Monday, March 10, 2014

Birth and Rebirth

I became a mom in March, 15 years ago. He wasn't supposed to be here until April, April Fool's Day actually, but he made his entrance early, after my water broke in the middle of the night, and Tim grabbed a plastic shower curtain to make sure I wouldn't mess up the upholstery of our new green minivan on the way to the hospital.

Jack's birth turned March into an occasion in our home. Something to celebrate after the long, cold winters. But now, when March comes, I feel like somehow I'm the fool. I see beautiful purple crocuses popping up, which must have been hidden by snow just 2 days ago, and I instantly think of rebirth, and beauty, and hope. And I know that hope is there, always, even when it's covered up, or hard to recognize. But now it's married to despair. The despair of a mom who thought life would turn out differently for that baby-- so smart, so beautiful, so winsome-- I mean, how could it not?

The despair sucks energy out of me, even as the days are getting longer and the sun shines brightly for the first time in forever. So in March I put fewer things on my to-do list each day, and I scheme about how early is just too early to climb into bed to gorge on ice cream and Netflix. When a show ends, I reflexively go right to the next episode, staying up far too late trying to get lost in the lives of characters so loathsome and despicable I must ask myself why they get to live-- even frozen inside a flat screen-- for 20, 30, or even 50 more episodes, why they merit time and attention and space in the universe, when Jack has floated off into the ether?

And I think ahead to September, when my book will finally come out. September, with its smell of new school supplies and the excitement of new beginnings. September, which took Jack on a sultry yet dangerous afternoon. This book, Rare Bird, was birthed out of Jack's death. And it provides a little something to look forward to in that once promising yet now despised month. I wonder if for me, and maybe for someone else, it can be like a crocus, hearty and determined, peeking out of a mound of wretched, dirty snow.

55 comments:

Loukia said...

Lots of love, always, Anna. You guys are always in my thoughts and prayers. xoxo

Theresa O said...

Zach and I were just talking about Jack the other day - he mentioned he would like to send a balloon to heaven - that it had been a while. Knowing Jack's birthday is coming up, I told him we would on that day, absolutely. Always remembering Jack - and you and your family. xo

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to read your book. And oh what a beautiful baby Jack was.
Jackie in NY

Stephanie said...

FYI the netflix answer is 10 am. As soon as M is at school. And then again, just after dinner.

Ann Imig said...

You are like that crocus in that snow--determined, lovely, and hopeful. I'm so glad you have the book to look forward to.

I imagine it will be gratifying to have something productive and tangible--and above all meaningful to see and hold from all of this.

Lisa said...

So often I read your words, and I want to tell you that you are heard, that a little piece of Jack lives in my heart even though I never met him in person, but I never want to say the wrong thing or to be insensitive, so I usually just read quietly and feel my feelings and think my thoughts, and then send you silent prayers. But today, I am choosing to say these things out loud and hope my words land softly. Much love.

Erin said...

The funny thing about this blogging-world, is that I FEEL like I know you and your sweet family. Like we are old college friends or something. So when I hear that my "friend" is having a hard time, it makes me want to sit up with you at night and eat ice cream with you and watch Netflix until sleep comes easily. It makes me think of your sweet boy on my way to work when the sun is golden and the birds are scrambling for breakfast. It makes me think of Margaret when I pass "those" stores at the mall that all the young girls love.

Whether you know it or not, you and your family has touched the lives of people you will never meet..."friends" you might not ever meet this side of Heaven. We pray for you and mourn with you and remember with you and yes, even eat ice cream with you :-)

Beth said...

Still thinking of you every day!

Jessica McFadden said...

I think of you every day. I know your book will be incredible and healing.

OSMA said...

Your book will be that crocus for many and I happen to know one. Abby's preschool teacher, we found out, recently lost her teenage son in a car accident. I feel like I'm holding my breath until I can give her your book. I will exhale knowing she will find hope under all her wretched snow, too.

For the record, I'm buying one for myself also.

Love, love, love always and after,
xoxoxox
Erin

Kerry S. said...

Even before I read this, I was thinking of you both this morning - praying that you would see Jack again in a dream or even more. I will never understand this or so many other tragedies. Sending love...

BethEachus said...

I look forward to reading your book and I understand how you feel. My month is May when you can almost see the lazy warm days of summer on the horizon. Prayers for you and your family.

Mama Mary said...

With such mixed emotions I look forward to reading your book. So proud of you for sharing your pain with readers who will no doubt find solace and inspiration from you. March is my birthday month, so maybe one of these years you can fly out to California in March and have a glass or ten of wine, watch Netflix and eat ice cream; not to change old memories but to make new ones. : )

Andrea Mowery said...

Anna, I have no doubt that out of your sorrow will birth hope to another person who is experiencing what you did that day in September. So excited for your story to reach so many.

Joyce said...

I am thinking of you and your family with much love, Anna. I am looking forward in reading your book, also. xxoo

A Speckled Trout said...

He was a beautiful baby. You are a beautiful mom. You should have had decades together.

bernthis said...

My heart breaks for you. I'm so terrible with words when it comes down to moments like this when I want to offer a "why" but can't. Just know that I adore you so and I'm thinking about you and sending you love and hugs across the miles. xoxo

claire plante said...

Anna,
I hear and feel every word you write and my heart aches so much and as usual these words don't come close. But please know I think of you and send love every day.

I look forward to reading your book, and for the activities for you that surround its publication. Whether it's Netflix and ice cream, or being out on a tour or speaking engagements, distraction and having somewhere to place your energy and thoughts is a help, I hope. I have a different kind of grief over a different kind of event in my life, and there is no figuring it out or solving anything. I just know I do better when I can endure it better, which usually means I am engaged in something else (as opposed to just being busy). Or if I have a goal.

But aside from all of this, I am sorry about March and about September.

Love,
Claire

Unknown said...

Sending you light and love. Making space for your pain, and heartache. Praying for your strength and peace.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you. Maybe hope and despair are married, painfully, but I believe hope is stronger, because you have the courage and integrity to talk about feeling despair. What worries me is when despair is hidden, from ourselves, or from those who love us. You're not letting despair close you off. That takes strength and courage, and I know you're making Jack proud. The book is a wonderful accomplishment and something to celebrate.

Nikki Frank-Hamilton said...

As always I love your words, they are so much more than letters strung together. Your words breathe and weep and exault!

I am sorry, so incredibly sorry, for you and your family that Jack is not here.

Take time as you need it. When grief and sadness overwhelm me-I put myself to bed until my skin stops itching and aching-time and mindless tv help-as well as ceaseless prayers.
May you be blessed indeed!
Waiting for the book-it will be my birthday gift to myself!
Nikki

Meg said...

Hugs to you and yours. It must still be so very, very hard. Look forward to reading your book and hope that spring will bring some warmth and comfort.

Stimey said...

I'm always reading here even if I'm not always commenting, but I think it is important to let you know that I think of you and Jack often. Not just when I see your name or his photo, but often. Love to you.

Vodka Mom said...

It's a heavy coat, isn't it?

But you have turned your face towards the sun...and Jack is proud that you have.......




xxxxx

Alison said...

I just want you to know that I love you. xo

Jamie Reese said...

Joy and Sorrow intertwined. The heart always knows what month it is. Always. Love and prayers

Keely said...

You are an incredible memory-keeper and tribute-maker. (And, obviously, Mama.)

Christen said...

I have started to write comments on so many... too many... of your blog posts only to delete them because they never seem like they fully express what I feel. But I remember you once saying that you appreciated when people verbalized something... anything... about Jack and his life and what he has meant to the world. So here it is: I never even met him, but I used to LOVE reading your posts about him, like how he giggled at "Master Bates" during his summer reading and how you all had an extra day together when dropping him off at camp. Your writing made me feel like I knew him, like he was one of my students or something. And your book will continue to let his memory live on. I can't wait to purchase it and read every word about an extraordinary boy and his family's encompassing love for him and each other. It seems perfect that it is coming out in September... a beautiful tribute to him and what he continues to mean to us all, even the ones who never even met him in person.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

A rare bird sighting always brings Jack and your family to mind and heart, and now I will also be watching for the crocuses to come up. Lining up to purchase 2 copies of your book -- one for a family who lost their 14yo son on a beautiful July day last year. He has a little sister, too.

Sharon M. said...

I've been thinking of you often and how difficult March must be for you. You are in my thoughts and prayers and, although I never met Jack, he is not forgotten. Sending virtual hugs and support to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Anna - I'm sure that as a former English teacher, you must know the famous T.S. Eliot line, "April is the cruelest month…" Well, in this case, March or April, doesn't matter. The point is the same. The imagery of the flowers poking up through the cold, hard, dead ground--death begetting life, and so on--that Eliot's poem conjures is the same one that your post conjures. Your "rebirth", so to speak, in the world after your son's death--just trying to exist again, to become a normal person again--is as painful and crude as the rebirth of a flower in the springtime. But you must remember that although this "winter" season of your life has lasted for two years and counting, you are always moving steadily closer toward an easier, happier, less painful time. Don't give up hope, and try not to stay marred in the winter and the pain. I wish you a happy spring, both literally and figuratively, going forward. Just remember to look for the color and beauty that can always be found after the gray, ugly winter. Thanks for writing and sharing with us.

-A reader

Marinka said...

I am so looking forward to your book. Your words are incredible. And not just the part about the ice cream xo

ella said...

Lots of love to you and your family, I still think about you every single day. Always will, I suspect. Looking forward to reading your book.

xoxo

Dawnges said...

What a beautiful post, Dear Anna. Thank you. Thank you.

One crazed mommy said...

I don't know what I can say that hasn't already been said, more eloquently. I'm not the best with words, but just know that you have touched my heart with your writing - I know your book will help many people out there who are going through similar losses. Hoping that April gets here soon and brings happier thoughts and sunny days!

michelle said...

The way you think, things you feel, and words you use always fill my heart with smiles, happiness, and love even though they are all too often born out of despair. Love you Anna. xoxoxo, michelle

Arnebya Herndon said...

You are that crocus to me. No matter the heaviness of the snow or the cloud cover or the cold, you continue to persevere, continue to grow, flourish, be reborn. I hope the book helps you but know that I believe with everything within me that it will help others.

Anonymous said...

I feel like I got to know Jack through your writing which is a blessing. I notice the ever-present Blue Jays in our yard and I sometimes get as wacky to think that he is watching over my Jack and his little brother as the Jacks sound so similar in their humor and lego-love.

I am looking forward to your book as I look forward to every new post on your blog.
Big hugs as always. NoVa mom Jen

Stacy said...

So much love to you, Anna.

Anonymous said...

Anna this is really beautifully written! E. in Vt.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Love your writing and love you. I am so looking forward to your book and I love that you can write about hope and rebirth.....((HUGS))

Rach said...

Sending you cyber hugs.

I'm so sorry.

Kathy at kissing the frog said...

Your heart is so beautiful, so hopeful, and you will help someone who needs it. That will be your gift - with Jack - your gift together. I understand how some months, some simple things that are supposed to bring beauty and hope, just feel ugly and ironic. Hugging you tight, my sweet mama friend.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

Too many hard months... I so look forward to your book. It will undoubtedly help many others through the particularly hard months.

Amanda said...

I look forward to your book. An while I may not know exactly what you feel during his birth month-I know. And hoping you give yourself lots of grace.

Dina Ochs said...

Your words are always so very to the point and heart, raw true feelings. I was just talking to my complaining Mom on the phone who at 83 years old wanted to make something out of nothing. (Maybe I will be like that when I am her age) Anyway, I told her rather firmly she had nothing to complain about, I went to a funeral of a little 4 year old boy yesterday who died of brain cancer and has a twin brother. And Friday will attend the funeral of my husbands grandmother who was 105 years old, and all 5 of her children are still alive in their late 80's. How wonderful it would of been for those long long years of hers to be given to your own mom, Jack, Amy's little boy, my father in law, my 48 year old brother in law that died of colon cancer........ I am a women of faith but have such a very hard time understanding what good ever comes out of burying your child. You are in my thoughts and prayers here in Florida, and will read your book as soon as it comes out. Hugs, from Tallahassee, Dina

IrishRN07 said...

Couldn't sleep so I'm up at 4am for a bowl of cereal. "I'll check Anna's blog." After reading your beautiful post I'm shedding a tear with you in the middle of the night. So, so sorry for the grief you carry.
Sending hugs and prayers.
-Maureen

Anonymous said...

"The despair of a mom who thought life would turn out differently for that baby-- so smart, so beautiful, so winsome-- I mean, how could it not?"

Oh Anna, as the mother of a one year-old son, these words brought tears to my eyes and took my breath away.

Nothing I can say is adequate to express what I am trying to convey. But I just wanted to let you know that your story has touched me deeply. And by sharing your memories of that beautiful little boy of yours and your sorrow in losing him, you have made me a better more appreciative mother.

You and your family will be in my prayers as Jack's birthday approaches. Bless you all.

Heidi Cave said...

Gasping...much gasping! Your book comes out in September?! I so look forward to holding your book in my hands and turning the pages.

My heart goes out to you, my friend.

Lady Jennie said...

Yes, I think so. September will bring life and breath with it in a weird twist of fate. In the meantime, here's to perfumed spring flowers in profusion - and lots of love.

Anonymous said...

Hello, i read this article in the atlantic and tought about you: http://m.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/in-grief-try-personal-rituals/284397/

anymommy said...

I know it will be. Absolutely, for so many people. I am so looking forward to it.

Alexandra said...

Rare Bird. So perfect. And so Jack.

Jessie Horney said...

I can't wait to read your book. I just had a son, 11 weeks ago, and I think of you often as I hold him. It's hard not to panic at the thought of losing him. Your Jack was so handsome- I am thinking of you this week.

Katy Li said...

My Jack was born March 22, and his due date was April Fool's Day too. (He just turned 9.)

I love you and your Jack, Anna. I love you and have never met either of you. I will get your book for sure. a rare bird - a gracious gift from God. xoxo