Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Digging Deep in Turkey

We are back from two amazing weeks in Turkey!

I'm talking about a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the astounding rock formations of Cappadocia. Celebrating Margaret's 13th birthday in the resort town of Bodrum. And spending an entire week on a boat cruising the Aegean and the Mediterranean. Throw in an ancient city built entirely underground plus two short days in Istanbul and you start to get the picture of our remarkable experience.













This was no small trip, and our eyes, ears and taste buds had something new to experience every day. I won't soon forget the sound of drums parading through the streets of Istanbul to wake the faithful in time to cook and eat a meal before sunrise during Ramadan. Or platter after platter of fresh, juicy peaches that made my supermarket versions seem like nothing more than mush and fuzz. And the sight of hundreds of majestic mountains coming right down to the edge of a brilliant blue sea.

It was stunning and unforgettable. We loved it.

But vacations are also work. They throw us off a bit with necessary adjustments to our schedules and our habits, as they offer up something we can't get at home. Forgoing my crisp Washington Post and cup of Constant Comment tea each morning was an easy trade for the sights and sounds of Turkey. Putting my ailing shoulders to sleep on airplanes, in shuttle buses, hotel beds and a boat was worth views I'd never seen before nor will likely again.

The adjustments we make in order to travel remind us that we are not wed to the way things usually are, day in and day out. We sacrifice some of our stability to embrace a new experience.

And sometimes these changes are particularly uncomfortable.

I could see this most clearly from my daughter's perspective. A nervous stomach makes 8 plane rides, a 7 hour time difference, and bus trips on windy roads cause for anxiety. New foods and the back and forth motion of a boat (ask me about the dingy ride from hell someday!) are cause for concern.

But every stomach dropping, dry mouthed, clammy-feeling moment was under girded with, "We are in Turkey!" "This is a trip of a lifetime!" Jet lag doesn't last forever!" And photos of happy teen aged girls jumping off the side of a boat on "One, Two, THREE!" will always tell the tale of the summer when we ventured out with our dear friends and experienced a different part of the world. We put our daily lives aside for a while to experience something new.

...

Our continued discomfort and grief navigating life without Jack makes us feel off kilter too, even at almost three years out. Watching Margaret with our friends' teenage son reminds us of what we used to see each day, two brown heads together, leaning down, laughing. A happy birthday song with sparklers crackling on her cake throws the question into the atmosphere, "Is your older brother still older when you have now turned thirteen?"

And these feelings seem to increase rather than lessen over time. Yes, we can eventually grow accustomed to the rocking of a boat, so much so that by the time we reach shore again, our bed will sway for days afterward. But can we ever wrap our brains around a family of three? Will this ever feel normal? Will I always look at moms at the airport, whether they are heading to Riyadh or Spokane and silently count, one, two, three, sometimes four or five small heads and think, "Good, Mama, good. You won't be leaving one all alone if...if... if something goes horribly wrong."

In traveling on this most unwelcome journey, we face discomfort and change daily because we have no choice. But there is no reward for buckling down. There is no grand pay-off of an incredible vista, precious photograph, or historical site if we just dig deep and move forward.

There is just a life that needs living. So we do it. And there is laughter. Great new memories. Time shared with beautiful, generous friends.

But things are hurting worse right now.

Is it because we just flew halfway around the world, yet Jack's experience of a great vacation was a fountain coke and a Hampton Inn? Is it because we are once again in summer, and the feeling of dread of fall, September, and the accident weighs heavy on us once again?  Or is it because in life, there are discomforts, rearrangements, modifications that are worth it, but this one, which has left every area of our live so very different, will yield fruit, but will never, ever seem worth it to us?

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm new to your blog. Thanks for this post about your holiday in Turkey. I am so sorry about your loss, the missing of your son. There are no words, except to say I'm praying for you and your family. And to say again - I'm so very sorry.

Thanks for sharing these gorgeous photos. What an amazing trip.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if the comment I just clicked on will be successful. But I'm adding a p.s.

I forgot to sign my name - Susan :-)

Tracy said...

I'm always thinking about you all as you navigate daily. Love yous. xoxo

Stimey said...

This post took my breath away for so many reasons. What an amazing trip. I wish you peace as you process it and think back on the memories, both good and so very hard.

Bridget Layton Gehm said...

The strength of your entire family is inspiring. After a tragedy, time doesn't heal the pain, but softens it and dread becomes measurements of time not in months or weeks, but days. And it's not because you love less but because you love more. This doesn't happen over any given specific period of time, but someday you find you aren't crying or dreading as long as before. Someday this occurs and that's my prayer for your family, someday....

Anonymous said...

My heart is still aching with you and even in our normal family, I have a sense of foreboding as the school year approaches. However, this is just translated into additional prayer for your family. We have fresh blue ribbon at the ready (please share if that is ever too difficult to see) and a hope that we will see Jack again. Praise God for His Son Jesus Christ who provides our gateway to our Holy God despite our sinful selves. Jesus paid the ransom and is our ticket to seeing your beautiful son! I'm praying that Jack's story will lead many of your followers to seek Christ. Our world screams that we are strong and independent and don't need Him. Jack's story is a reminder that we all do...whether we are the one who goes way too soon or the ones left behind.
Love you, Karen

Alison said...

Anna, my heart is with you. To have a lifetime of an experience without a precious one is indescribably difficult, and I can't even imagine what it's like. Just know that I'm thinking of you and yours always. xo

Erica Snipes said...

Sweet Anna...you express yourself so beautifully here, and your piece today is so aptly titled. I'm both thankful and sad that you'll probably have to be digging deep during most new experiences, many birthdays, and as many years pass. Even when you're eighty, he'll always be your baby, right? That never goes away. But I believe that Jack would be so proud and pleased for you that you are bringing him with you on all of your new adventures, and working with him to teach us all to dig a little deeper and be a bit more grateful for the gifts we receive. Love to you and yours...

Dina Ochs said...

Loved the pics, just a quick question why Turkey? I think of you often and am awaiting the book to read. I am a women of faith, and I will never understand what could could ever come out of losing your child. I know people say, "He is in a better place" Really better then with all of us?" They only take the good ones," Really, I know personally some people who should of met their maker long time ago. "Or Jack's work was done on Earth"????? At 12, leaving his parents, his sister a only child, I will never agree with that. I didn't mean to make this a downer post, and feel free not to post it, but you are allowed to continue to ask yourself so many unanswered questions for the rest of your life if you want too. You are a much stronger person then I would ever be, and at this point doubt if I was anywhere near where you have come. Hugs, Dina

Sisters from Another Mister said...

I want to leave beautiful words as salve to your soul ... but they do not come as tears fall from reading your heart.
Your photos are beautiful and filled with many smiles, new memories made in this life, jumbled with all the ones of old and slowly piecing together. I know you fear the treading water of emotions and my heart hurts ... Love to you, much love.

Jamie Reese said...

September always looms close once the weather turns hot. Will be thinking of you and your rare bird, and praying for peace and comfort

Anonymous said...

Welcome home, Anna. The birds and the trees and the people of the internet welcome you home. E.

LauraBeth said...

Anna... Welcome home! Know that, even while you were across the globe, you, Tim, and Margaret continued to be in our thoughts, hearts, and prayers.

I would love to get together sometime and see your pictures... I've only seen a few on C's instagram... and hear all your travel stories. (and now I have "Istanbul, not Constantinople" going through my head!)

Prayers for peace in the coming months...

With love, hugs, and prayers from the other side of town

Claire Plante said...

Dearest Anna,

Your question at the end sums it all up so well. It is the question that nails it - yes people do grow, and change, and learn through loss, because that is the best choice of the choices that are available and a path to survival and the hope of a meaningful life. But the word "available" there is key - the desired choice is of course "not available." And accepting that reality is just so darn hard.

I think of you every single day and am happy to see that you took such a marvelous trip.

Sending love from my heart to yours,
Claire

OSMA said...

It's so unfair that you are hurting worse now. So unfair that there's no sense to be made and no reward for grieving. There should be. But I can see how impossible that is because yours is more than loss, it's a fundamental upheaval that takes constant shifting and rebalancing of your very foundation. You may not feel it from your vantage point, but from here we see you all are doing the heavy work of surviving. If only we could lift you all up each morning and let you rest.

Sending excessive love and huge mama bear hugs.

xoxo

Erin

Kathy Glow said...

This is so gorgeous and so brave for so many reasons. Good for you guys for traveling and experiencing life. It's so hard when you're thinking about someone who is supposed to be there with you.

Ellen aka Ellie said...

I want to say something profound, but cannot, as usual, find the words.

However, I too like a fountain Coke and a Hampton Inn.

Kerstin Auer said...

The strength you display every day is nothing short of amazing.
I am glad you ventured out and experienced this together and hopefully Margaret had a great 13th birthday, even if it was bittersweet for her. xoxox

Jennifer Marshall said...

No words, just sending love and support. xoxo

Robert Julian Braxton said...

for your ongoing sorrow - sorry (very).

Kerry S. said...

I wanted to comment but didn't know what to say. I just read Erin (OSHA)'s comment and think that is beautifully said. I'd like to attach myself to that sentiment.
Sending love,
Kerry

Jules said...

What an amazing trip. I'm so glad that you were able to take part of your summer & take this vacation. I'm sure that your emotions are all over the place. You always miss Jack but you must have wondered how he would have experienced this with you. I hope that you could feel him in your heart, not only on the trip, but each day.

Jessica said...

Oh Anna, I wish that things could somehow get easier. I'm glad you got to experience Turkey but I wish things were different. Holding you and your family in my thoughts as always. xo

Tracy Mohr said...

We tragically lost our 19 year old son three years ago--and so identify with the sentiments you so beautifully shared. Thank you.

Tracy

Anonymous said...

Anna, we are praying for you and your family. God bless Jack and your family.

Falls Church neighbor

gabbygrace said...

Anna- I want to write to you all.of.the.time and yet I don't- worried my words will be too shallow in effort to fill a pain too deep. Yet- I am- because ultimately no effort is not worthy. My older brother died suddenly when he was 8- 34 years later- I cry for him and wonder how different out life's landscape would look. Now- I have 4 children myself - 2 with intense special needs and in many ways tragic in itself- the loss if hopes and dreams I had for them never far away. What I have learned is this- live. It may not feel perfect or ever fill that gaping void- it may rip a bandaid off when you are least prepared to bleed- but you will have lived. You will look back fondly at living rather than waiting. We live life here - fully- daily we belly laugh and have fun and sob and grieve - but it's living and if we are stuck here through all if this- I'm going down living - if for anything out typical children to think back and say - wow- our parents lived. Love your words more than mine could express!

Erin said...

Your words sum up my own heart so well. I too have lost a son. Eight years now. I completely understand your dread at the coming anniversary of Jack's death. The dread is relentless for me when June 12 approaches (the day of our son's accident). But in some ways I have felt a shift... that as I age, I move closer to him, to holding him in my arms again one fine day. Grief is so brutal, but I can honestly say it has taught me so very much. I am so sorry you have to travel this road... just so sorry.

Heidi Cave said...

What a post! What an incredible trip. Beautiful and bittersweet. As Stimey said, this post took my breath away. My heart is with you.

Jenn said...

I HATE September and I HATE the beginning of the school year because it's without Jack here with us. However, we are comforted on a daily basis that our "Rare Bird" is with us and doing the work God had planned for him. Love you guys!

Geri said...

Very thought provoking post Anna. I often wonder what fruit is being yielded from the loss of our son. People will tell me how strong I am, what an inspiration, and I usually want to laugh when they say that, because I sure don't feel strong or inspirational. Lots of times I feel bitter and sad and jealous of the people who are lucky enough to still have all their children alive. I guess they are thinking what I did before he died, that if I lost one of my children, I wouldn't survive it. I survived it. I endure and carry on, because I have no choice. And there are lots of good times still, great vacations and laughter and love. But even those times are so bittersweet now. Really good insight about the things we go through that have a payoff for doing them, and the things we have to go through that have no payoff. I am so sorry you lost your Jack.

Jen said...

Love for you. Thank you for sharing honestly. My heart aches with you. I pray for you and yours. Love the stories and fun. Am blessed by you always.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

What an amazing trip you took! The pictures all look fabulous. I am holding you close in my heart for the pain that is always and ever present in your hearts....." Will yield fruit, but will never, ever seem worth it to us" is sadly the truth and I am so sorry. ((HUGS))

Anonymous said...

Turkey sounds incredible. Loved the pictures. I'm sorry that there was the jagged edge to what should be a joyful family vacation. XO.

mosey (kim) said...

My friend.... although I'm not online and blogging the same way these days, you and your beautiful family are frequently on my heart and in my mind. On the one hand, I'm so glad you got to experience this amazing trip (something that is on my own bucket list!) - your photos are amazing. But each new day and experience without Jack can't help bring the grief close again. Much MUCH love to you.

Mariah Hechler said...

I don't have any answers. A friend of mine lost her son 3 years ago as well in an ATV accident. She feels the same way you do. So, I think your are completely normal. Also know, that you are in my heart and prayers.

Lady Jennie said...

I have a nervous stomach too so I really relate.

But yes, life is there for the living.

It just hurts that it has to be done in such an off-kilter way.

Andrea Mowery said...

"The adjustments we make in order to travel remind us that we are not wed to the way things usually are, day in and day out. We sacrifice some of our stability to embrace a new experience." This is beautifully written, and so true.

I want to believe that what we experience in life is worth any sacrifice we make. But then I think about your family, and it is so hard. xoxo

monicac2 said...

Beautiful, breathtaking words and sentiments. My thoughts and prayers are with you!

Nicole said...

"Good, Mama, good. You won't be leaving one all alone if...if... if something goes horribly wrong."

This. I have actually thought about having another child with this in mind... I have always wanted 3 maybe 4 kids, but to see my boys together and imagine if, God forbid, something terrible should happen to one of them how incredibly sad it would be for one to be without the other.
It's weird to me that I think like this, but I've seen family members (my uncle and three cousins) lose a child, my best friend's daughter died 2 years ago, and my mom works at Texas Children's Hospital in the cancer and hematology clinic. I think hearing about people losing children to cancer and watching family members and a friend losing a child changes you and the way you think about life. I cannot begin to fathom how it changes you when it's your own.
Thank you for sharing your heart... As always, you are in my heart and prayers.

the mama bird diaries said...

I've been thinking a lot about you this time of year. I always hold you in my heart.

Anonymous said...

Anna, we have not "met" before but I wanted to let you know how beautiful I think your words are and also that I share your similar grief. You and I are not alone although it can often feel that way. I lost my only baby sister in a sudden horrible accident and it took my and my parents breath away. We have managed almost 27 years without her presence and the anniversary of her death in October still really hurts; it brings such dread every single year. But we continue to march on, to move forward. To live life, to travel, to work, to appreciate all the little and big things. There are so many people out there who understand the intense pain of losing a loved one and maybe knowing that helps us get through. I am thinking of you and would like to thank you for sharing your story and your beautiful heart. You and your family are in my prayers. Erika