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.
OH My.. I have been a reader.. but not a "comment reader" This post took my breath away.
sending you prayers.. and love.
and thank you for sharing your journey.
I think about you and your family and your beautiful son every day
again prayers and love
thank you for showing up here and continuing to amaze us with your ability to put such raw feelings into words. sending love your way and praying that 2012 brings some peace and joy for your family. xo, erin
We did a scavenger hunt for our boys Christmas morning, it went over like a lead balloon, but we still made them do it, because I couldn't help but remember that there was a family who would give anything to do it...sorry seems so insignificant, heartbroken from a stranger seems weird, but know I am different in how I do things with my boys because of your words, thoughts and honesty. I hope you and yours can feel our prayers from MS.
Crying for you. Your last paragraph... heartbreaking. We will always be here to share and read your words.
Your love for YOUR Jack is phenomenal. You love your children dearly, this is clear. Thank you for your perspective. Love, Love, Love to you.
Every day, prayers. Every time I think of your family, I lift each one of you three up to comfort. Really, I should think of your sister and Jack's cousin, too. There are no words, and there should be words to ease your ache. Love from the desert
I've never been moved to comment on any blog before but just wanted you to know that you and your family are cared about from across the miles in England. Wishing you a peaceful new year from across the miles.
God love you, God love you. I have no words...just continuing prayers , prayers, prayers.
One day....one day Anna...could you maybe share with what you have learned what to say/what to do, etc. as you mentioned? I have a former student who has suffered a tremendous brain injury....I stopped by the hospital just to see the mom & leave a lil gas money - hadn't seen her since he was in 2nd grade, and now he is in 20. Anna, I was so so nervous , apprehensive that I LITERALLY walked right by - within one foot -- on my way to the ICU waiting room without recognizing her. After waitng several minutes in the ICU waiting room with no one there except a man grabbing a nap - turns out it was my student's day -- I turned to leave and walked right into her again and I immediately grabbed her and hugged her and tried to say as little as possible for fear of saying the wrong thing. She said she and her daughter recognized me and her daughter commented that it was me and I just told her - "I am so sorry but I an just so nervous coming - I 'm afraid I will say the wrong thing." The only thing I did say with STRONG conviction was this: it was the 7 th day of the accident and the mother had not been home/showering at hospital etc/ and she said "everyone is telling me to go home but I'm afraid...." and that was when her voice broke and the tears came.... and I just said "Do what your momma's heart tells you to do." Sorry for such a long comment - but I want to do the right thing NOT just "sorry, call me if you need me"...I am not going to sing with my usual name but just know that I am thankful you all survived Christmas - you are thought about a gazillion times. Love and prayers ....I am listening to "I Need thee Every Hour" as I type this on a DVD...it seems so so appropriate. love
Yes I have been thinking about you and I'm sure many others have too. I was concerned but at the same time I knew you'd be okay.
You may not feel strong but you are, you have the kind of strength that comes from surviving something so horrible and surreal. It doesn't mean however that you aren't still hurting and questioning and craving for Jack.
We can only imagine how painful it would be to go through what you are going through but you are living it - with an enormous amount of dignity and grace. Keep talking, keep writing, get out what you have to. There's no right or wrong way to grieve only what you feel you need to do.
Always thinking of you Anna.....
Dearest Anna, Tim & Margaret,
All around the world tonight...people have you in their prayers, in their thoughts, in their hearts.
And we LOVE hearing of the messages from Jack. I sure hope you framed that puzzle for an empty wall space!!
Blessings to you, and sending strength for each minute of this new year.
Oh, I am glad to hear you made it through Christmas....and I am so glad Margaret had some silliness and fun. You and Tim sound like wonderful parents...
I've been thinking about how difficult it must be to "leave" Jack in the past year. You're often in thoughts and prayers, and thank you so much for sharing your family and thoughts with us.
Lisa G. in CT
Oh Anna... Hope each day this year is a little better than the last. Warm wishes from Miami
You've inspired our family to be more thoughtful about Christmas traditions - it will take us a while to perfect the scavenger hunt though. I'm so pleased you've been surrounded & lifted by family and loved ones over the (impossible) holidays - your nephew close for squeezing. Much love and prayers xx
Oh Anna!! Great post. Where do I start? I am PROUD of you for getting through Christmas--very proud! The story about the Christmas tree that was anonymously placed next to the bridge filled me with such pride for your sweet town and of course emotion! I know it's hard to enter 2012 without Jack. Scary and unfamiliar im sure. But...he IS wih you Anna. He is.
Love, Annie P
I'm so glad you're still writing. And you're surrounded by people who love you and talk with you. I look forward to hugging you one day soon this year. Hugs and prayers. xoxo
Oh Anna, I am so glad you wrote this. I have been thinking about you so much over the holidays. Ok, I've been worrying about you. I knew it would be hard (understatement!), but I prayed that you were being surrounded by family and friends who loved you. I saw a boy in a restaurant yesterday and I couldn't take my eyes off of him. Yes, he reminded me of your Jack. You will probably never know how many people have been touched by your story and Jack's legacy. Thank you so much for sharing your life, your loss and your spirit with us. Wishing you blessings in the coming year!
Thank you for this post, Anna. While being so brutally honest, you somehow manage to comfort those of us who wish we could bring some comfort to you. I do genuinely hope you know that so very many are holding your family close and pray for comfort and peace for you. I love that you are trying to teach how to just be there for someone when life sucks. A valuable lesson for sure. Thank you again, Anna. Sending a virtual hug.
We continue to think about and pray for your family daily.
Hugs from Michigan!
Your family has been on my mind constantly. Thank you for sharing your life with us. I am so happy that you are feeling the prayers and love from so many.
Prayers and love from Las Vegas!
I stopped by your blog yesterday because I wanted to check up on you and your family-I started to comment and then stopped myself because I didn't want my words to cause you further pain. How silly! I've been praying for you, Tim, and Margaret for many weeks now-I've specifically asked for peace and comfort during this holiday season. I will continue to lift you up in prayer-
Much love from Florida
My daily thoughts of you and your family have been even more frequent during this week of holidays. So glad to hear there were moments of fun, laughter, and happiness in your home this Christmas. No one could imagine how to handle themselves in your situation, and you are doing it with grace. My wishes for a very happy new year for you all!
Beautiful. And tears, lots of tears. This post in particular is going to stay with me for a long, long time.
May you and your family experience many moments of peace and comfort in 2012.
I never know what to say....but to say nothing seems wrong. Your writing is so raw and pure - please continue to write. I cannot imagine losing my son and I am so sorry for your loss. But writing does connect us and helps me understand a little. Wishing you peace (whatever that will mean for your family) in 2012. lisa
I'm just a stranger, praying for you all! Crying for you too (something I rarely do reading blogs). Your dear Jack will not be forgotten!
I am a total stranger to you and have found myself checking here multiple times a day for the past week to see if you had posted... I have thought of you so many times this week and had been hoping you were able to find some moments of peace during what I can only imagine is a hellacious time of year for your family. Of course, after reading this I am once again amazed and inspired by your strength...
Anna- I have been reading since the accident. You may not even read or see this comment, but I have to say you have made a difference in my life. I'm learning from you and feel that I have grown as a person since I started reading this blog. I just wanted to thank you and Jack for showing me something inside myself that I was not sure was there before. I know it can't make your pain go away, but please know you are helping little old me out here. I wish you and your family the happiest of new year's. I hope it feels happy for even a moment.
Those moments with your nephew.. oh, my heart. So much love to you. xo
I want you to know that I think about you and your family throughout the day, at every main event and at so many ordinary ones. And I always say a prayer.
Just signing in as one of the many who thought of you and prayed for your family on Christmas. Wish there was more I could do, but utterly humbled at the grace at which you both experience and share with us the getting through
I can't think of anyone I worried more about over Christmas than you and yours. Thank you for this post.
Wow, that hit my heart!!! how i wish i could give you your beloved Jack back... i feel so sorry for you all!
Sending more (((hugs))) and prayers...
Have thought of you and the family many times during this holiday season and also since September. We put a blue ribbon on our tree this year and have thought of Jack during church services - always marveling at your strength in getting thru this. Prayers and hugs continue into 2012 and beyond.
I was sent a link to your blog right after the horrendous accident. I have been a faithful reader ever since. Your feelings come through in your wrtiing, I know I feel your hurt and pain, but you also make me laugh and smile with your stories of Jack and the family. May you find a new peace in the new year.
Anna: I, too, like Tim come from the school of let's not acknowledge it. My mom wrote the book on it.(smile) Almost three years ago, I was hit smack square in the face and knocked on my tush with news of an event that left me stunned and immobile for probably almost two years. As I crawled back to daylight and needing to function and care for my family, I dealt mightily with lack of acknowledgement from pretty much everyone around me. That being said, I admire and respect you and Tim and Margaret for grieving and simultaneously honoring your precious little boy in a positive, beautiful way. I'm rambling -- I'm sorry. I'll end with this: the other day, we were in the parking lot at Safeway and Mariano says to me: 'Isn't that K.F?' and I looked at the minivan where he was indicating and the first thing I saw was a blue ribbon tied on the rear windshield wiper, and I immediately knew it was K.F. without even seeing her b/c that was the color of her minivan. I went over and she and I hugged (I haven't seen her in about 2 years) and shared quickly with each other. Thanks for checking in here so we know how you all made it through the holidays. Praying for you. Love your family. We will never forget Jack. Mariann Alicea
You know us so well...I was worried. I am a worrier in general but you are there person I worry the most about that I have never even met. Thank you for sharing your journey, your thoughts, and heartache. I hope that by sharing it you are able to release even a small piece so that we can carry it for you.
Ok, I felt as though I'd been holding my breath for the past couple of days at your silence and almost posted a "please talk to us!" message but managed to restrain myself.
Anyway it sounds as though you all did beautifully, and I was find until I read the last paragraph at which point I returned to the blubbering I usually do when reading you. You and your lovely family are in the hearts and minds of so many you'll never meet, and if the force of the combined love and prayers being sent your way from all over the world mean anything at all hopefully they give you some comfort.
Here's to a better 2012, in which Jack will be ever present in your love and memories.
Thank you for sharing, Anna. Yes, you were on my mind throughout the holidays.
What a great idea it was to have your niece share this time with Margaret! You must have a lovely, supportive extended family. Blessings to all of you.
Your beautiful pictures of your family make me ache. I, a stranger, still have trouble digesting what happened, and can only imagine what you go through daily.
But there is no denying that this tragedy has had a positive impact on many, many families. Jack has made a big difference in the world, although not in a way you would ever have predicted -- or wanted. I see Jack as a kind of role model for the young generation, most of whom would never have known of his life if not for what happened. And you and Tim are parenting role models.
Blessings to all of you for the new year.
And by the way, tell Margaret that whenever I see anything on Justin Bieber (like last night at Times Square on TV) I think of her. :)
-- Joan in PA
There is something so desperatly wrong in ushering in a New Year without your beloved Jack!
Today's post spoke to me more than another because I am THAT auntie. I know my "Beloved 8" as well as their parents. I am unable to have children and so my siblings have so graciously leant me their babies to love as though they were my own and I do. I ache for Jack's cousin. Two of my eight are just 5 days apart. As different as night and day, sun and moon, black and white. But they love each other fiercely. I suffer at the mere thought of one without the other. One is leaving for Spain tomorrow morning for a six month study abroad...the other is playing tough LaCrosse player...you can see the far away look in his eye. He will miss his other half. I pray for your sister and nephew.
Anna, I could not hurt for you more if I actually knew you. I wish II could do more for your family. Especially your Margaret. I pray EVERY day because it is all this stranger has.
What is so odd to me is that as a pediatric oncology nurse I am no stranger to broken families. As the surviving sibling of a brother lost to leukemia, I have far to great an understanding of your family's anguish. But, I have no earthly clue what it would feel like to have your still beating heart ripped from your chest. It was all too fast and violent. It is so wrong. I am soooooooo sorry and sorry in a "this sucks in such an effin HUGE way"!
It is a new year. It is the first time you will live in a year without your boy. It is impossible to imagine you can survive this. You can! You will! And not just for Margaret. You will survive for Jack because that is how Jack survives...through the three of you. Every step will feel heavier and harder than the other, until one day it is just easier. And until that day you a surrounded in prayer and love. There is hope in this new year, there is. And until you can find it, hold it, feel it...we will keep it for you!
Happy New Year dear family.
" Against all hope, in hope I believe..."
Have to admit, that i checked in multiple times to see if you posted, but I was not "worried" about you during this short absence. I just had a feeling that you, Tim and Margaret would make it through these holiday's ok. I am so glad that there was laughter in your home and that you made sure that Margaret had fun. Just another testament to what great parents you and Tim are. Obviously you come from a firm foundation of God, love, and family. It is such a blessing that you and your sister can share such precious time together and lean on each other for healing. God Bless her and your nephew for being there for you, not every sibling would do the same. While leaving 2011 behind will be hard, I pray that each day of 2012 will bring just a bit more comfort to you, Tim and Margaret than the day before.
I was okay until the last paragraph, then the tears came.
Love you all, Anna
As a mama to all boys, and one with a middle name of Jack, and a husband name Tim - my heart breaks for yours, over and over again....
I am lifting you, your Tim, and Margaret, as well as your sister and nephew and the rest of your families - lifting you high up to Our Faithful Father, in prayers from Michigan.
Anna, the Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make his face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you His peace. You are highly valued and deeply loved. He will bless you and keep you as He has promised. Amen. (based on Numbers 6:23-26)
The silence of your blog over the last week or so was so sad for me. I came to check everyday, sometimes a few times a day to see if you had posted anything. As much as you tell us out here in blog land that we are helping you, please trust me when I say you are helping me and hopefully others too. I have not had the loss of a child, however you are making me appreciate and to make the most of the time I do have with my own children. May 2012 show you peace, more signs from Jack and comfort to your broken heart. Renee from N.J.
Thanks for sharing the photos! Wishing you lots more joy in 2012!
I'm so sorry. My computer just jumped back to your column from the one I thought I was commenting on. I didn't mean to be flip.
I needed some more time to write a comment for you and your family. I do wish you joy in 2012, but I also wish you peace. I'm praying for you all.
Anna, for almost three years now I have grieved along with so many who have lost a child through my For Your Tears blog. Your loss of Jack has touched a place in my heart that hadn't been explored yet. I cry with you in a place deep within my heart. I am in awe of the posts you write and how the words flow so beautifully into the depth of your feelings. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. I was reading your words to my husband but couldn't speak as I read about the tree and gifts for Jack under the bridge. This has changed me. ((HUGS))
I have been thinking of you non stop this christmas break... I pray you find some peace in this new year. Thank you for all you have taught me, you amaze me. Blessings to you Margaret and tim this year!!! Xoxo
I, too, have been a reader but not a comment maker. I just had to make a comment today. I have gotten teary eyed reading in the past, but today I wept....hard. We are all listening to your family's journey and we all care and acknowledge your deep pain even though we haven't met. I grew up in Vienna and went to VPC the same time that you did, and while you look familiar I can't say that I know you. This aside, I want you to know I feel connected to you and your family and think about you daily. Many hugs to you and yours. Keep fighting for his memory and remember you are not alone.
Have been thinking about you, Margaret, Tim and Jack as I gathered a few of my own family together this holiday season. Lifting you all up in continued prayer! I am so grateful for your sharing and allowing us out here to send you, a "stranger but not really", our love, strength and compassion. Not a day goes by that I don't wonder how you are at that moment. While your pain is incredible your faith and strength are greater. I will continue to "be here" in the vast blogosphere, praying for your family and reading your journey as you share it. May God continue to bless you in the ways that you need.
Thinking of you and your family throughout this holiday season. You amaze me all the time. Thank you for your strong faith and the beautiful way you write about it. It inspires me every single day.
I weep with you. I'm just so, so sorry. May 2012 bring you peace.
I think the other comments are so right - you will never know how many lives you have touched, and how many people care so much and how many hearts grieve so much for your tremendous loss.....Look how many complete strangers have come together here, on your blog, how many strangers think of you and your family every day, and come to check to see if you have posted,to see how you are holding up.....It's miraculous really, isn't it ? One beautiful boy has touched so many hearts, and made so many people that much more aware of how fragile this life is. You have, and are continuing, to teach us all so much. God Bless you all.....
I've been thinking of you these past few weeks so much, this took my breath away... XOXO
OH, Anna. Sweet, sweet, beautiful soul, Anna. I am weeping for you. Your last line was absolutely heart breaking and so courageously true. I admire your ability to share the unshareable. We are so very, very sorry. I am praying for some peace and comfort to you and your family this year.
Oh, Anna, I've been thinking of you and your family all week, wondering how you were weathering the holidays and the inevitable sadness. And I am so very proud of how you have prevailed, especially for Margaret's sake. I'm also very relieved to hear that you've been buoyed by people in both the real and virtual worlds. It heartens me to see how this helps you. I can't believe how much you, a woman I've never met, and Jack, a boy I never knew, could reside in my heart and my thoughts. I pray for your family daily, and wish you all the best in the coming year, as hard as that also will be.
Your photos from last Christmas are lovely, full of the love of a family time. So nice to have those memories.
What words can I leave.
I think of you and your nephew's head on your lap, you closing your eyes wishing/pretending/begging for one minute it was Jack.
I think of all of that and my heart almost hurts with all I wish I could say to you.
You will see your son again...and that beautiful day?
Oh, that beautiful day.
Always thinking of you.
Oh Anna I'm happy you had that moment with your nephew if even to spark a memory. My heart will always ache for you as a mother myself, but I'm so happy that Jack's memory and his life is alive and touching so many lives like my own. I wasn't a follower until that horrible day and I'm here praying for you but really my life is richer and I appreciate it so much more because of your Jack. So god bless you in 2012! Xo
Love your guts.
I was worried. I couldnt stop thinking about you guys over Christmas/NYE. My good friend lost her brother 2 days after Christmas last year (he was 17) and I couldnt stop thinking about them either. Im glad you wrote this post. I am crying for you. I will never stop praying for you!
Anna - you don't know me, but I live in your town and haven't stopped thinking about you since September. I came across your blog in a town publication and have been glued to it ever since. I cross over that bridge four times every day and four times every day I pray for you and your family - sometimes through tears. I can't let go of you. Your pain has made me a better mother - I hug my boys tighter and I am a more present mother. I just wanted you to know that.
I thought about you a lot this season. Our family had to send an abused foster baby back to his abuser and I hurt and I still hurt and I thought about you and prayed for you as I prayed for the little one we sent home. I promise to hold your little family in my prayers. Love to you.
Thinking of you tonight. It sounds like your holiday went as well as it could have, under the circumstances. I'll be praying for your family's and your community's continued healing in 2012.
Oh Anna. There is nothing to say but I wanted to let you know that I'm here, reading, praying for more peace in this new year.
I was concerned how Christmas was for you. I have thought of you so many times lately.
Your pictures look like all of our pictures. They look so normal. It's another reminder that what happened to you could have happened to any of us.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us. I have so much compassion for you. You will continue to be in my prayers.
I am new here... I knew if VodkaMom was saying someone needed prayers there was a reason.
As tears stream down my face, my heart breaks for you... as a mom to 2 boys, I can't imagine what you have been through.
Please know I will pray for you and your family.
I have been periodically checking in...and I am glad that you all made it through the holidays. That you laughed, that you talked, that you cried, that you were able to face grief by asking "what the ...!" All are a testament to the strength of your character.
Your last paragraph just makes me tear up...I can just *feel* your emotions...I think you and your nephew needed that.
Love and prayers...as always
You are such a gifted writer and I know God is using all of these painful and real posts encourage others who have experienced great loss.
Those pictures of your family are beautiful.
Much love to you in the new year.
First of all, beautiful family fotos!
secondly (and most importantly) Jack will never be forgotten & ALWAYS count!
Your blog entries always sheds a tear, I feel the grief as well as love that you have for Jack & your precious family. Big hugs!!!!
Happy to hear you made it through Christmas!
Wishing the Donaldson family lots of happiness and peace this new year.
I understand your dread of leaving the year you had him and entering the one without him. I wrote the same thing on my mom's Facebook page the other day even though she passed away in May. It feels like I am leaving her...again. So hard. So tender and emotionally fragile.
The new year retrospects are only making it worse every where we turn.
I am so sorry Anna, you are not alone.
Anna you are so brave. The last lines of this post forced me to suck in my tears as my husband sits across the table. It is such a weird feeling to want to meet you and tell you in person how sad I am for you. I stare into the eyes of Jack through your pictures and my chest tightens as I imagine what it is like to lose him. Margaret is so blessed you are her mother. xoxo
I instantly was taken back to your post with the Christmas photos when the kids were younger and Margaret has tears. Every photo was fabulous last year, Anna.
Sending love from Colorado, you and your family are continually in my thoughts.
Thank you Anna for sharing your journey with us.
2011 was not an easy year for our family as we learned (a little bit) how to help our son navigate his life with an onset of depression and a mood disorder. There are days that feel almost unbearable.
Then I read your blog and you inspire me with your courage, honesty, love, and faith.
Praying for you and your family and hoping that 2012 brings grace and peace and joy with each day.
Oh my dearest friend. My heart aches for you and your beautiful family. Love to you. To Tim. To Margaret. And of course to Jack. I look forward to hugging you close one day soon. I've been so off the radar recently - but not a day passes when I think about you! xx
Sending warm wishes for a New Year. Thank you for posting (yes, we were a little worried!) I should have known better though - of course your love and faith would be stronger than even this sadness. I'm glad you got time with your sister. All of you are in my prayers.
I have to ration my reading of your blog. Is this a day when I want to cry? I guess so.
Starting a new year that does not include Jack. How that must hurt to move on, leaving him forever that boy, not ever a man.
Our town is covered in blue ribbons, and it is a beautiful sight. Your family has gone through hell, but Jack's story has touched so many people. Please know that you will always be loved and supported. I am so glad you made it through Christmas okay, but I am also so sorry that Jack wasn't there with you.
I was worried about you for Christmas, a holiday which I don't celebrate and often give little thought to, but did this year thinking about how hard it must be for you. As the parent of another risk adverse child, the feelings I get when I think of Jack's accident...the special unfairness of it...it makes me sad and angry. I am glad you were able to tell your Jack stories and still wring some joy and laughter from this season. Thinking of you...
I love that you have family! I love that you have a dear sister! ...Still praying
I was worried. Like all the others thank you for showing up. I was thinking of all of you this holiday. I was in LA, visiting my brother, and I was lying on one of the lounge chairs by the pool in his apartment complex on Christmas Day. I looked up, and in the trees, was a blue ribbon. I know you know this—Jack has touched so many people, more than I'm sure we could ever know or imagine. And of course, when I see the blue ribbon, I pause, think of your sweet Jack and beautiful family, and send so much love and light. I thought of him, and all the lessons I've learned reading your blog, later that evening while playing with my 3.5 year old nephew, an adorable, stubborn little boy who loves legos. We played Legos for hours, and I told my nephew a little about Jack—that he was a big boy who built amazing Lego towers, and maybe someday, he would do that, too.
I know it's no consolation, but I wanted to share that with you, and know that even though I'm a stranger, I'm thinking about you.
Anna, the 28-year-old-single-NYC-editor
I'm not sure if my previous comment was posted but I just wanted to let you know that I have been thinking about you during this time and am really glad you made it through Christmas.
Sending you a huge hugs and wishing you and your family many blessings and much peace in the New Year.
Thanks for sharing your heart. Thinking of you and remembering Jack constantly.
no, this certainly is not small,this is huge. i remember the counselor i have been seeing since nick died saying that the first time i walked in her door "oh geri, this is huge". keep talking, keep writing. I also related to your comment about a new year without jack. yesterday my husband and i found ourselves very very sad and on edge, and it took me a minute to realize it was because we were starting another new year without our son. of course we will survive it and have some wonderful times and some not so wonderful times, but it sure is hard when one of the people who gave our life so much meaning is gone. aren't we just precious, we humans, that we keep getting up and going on and trying to continue to live a full, happy life after such a thing happens? I am proud of you and tim and margaret, you did it, you made it through, and even had some moments of fun, your first christmas without dear, sweet jack. thanks for sharing the pictures.
I have no idea how I came across your blog. I've been following several blogs where the writers are grieving, and I'm not quite sure why. I don't think it's some version of voyeurism, I think it's some longstanding unresolved grief of my own that has me gravitating towards this subject.
My trials are mild in comparison, and I can't manage a fraction of the grace that you show. Your strength and faith amaze me.
I know everyone must find their own way through grief, but you seem to be able to navigate that process while remaining somewhat functional and focusing on the needs of your daughter and husband. They are lucky to have you as their mother and wife.
I pray that 2012 will be a year that allows you some peace.
I can't tell you how many times over the past few days and weeks the Lord has brought your family to my mind and prompted me to pray for you. I have been checking the blog daily, hoping to hear that Christmas was bearable for you. You are each in my thoughts and prayers so often, and I pray that God will bring you comfort and the peace that passes understanding.
Thanks so much for your transparency. I am going through a very difficult time of mine own, and am learning to embrace the pain. I would much rather ignore and stuff the pain, but must embrace it and go through it to get to the other side, which may not be life as I knew it, but healing and life as it will be now. Your blog is helping me to not experience the fear I've had before. I am using my pain to pray for others experiencing tremendous loss, and hope you can feel all the prayers I'm sure are coming your way. Again, thanks for your willingness to share your grief, pain, and ups and downs, and, most of all, your love for your wonderful son.
I checked in everyday last week to see how your Christmas had gone, and I have to admit I was worried but knew by your previous posts that you and your family would be okay. I wish I had some powerful words to make this all easier for you, but know that only time can do that for you. You are an amazing woman with an amazing husband and daughter and I continue to be inspired by your strength. You all remain in my thoughts and prayers. This post brought tears to my eyes, but am so glad you continue to share your story with us. Many blessings for the New Year. Hugs!
As the holidays end and things go back to "normal" I will continue to pray for you. I know some of the hardest days are when things should be normal.
Your family is so beautiful and I am happy you were able to spend some happy moments together.
Thinking of your family every day!..I follow your posts and feel the loss with you as i am a parent of 3. We are listening....God is listening....Jack wants you to be happy...no advice just know we are with you! Lifting you up in prayers!
Hugs and love to you. I'm a first time reader, but I will be back to keep track of you. Wishing you and yours joy this year, and ever so glad that you know in your spirit that you will see Jack again some day.
Oh Anna. Please give your sister a giant squeezy hug from me, to thank her for being there for you. I absolutely love that she is able to navigate this tricky terrain with you--you need to talk about Jack, with words and without, but you also do need the distraction of a delightfully trashy magazine. I so get that.
I love you so much! You hang in there.
Your posts are eloquent testimonies to not only your feelings, but to feelings shared by so many others. Most people have felt some kind of grief in their lives, although most have not experienced the depth and breadth of the grief in losing a child. Your posts, some with few words, or no words, are powerful expressions of your overwhelming loss.
I am an aunt who lost her sweet nephew in a tragic accident earlier this year, and yet I did not know how we were going to get through our Christmas. I had wondered about your extended family. If they felt anything like we feel. While we think about our family’s loss almost every minute of every day, many people have stopped or never asked how we were doing. I do not think most people fathom how intertwined our families were or how gut wrenching it is to see a sister and her husband be so devastated. They see the “game face”… they see us working and doing our “activities”, so they may assume we are just fine. They do not realize the pain in seeing a son grieve for a cousin, who also happened to be a dear friend.
Yet, what would I ask of these people? Really, I think they are far better off not understanding the reality of our situation. If they cannot completely relate to it, it means they have been spared this pain ~ and that is a blessing.
I pray for God’s grace to let your family, and families such as ours, accept the blessings we do have as life continues for us. There will be moments of joy even though there will be a sadness forever in our hearts.
I thought about you all of last weekend... (not just the two times I let you know). And while I value the life perspective you give me every time I talk to you or read one of these tears-inducing posts, you KNOW that I would give it back in a heartbeat to make none of this be true. Love you.
I'm so glad about the tree near the bridge and for your nephew and for the footsteps accompanying Margaret's and for the Wii.
Continued prayers!!! You don't know me but I think of your family all the time. I found myself crying when I read your most recent blog....as I usually do. You have such a gift with words as I'm sure you are a gift with your family. You would think I would know you with all of the praying I do for you all. I'm glad you all made it through the holidays.
My heart hurts so very much for you as you move to a new year. I understand. A new book has been started, not just a new chapter. It's hard and it sucks so much.
I'm so happy to hear you survived your Christmas. This post was full of good mixed with the sad.
We visited with my SIL and her family a number of times over the holidays. Her little guy is six weeks older than my Hannah, and there's always a twinge when I'm with him as I remember the two of them together, thick as thieves. He's a reminder of what I'm missing and what would have been. I ADORE him and snuggle him and hold him close and he snuggles right back, but, for how much longer? He's a ten year old boy, after all. I think he senses and *knows* I need those hugs, and I think he does too. I know he misses his cousin whenever we get together as well.
I'm glad you have a little guy you too can snuggle and cuddle--even if only for a little while.
Hugs and prayers,
I loved this post. I too often wonder about some of the things that have been done for you and your family that you have appreciated most. I have often wondered what to do for those I love in hard circumstances and would love to know the most helpful and most appreciated things. I am so glad you got to have even one moment to have "Jack" in your arms. Sending many prayers and wishes of comfort and joy to all of you
I worried about your family. Your loss weighs heavily on us all. Jack is not forgotten, he is remembered by thousands of people who never met him.
So glad that you made it thru Christmas and New Year's. Have been thinking about you a lot during your special season. Going thru my scrapbook today, I saw a picture of Jack and Taylor in the VPC church choir. I think they were about 6 or so. Too cute!
Sending hugs and prayers your way for a 2012 that will bring you health, happiness and healing.
You are an amazing person. I weep for you and your tragic, horrific loss. I wish I could turn back the clock. G-d bless you.
I thought about you and your family and Jack throughout the season and am glad you made it through. I wish with all my heart that you had been able to hug your son this Christmas. Hugs to you all.
Praying for ya'll always. And sending love from someone you don't know in NC, who was thinking & praying for you even more throughout this holiday season.
I'm holding you all very close in my heart. Jack is never far from my mind. He will always be a part of us.
Anna, thank you for your post. I have thought of you and your family so much this past week. I especially thought of you when I heard the horrific story of the woman in Conn. who lost her three children and her parents in the Christmas morning fire. I found myself thinking, "Thank you God that Anna has her husband and daughter". I also thought, "What would Anna tell this woman about how to keep breathing, moving, and going on." How will she do it. I will continue to pray for you and your family.
Anna, I stumbled across your blog a couple months ago, in a completely random fashion. I have been praying for you every chance I get over the past weeks, as I can't even imagine how difficult the first "holiday season" would be to navigate. I am so thankful to hear that you are surrounded by so much love. Prayers for peace in your heart being lifted up from Missouri.
Yes, I wondered how you were doing. Thank you for this painfully beautiful post. Wishing you peace and love.
Yes, I was worried. Thank you for writing. Sending love.
Dear Stranger Sister,
I return to your blog again. I read. My throat tightens. I close my eyes. I look away. Damn.
I've asked myself why do I need to know? It hurts ME and I can offer YOU nothing, except invisible stranger-sympathy, which is on sale this time of year anyway. It's not because I need a good cry, oh no. No morbid fascination from me, no curiosity about the phantom pains of your amputation. I would hide from your horror. If only I could.
I keep coming back because it's all I can do for you. I'm just here, a nameless woman who loves your boy, who is watching your pain, praying for you, proud of you for breathing in and out. I give my ear and time to you, my very heart for you to daily break - if you must bear this great sorrow then I will hear it and so bear it with you. I grieve for Jack. I want him back against all rational thought I want a do-over.
I guess I'm just writing to tell you that. Your sorrow is yours alone, but it is not alone. You bear a woman's grief, linking you to all those who have tasted your anguish, and those who fear it.
anna, i am still praying for you and your family and wishing you all the best in this new journey of the new year. i am so happy that you are surrounded by people who love, people who care, and people who will never forget.
I prayed for you n your family much over the Holidays and I'm so glad you were able to survive. My sister knew I had been lookn for a blue bird to display in my house and guess what I got... A blue bird! and for what that bird represents to me is that Jack will never forgotten, and everytime I pass by it you and your family will be prayed for. It was my favorite gift.
I have been praying for you like crazy through the holidays. And yes, I anxiously awaited for you to let us know how you were...how Tim and Margaret and your whole family was. However, I never had a doubt that Christ would draw you especailly near during Christmas. I am so thankful to know that HE provided exactkt what you needed...and not surprised. :)
As many have written, you have changed my life. I look to my three children each day (one being a 13 yr old son), and pause to remember that that day, everyday, is to be cherished as a precious gift. But I HATE HATE HATE that you, or anyone, would have to go through this tradedy for me to be reminded.
Your last sentences of holding your sweet nephew's head in your lap brought me to tears once again. Continuing to pray for you....HUGS from Kentucky.
I just can't imagine how hard Christmas must have been without your sweet Jack...and yet you made it through. With a lot of love, no doubt. Yes, we are proud of you, dear Anna. And amazed. And touched. And encouraged. You thank us for "walking with" you; but, I want to thank YOU for sharing the journey and letting us walk beside you. And now, it's a new year...I pray 2012 brings you some joy & comfort...and the acknowledgement that Jack will be remembered. Hugs and prayers as always...
About twelve years ago, my sister (who is my best friend in the whole world) lost her daughter and I remember her telling me that I gave her something no one else gave her – acknowledgement. I guess people didn’t want to speak about it because of the uncomfortableness of it all. I can’t say I had any magic words to comfort her in that terrible time and I sure as hell couldn’t bring Madeleine back (as much as I wanted to for her) but I knew in my heart I just had to be there. To acknowledge. To talk when she needed to talk, to laugh when she needed to laugh, to pray when she needed to pray, and to cry when she needed to cry.
She made it through Anna. She is sad at times but the memories are never lost. The acknowledgement is always there that Madeleine is a part of this family and always will be.
As strange as it is for me to comprehend, I feel the same sense of friendship/sisterhood with you. I want to acknowledge and listen and just be there for you whenever you need it. I will never forget that Jack is a part of your family and always will be.
I am praying for you constantly. I cannot imagine your grief, but I pray that you will feel God at work, through Jack. Much love to you all.
I felt compelled to leave some words for you here again even though it's been a while since I commented.
I still don't know the right things to say.
But when you wrote of needing people around you who are willing to talk about Jack and work through your grief with you...that resonated with me.
Because I've always run more along the lines of the way you describe Tim: If I don't give voice to something, I won't be reminded.
But I realize (through you) that this is not the best way to address pain.
So I'm saying the wrong words again and I'm sorry.
But I'm still thinking about you.
And wanted you to know.
I can't stop thinking of you, your sweet family, and your precious angel Jack.
And I don't ever want to.
hugs - love - and continued prayers
Thought I would check your blog today at work, as I always do....and I sit here with tears rolling down my face....imagining how hard Christmas, New Years, the New Year ringing in was for you. Thought of you more than often...even my dad mentioned the other day that he was thinking of you and "Your little boy" as he called Jack. And as every night I tuck my one and only son in at night, I always give him an extra kiss for you - and Jack. Because this could happen to ANY OF US - that is the reality of this. And I so wish it wasn't your family and Jack. Just wishing and wishing and wishing, that all the prayers throughout the world can keep helping you make it through each day. I saw another rainbow on Sunday - and thought of Jack. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD - and thanks to sharing your stories with all of us, and thanks to Jack!! I think of this every day and have it posted on all mirrors in my home. God Bless and give you much strength.
Anna, I had to work at the restaurant on New Years Eve, and it didn't really bother me because since we don't have cable, we can't watch a ball drop anywhere, so I joke that New Years Eve's excitement is looking over to the right to see the stove's digital clock turn to 12. Still, I kind of hurried to get home just to be there with my family. I made it with two minutes to spare.
The commute at that time of night is about 35 minutes. I spent most of that 35 minutes thinking of you, Tim and Margaret. I prayed for you all. Because I always, though I know it's just another day, I was hurting for you all leaving this year and having to face a number that Jack didn't get to. Even typing that is so hard, for me, an outsider. The entire commute I was so horrified by what you were going through in the next half hour. I was mad that it was this way, that you had to do this. I was so mad, that even though it's just one more day, and the numbers and years mean nothing, they DO mean something. I was hating 2012 and prayed even harder for you.
I'm so thankful you have the family you do, for Tim and wonderful Margaret, and your amazing sister and your nieces and nephews. I'm so grateful that you have friends who will sit and talk and remember with you. I pray for tons of that in 2012, even though 2012 is just a stupid number.
And as I've said, for the days that you can't get in touch with anyone in person, please write to us about him. We always want to "talk" about Jack.
Praying for each of you, with such love.
My heart just still aches for you and I cry when I read your words. I'm so very sorry again and again and again for you and your family's loss.
It sounds like you had as good of a holiday season as possible but please know that I continue to pray for all of you, including your beautiful son.
My thoughts were not far from you and your family this Christmas. So glad to hear you made it through with a little joy and fun. Thank you for sharing your journey with us through your gift of writing. You are an incredible woman.
I was worried about you. I was out of town and kept checking my phone, but the service was sketchy.
I could not bring myself to post on Facebook or even smile about New Year's Eve.
There is a part of me that wanted 2011 to just be over, over, OVER. But another part of me that wanted a little bit more time... in hopes that there might be a better ending. I can put a positive spin on a few things.
But even when I look hard for all of the good... the literal loss of Jack and the figurative loss of Olivia just overwhelm me.
I put her to bed at about 9pm and followed to my own bed shortly thereafter... happy to let one year fade out and the other fade in. I woke up praying for you.
Thank you for this beautiful post.... I know that you said "everything" is different. But when I read you blogs it comforts me to read between the lines... I can tell that the real Anna is still there.
Lots of love and prayers.
just another post from a stranger, I want to tell you again that you are in my thoughts and I am walking beside you.
Oh Anna, I am just a mess reading this. As soon as I saw that first photo and went on to read your words, your powerful, moving, don't-know-how-you're-doing-this words I cried. I am blown away by you and at the same time ache for you. I don't have anything to say that would be right or even adequate, but know that I think of you and my heart goes out to you. I know I've said that before and I mean it. I really mean it.
Sending you love. This is big. This is huge--in both love and loss.
Anna we only know each others mutual friend. There appears to be Manu of them. I really wanted to approach you at Jenn's holiday swap. I didn't want to be a stalker. Have you read "blue light" or "The Year of Magical Thinking by Joann Diddiom" or The Death Of A Child: Reflections For Grieving Parents by Elaine Stillwell . Sure thousands people have recommede book bit I think Joann Diddiom is the most intelligent. You are always on our mind and I hope to one have a chance at
Our mutual friends party to spend some time with you
Your posts are breathtaking and it is so kind of you to share. We were thinking and talking about you all through the holidays and your family is in our daily thoughts and prayers. So happy (but not at all surprised) to read there are others following from the UK. You are reaching so many people and providing us all with much inspiration and faith.
What A Sister (Anonymous at January 3, 2012 5:57 AM) said. EXACTLY what she said.
Thinking of you and Jack and sending you love and thoughts and prayers all the time.
Anna I thought of you and your family and prayed for you all.I am so glad to see you post.My heart continues to ache for you and your family.And we continue to pray for you all.I pray that the coming year will be a healing one for you all.May God continue to shine his light on you and your family.
Hugs from a stranger!
What a very very beautiful boy
Your Jack could just as easily have been my Christopher and it breaks my heart that you had such a handsome, sparkling light taken out of your home way, way, way too soon. I just found your blog today. If we live in the same area as I believe we do, I remember reading of your son, but he had no name in the newspaper article I read online. I remember my heart squeezing as I read his name among those the floods claimed, realizing fully it could have been us. I am glad now I know his name. I cannot wait to meet him someday. I cannot wait to meet you someday, when your pain has been redeemed for something beyond what we can perceive...or perhaps I shall have the gift of meeting you before that day. Either way, thank you for leaning into your unfathomable pain and sharing the good, the bad and the ugly that comes from doing so. You are a woman to be admired. Jack's mama is loving him immensely by doing so...no doubt he's still so proud to be your son.
*Clarification: I recall reading of him in the newspaper, but at the time, there was no specific name.
In tears on your behalf once again. This is such a lovely post, and it warmed my heart to read about that anonymous Christmas tree and the gifts and messages left there. So glad you made it through this rough holiday season. I know there are many more "milestones" ahead of you, but please know that your story, and your son, has touched so many lives and will continue to do so. Love and prayers.
Beautiful post. Beautiful Anna. Beautiful Family. Beautiful Son. Beautiful Daughter. Beautiful images.
Thank you, Dear Anna.
Thank you, Anna. Thank you for letting us know that you guys are okay - I think about you all every day and was worried when you hadn't posted. I don't know you personally, but I just have to thank you for sharing your heart with us. Your strength and courage amaze me. I'm pretty sure if I were in your shoes I'd be in my bed and would never be able to leave it.
There is so much I want to do for you - to take your pain away. I wish there was something I could do. If I were to bump into you - would it be alright to express my sympathy to you? I don't know if our paths would ever cross, but I live in northen VA and know I would want to do the right thing for you...and that is why I'm asking. Would you prefer one of your blog readers to approach or not? Not trying to ask a weird question - I just want to do the right thing to honor you and your family.
I will continue to pray for you and your beautiful family every day.
For the tenth time, when I feel undeserving to comment....HUGS.
The very first time I came across your blog was the day you posted a picture of your beautiful Jack. There was just the picture, and I thought it was an odd post. Yet something kept bringing me back, and a few days later I realized what had happened.
Your blog brings me to tears every time... I am so scared at the randomness of the accident of the world in general. It is difficult to explain, but I hold my children tighter and closer. I look at Jack's pictures for so long, he is so beautiful, with such a light about him! I love reading about and crying over God's grace in helping your realize that your Jack is alright.
You and your Jack have made me a better mother, a better person....
Catching up with you after moving over Christmas. I thought of you and your family so much over the holidays and prayed for you often. So relieved to hear that there was laughter and joy in your home over the holidays. I really do savor the times my kids let me snuggle and run my hands through their hair and peer into their eyes for a few moments - and even more so since learning of the loss of your sweet guy.
That last line got me.
I would do the same.exact.thing. I know I would.
Thinking of you and have been throughout the holidays.
Anna, I am sitting here weeping for you, and your family. I am so, so sorry that you lost your beautiful boy. I am praying for you.
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