I’m guessing you may be worried. It has been more than a week and you haven’t really heard from me. I know I’d be worried about you if the tables were turned. The truth is, I just don’t know where to start in describing Christmas. And now it’s New Year’s, and the symbolism of leaving Jack in one year, yet moving on to the next weighs heavy on us, even as we stayed up to watch the ball drop and hang out with friends. While I’m just not sure what to write, there is a great deal to share, of that I am certain.
First and foremost, I want you to know we made it through Christmas! I hope you are proud of us; I know I sure am. There was a lot of laughter in our home. Rituals and traditions including “It’s a Wonderful Life” and Christmas Eve church. We made it fun for Margaret. Our niece flew in to keep her company, and the house sounded like it used to, with running up and down the stairs, the Wii turned on for the first time since August, and rooms being used again.
In the days leading up to Christmas we felt surrounded by love: through this blog, Facebook, and throughout our town. People stopped by in person and checked in virtually to let us know we were not alone. People sent letters and packages. I must say I am learning so much from you about how to reach out to others in difficult times and how to acknowledge pain.
In trying to train Jack and Margaret, but especially Tim, I have always said, “People just need to be acknowledged.” Never in a cheap, “I’m sorry you feel that way” kind of way, but in an “I’m sorry. This sucks. What you are dealing with is very hard” kind of way. I’ve been working on this with Tim for almost 20 years. He comes from the “If I mention a problem it will draw attention to it, but if I ignore it, perhaps it will go away” school of wishful thinking. Over the years he has learned that a little acknowledgment goes a long way.
With our current situation, we have been blessed to be able to experience your acknowledgment of our loss, and even the world’s loss, in relationship to Jack’s death. This does not take away the sting, the anger, or the disappointment we feel at our son being gone, but it helps. It makes us feel connected to others rather than separated from them. Even as I feel like a broken, alien species, out of sync with the person I was a few short months ago, I have never felt more connected to the world’s suffering and to the world than I do today.
A Christmas tree lovingly placed by unseen hands beside the bridge/drainage ditch where they found my little boy says, “Something happened here. Something changed for a family, and for a town.” That is an acknowledgement, a connection from person to person, family to family. As lights, ornaments and even presents appeared at that tree, day after day, the message we got was, “Jack is not forgotten. Jack counts.”
Seeing blue ribbons pop up around town and in the blogworld says, “This Christmas is different from last year.”
An evening drinking wine, way too much wine, with neighborhood friends and sharing stories of that horrible day, trying to make sense of what happened and talking about how God has been at work through this situation says, “This is not small. We need to talk. Jack’s life and death are not small matters.”
Spending time with my sister, someone who knew Jack better than almost anyone else, and who was able to sum up so much about his character, even in the brutal, crazed days immediately following the accident, was a needed time of acknowledgment for both of us.
Time with Auntie was well spent—ranging from being upbeat when the kids were around, to finding quiet moments together when we could just look at each other and say, “What the hell is going on here?” except we said a word other than hell. We were able to acknowledge that if there could ever be a poster child for “Kid least likely to get swept away by a frickin’ neighborhood creek” that boy would be Jack. Acknowledgment of the sheer lunacy of this situation.
We veered from pigging out on chocolate and discussing the year-end double issue of People Magazine to weeping for what her son lost, in losing his best friend Jack. We shared that while Jack will never be faced with heartbreak or drugs or depression, and how we can see God drawing people closer as a result of Jack’s death, we would trade it all in a second if we could.
We were able to acknowledge our regret of not spending enough time together in the past while also acknowledging that spending time together now is ridiculously hard for all of us.
In all, Christmas was okay. It was survivable. We made it. We felt your love and fervent prayers the entire time. Thank you for walking beside us.
Some things, however, remained unspoken, unacknowledged. Like the way my sister was able to loan me her son for a few minutes, his head in my lap as we snuggled on the couch. These moments meant I could pray for him as he tries to figure out how to go on without his cousin. But I could also close my eyes and pretend, just for a few seconds, that the boy I held, and probably squeezed a little too tightly, was my boy, not hers.