Friday, June 16, 2017

To Jack's Friends on Graduation


 I was trying write a speech for all graduates this spring, but I kept getting stuck. 

I wondered if it was because I was just too heartbroken to write about graduation, when Jack wouldn't be walking across a stage, collecting awards, and smiling for pictures.

There would be no party.

Then I realized that addressing all graduates, and trying to come up with words of wisdom was too much. How wise am I anyway? I really just wanted to address Jack's friends, the ones who knew him in the flesh. These are the kids who for a while would glance over their shoulders thinking he'd be there. They are the ones who likely can still half-close their eyes at a group gathering and picture Jack as part of the scene amidst the laughter.

To them, Jack is not an idea, a concept, or a cautionary tale.

He's just Jack.


To Jack's Friends on Graduation: 

Congratulations on your big day! We are so very proud of you and all you have accomplished! I'm not saying I couldn't have pictured all of this when you were goofy little kids, but I will say you've come a long way. You are smart, poised, generous and kind. 

You will always have a special place in our hearts, in honor of the place you had in Jack's life, and the big love he felt for you. As we've watched you grow and change, we've pictured Jack alongside you, and although that hurts, it is also healing.

I am so sorry that our family's struggle represented such a shift in your childhoods. You didn't ask for heartache and the harsh reality of death to crash into your lives at such a tender age. It was shocking and scary. It left you feeling vulnerable. I wish we could have spared you.

I am relieved those horrible days and months are far behind us all, but I believe there are fruits that have come from this hardship, things most people don't discover until they are much older, if at all. 

You learned so much.

You learned how to grieve and how to memorialize a loved one. You learned how to support each other and a hurting family in times of crisis. You learned that saying someone's name might feel awkward, but that it is a loving act. You know how to reach out, how to give a hug when all words fail, and how to persevere when life seems scary. I know the people you encounter will be blessed by this. 

You learned how important each person, each life, is to this world, so much so that when he or she is absent, the world feels a little different. Your life is important. You matter. Your presence is valued, valuable, and needed. There will be times when you feel insignificant, hopeless, or alone. You will wonder if you are heading in the right direction, or if anything you do holds meaning. Remember that you don't get your value from what you do, but from who you are, and whose you are. 

You learned to lean on your faith and to see things from an eternal perspective. Yes, you had heard your parents talk about heaven for many years, but now one of your own was there, and it became even more important to live a life that focuses on what's real and what's true, not on the petty concerns of the world. You know that this is NOT the end.

You learned to persevere and to thrive. To trust even though things felt scary. To let yourself laugh and be kids. You saw us persevere as well, and this helped illustrate to you Luke 1:37-- "For Nothing is Impossible with God." Not even a new little baby-- eek!

I know we haven't seen each very often over the years. We were too new at grief to know how to navigate it and how to keep you integrated into our family life. I especially missed you as older brother and sister figures to Margaret, as I know you be if Jack were alive. I didn't know how to articulate what we needed, if I could have even figured it out. Yet you showed up again and again for special events and milestones. You snuck out in the wee hours and hung blue ribbons near our house for Jack's birthdays and crapiversaries. You culled your memories for any stories of Jack you could share with us. 

It would have been far easier to pretend we didn't exist, but you and your families didn't give up on us. You held a space in your life for our joys and our sorrow. We never once doubted that you still love Jack and you love us. THANK YOU!

I've mentioned some things we all learned from Jack's death, but what about from his life? Remember when Jack's Auntie came up with these at his funeral?  They are the way Jack lived, and I believe they are applicable to you today as you head off to college and to new adventures:

Be Kind.
Pay Attention.
Think.
Play.
Never Give Up.
Share Others' Joy.


Friend, we share in your joy today. 

And I know Jack does too. Remember in the Bible where it talks of a great cloud of witnesses cheering you on? Well, please know that wherever you go, you always have someone cheering you on. He's no longer the 12 year old boy you knew, or even the young adults you are now, but a soul with more knowledge, wisdom, joy and perspective than we will be able to get until we are with God. 

He wants the best for you, and so do we!

You have so much to offer the world, and we will watch with pride and anticipation to see how God uses you and your gifts. 

Love, The Donaldsons

Micah 6:8
Joshua 1:9


Thanks to my friend Carolyn, also a bereaved mom, for modeling this letter writing for me. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Grad Week

Just checking in to you to let you know this would be Jack's graduation week.

So far, we are doing well, even though it hurts. Andrew is keeping me active chasing after him in this intense heat, Margaret is wrapping up sophomore year, and Tim is busy at work. Tomorrow I am hanging out with another bereaved mom whose son should be graduating as well. We feel a strong kinship as we both lost our sons in freak accidents. We have no agenda. Just support and conversation
during Andrew's babysitter time.

photo credit: doriehowell.com

On Sunday, Father's Day, Tim will board a plane for San Diego for work. It will be his first trip there since his trip with Jack to Legoland.



So, we are doing well. But, as always, we appreciate your prayers and support!

Thanks, Loves.

p.s. When Tim gets back, I'm heading to a blog convention in Orlando. If you will be at BlogHer, be sure to say hi! I'm usually the one holding up the wall or looking awkward.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Before and After

On Friday, I was looking for an easy meal to make, so I pulled this recipe for Tortellini Soup out of my recipe binder. It's basically just a list of ingredients to dump together in a pot and bring to a boil.

My kind of cooking.



When I looked at the date, I was taken aback. My sister-in-law sent this to me one day before Jack's accident. At that point, I was gearing up for the new school year, planning quick meals I could make on busy weeknights of baseball, soccer, and scouts. I was wondering what it would be like to have a middle schooler in the house. On the bottom of the page, I'd scribbled a note about an upcoming field trip for Margaret's class. Nothing too exciting.

September 7-- mundane.

September 8-- shattered.

Oh how often there is a clear before and after in our lives! I remember looking through my mom's check register after she died. There she was paying bills and doing the routine tasks of life, until she wasn't.

Sometimes before and afters are positive. They can denote a marriage, a decision to take care of your health, a career change.

Other times, they represent the day the world came crashing down.

If there is a clear before and after in your life, due to death, illness, or a time someone harmed your body or your heart, I'm sending you love today.

After is different. After is often hard.

But after doesn't mean over.

Hugs.