is there.

Ellen Hollander-Sande said...

Hi. A friend posted a link to your blog on my fb. She linked to the post about telling the doctor about your book, and talking to the PT about it. I was really taken with the post and with all your wonderful commenters as well, and started reading other posts as well. I am so so sorry for your loss. Your writing is a beautiful testament to Jack and to the strength and faith of you and your family.

My son Caleb died on September 3, 2013, at age 6. This morning he was in my dream and he wasn't 6, he was younger - but I don't think his look and behavior matched exactly with a particular age/stage... he was young but he wasn't a replica of the photos and videos. He was just Caleb. The dream really had such an effect on me. I haven't even written about it yet, but your post made me think of it - not an age, just him. We are trying to figure out how to keep his incredible energy in our lives even as we know that we cannot have him back, physically. My friend just told me today that when she's in my home she feels his energy. It is so comforting to hear.

Thank you for sharing your journey. I wish we didn't have this in common, but since we do I am glad to have found you here.

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely post. The mother of an old friend of mine has six living children, a seventh having passed away in a tragic accident while still a toddler. When asked about how many children she had, she would say, "Seven, but one is being raised in heaven." I thought that was a lovely way to put it.