Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wonder-filled Wednesday

Six months after Jack died, my sister Liz ran along her usual trail in southwestern Virginia, trying to make sense of our loss, her loss. She had taken up running at around age 40, and since Jack's death it had become her refuge and her therapy. She would end up logging nearly 2000 miles that first year alone, moving from 10ks and half marathons to full marathons and eventually even a 50k in the grueling August heat.

But most of her runs were like this one, solitary, as she pounded the shit out of the path, crying out to in despair. She was a Christian yoga teacher as well, but she couldn't do yoga right now. She needed something brutal, punishing, and painful, like our new lives. Besides, who was she to be spouting off to her students about the goodness and provision of God when everything she'd ever believed felt cut off and upended now, lost in seconds in a stupid creek?

Sometimes she prayed to see a blue jay on her runs, ever since we'd started associating blue jays with our "rare bird." They rarely came. On this morning's run Liz was angry. Angrier than usual. Why give Jack a huge heart, if he couldn't use it beyond 12 years? Why did her kids have to suffer the loss of someone so beloved--  why did her son lose his best friend in the world? Why do evil and darkness and lies flourish? Why would she have to lose her mother so young, then her nephew, and now most likely her sister, changed forever by the scars of grief? And what did all this mean to her faith?

As Liz approached a familiar line of pine trees, she saw a flicker of color in one. Blue. Finally, a blue jay. Her breath caught and she smiled, then kept on running. The blue jay sailed up and flew to the next tree, further down the path. As Liz ran, so it flew, from tree to tree to tree until it disappeared into the woods.

The bird seemed playful, as if it were teasing her. Liz felt her anger dissipate. A peace washed over her. She told me later that the message she felt in that moment was, "I am okay and joyful and I love you. I know you are suffering. I am here to bring you joy and comfort."

Liz has since moved away from that town, from that trail. But she still looks for blue jays. She doesn't care when people tell her blue jays are ungainly creatures with a mean streak that runs a mile deep. That they aren't all that "rare." To her they are beautiful. And the one that kept her company that day was clever and loving and full of comfort.

Just like someone else she knew.







34 comments:

ScrappinLita said...

Love!

Stumbling Towards Perfect said...

Beautiful. I miss Jack hard. I miss him for you, for your sister, for this world who needs more Jacks, not less.

And, maybe, I need to take up running. I can relate to those angry steps.

Peggy said...

Blue jays and cardinals have always reminded me of my grandfather. Ever since he passed away, I feel like I see them more and more. I know whenever I see one, it is my grandfather telling me he's there with me. Now whenever I see one, I will think of Jack too.

the Hawks said...

What a beautiful post. I love that through these posts and those rare birds we see (my kids are obsessed!), Jack is still an active part of our lives.

M. said...

Sisters are Awesome, I'm so glad you have each other.

Sybil@PeaceitallTogether said...

It's so beautiful how God speaks and the ways he choses to comfort. Those photos of Jack make me wish that I knew him. The one with the trains reminds me so much of my own son.

heather blair said...

Great God wink. ;)
thanks for sharing.

gabbygrace said...

Beautiful. I don't know Jack, but feel like I do every time I read your writings.

OSMA said...

So I nearly electrocuted myself at the keyboard sobbing all over it. Personally, I believe in signs and feel they are very much gifts - pure windows that allow us mortals a tiny peek at what heaven offers its occupants.

This post is such a moving tribute to your sister's path of mourning and the many layers of loss she is experiencing, too. I wish so much the both of you did not have to walk, or run, this path at all. Grateful you have each other and that beautiful, clever bluejay who finds ways to let you know he is on this path with you every step of the way.

Love, love, love.

Diane said...

"God Winks". LOVE that!

For me it has always been cardinals or "redbirds" as I lovingly refer to them.

I recently got some really good shots of a blue jay that has been coming to my feeder. I'll have to post them soon. :)

Jen said...

Anna,
Again, you bring me joy with your storytelling and your Sister's experience. I love when God works his creation around us to touch us. Thankful your Sis's eyes were open to receive it. It just keeps on blessing. I pray for you often. Thank you for sharing. Much love,

Noah's Mom said...

This post made me cry, for your sister, for you, and for all of us without Jack physically in this world. But he is here in so many other ways...and that is so obvious! I will think of Jack when I see the next blue jay. I love the photos of that beautiful boy...thank you so much for sharing him with us.

Salvimom said...

We love you over here on the West Coast, Anna. God bless you!

Ury

Salvimom said...

We love you over here on the West Coast, Anna. God bless you!

Ury

Anonymous said...

Beautiful and heart-breaking.

I am a regular reader but rarely comment.

I often think of you and Jack and the rest of your family.

I am so terribly sorry for your loss.

All my very best,
Summer

Steph said...

Jack is the most precious, gorgeous child. His round cheeks when he was little are scrumptious. He and his sister look so much alike. If it is painful for a stranger to look at the photos of him, your pain is unfathomable. He lives on through your sweet family. I love him and your writing. Wishing you love and peace.

Ellen aka Ellie said...

In our family, redbirds signal the peace of those who have gone to Heaven ahead of us.

I have heard Jays are mean, but I never see them, so should I ever, I will look for signs of Jack and not persnickety bird behavior.

In the meantime, my "redbird" (AKA my little ol' red car) wears my blue ribbon magnet still.

Alison said...

You and Liz are truly amazing people.
I believe in signs. I really do. xo

Anonymous said...

Your blog made me cry. I miss my daughter so much. I am forever changed with the scars of grieve. Her death is always in my thoughts no matter what I am doing, consciously and unconsciously.

Korinthia Klein said...

This made me cry. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful.

I'm sorry that anyone would think it's helpful to tell Liz that blue jays aren't so rare, or all the other helpful facts. There's a difference between fact and truth, and if her truth is that this is God's way of giving her peace, that should be all that matters. "Be harmless, not helpful." We know Him through peace, and if she felt His peace, that should be treasured, period.

Kathy at kissing the frog said...

Your words are always so beautiful; and even though there is pain behind them, so comforting.

When I Blink said...

I continue to be blown away by how well you write about that which must just seem beyond words much of the time. Amazing.

Kim said...

Your blog is so beautiful. I cannot begin to understand the depths of your loss, but I thank you for sharing a little bit of your life with your readers. You are inspiring.

Lisa C said...

That was a poignant reminder that joy can still be found.

Thank you.

Arnebya Herndon said...

The effects of Jack's loss are so profound, so widesperad. I do love to believe that he comes to you in times of need, that he shows you he knows you love and miss him, that you remain broken without him. It is comforting to think that he can and does still comfort each of you. And like always, you have weaved words to create a vision of a boy I know I also would have loved immensely.

Sarita said...

Beautiful. Heart wrenching. I relate to the pain and the power of the run. Sometimes you need both to get through another day. My sister's name was Liz, too. We lost her almost nine years ago, and whenever I see a sunflower I think of her.

Maria said...

beautiful boy

Reenie said...

WOW....

xo

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Through the deepest pain God will shine His light and I'm thankful for what He gave to your sister Liz.
((HUGS))

Jennifer said...

Right after my grandmother died, I was sitting outside with then 18 month old Cady. Despite her little girl giggles and playfulness I was lost in despair. I looked up and saw a cardinal on the roof, watching over us. Just like my grandmother always did when she was alive. I totally understand the peace your sister felt in that moment because I felt the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Read this when posted on my phone in the basement...where I have an intermittent signal so I hadn't commented yet. I'm praying for many more "God Winks" for you and your extended family and I know our God is faithful to give you what you need! Love You! Karen

Andrea Mowery said...

Searching for a symbol that reminds you of your loved one keeps them close to us not only in our hearts, but also in the world. After reading this story I will think of Jack when I see a blue jay now.

Cynthia said...

Painfully beautiful.