Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Grave Matters

I got a letter today from the cemetery. It pointed out that we are approaching the one year mark of the burial but have yet to erect a gravestone for Jack. If we do not have one by the year mark, the cemetery will place a plain flat marker there for us, for a fee.

Margaret, too, has noted that we haven't yet taken care of this detail. I'm sure to her it seems as if we just can't get our crap together to mark where Jack's ashes are buried. And getting our crap together has been difficult. I have much less energy and gumption than before. Tim is plodding along doing what he needs to do and has also been picking up my slack-- paying the bills I used to pay, cooking dinner, and making runs to he store.

But something "extra" like trying to figure out how to capture what Jack was like on a slab of granite? Has seemed like far too much for either of us. I've been telling people we are following the Jewish tradition of waiting one year, not because we are Jewish, but because I haven't been able to face it yet.

Of course I think deep down I am just morally opposed to any parent having to commemorate the spot where her child is buried, because I don't think moms should have to bury their children. Ever. So Jack's blank grave is, in a way, my silent protest.

Not that mothers haven't been doing this since the beginning of time, placing rocks or crude wooden crosses on top of tiny mounds of dirt all around the world-- if they were fortunate enough to know their chidrens' resting places. In fact, many bereaved mothers have not had the opportunity that I have. They've had to leave their children behind on a wagon trail, in a concentration camp, a jungle, or a desert, with no chance to mark or revisit the spot. I am fortunate that the cemetery is in my town, and that the small, wooden box of ashes, along with 3 tiny lego pieces, is buried right next to my mom.

When, as a teen, I used to drive her old minivan to the cemetery in the dying light, startling the deer in my headlights, I would walk over to her grave. Sometimes I would cry. Other times I would just pat the stone, look around a little, get back in her/my car, and drive away. But even at dusk, I could see that some graves were unmarked, save the little tin and plastic nameplates from the funeral parlors. Many were several years old. This must have been long before the 1-year rule was adopted. I felt sorry for those people. They seemed so neglected. I figured their families were too poor to buy a stone or had forgotten about their loved ones completely.

Now I realize that cemeteries are different for different people. My grandparents take great solace in visiting my uncle, their beloved son, at the cemetery where he is buried. They have planted lovely flowers there and made it a special place to visit.

I went to my mom's cemetery, infrequently and always alone, speaking into my soul about how hard it was to be without her.

And Jack's grave? Will eventually have some sort of stone. I want to have a place people can go to pay their respects. Where it can be what it needs to be for them. I'm thinking of seeing if a stone bench will fit, instead of a headstone, so I can continue my protest (in a small way) yet provide a place for people to sit, pray, laugh, or cry.

I'll update you when (and if) we make any progress.

But the whole process seems paralyzing and leaves me with questions:

How do you capture the sparkle in an eye? A contagious laugh? Wit? Wisdom? A pat on a sister's back? How do you show a love of logic and math coupled with words, words, and more words? An introvert? A leader? The world's softest cheek?

Can we truly convey the essence of someone who touched so many lives in 12 years, but should have had about 71 more to do it in?

No. Of course not.

I guess sometimes those little tin and plastic markers really say a lot.


Suburban Correspondent said...

No stone can do all that. No wonder you're overwhelmed by the idea. Also, there is the physical finality it conveys, once it is in place. You might not be ready for that yet.

I think a bench with an inscription is an awesome idea.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry you have to do these things, Anna. I cannot imagine your pain. I know you weren't asking for suggestions, and I hope you are not offended by one... but perhaps a carved bird? Since it means so much it feels fitting.

All my love to you, Tim and Margaret.

Gigi said...

My heart goes out to you. Prayers.

El said...

I can only imagine that words fail in a situation like this.. This may not feel right reading it- but I felt led to tell you that the right and perfect words will come to you, at the right and perfect time. Maybe in a day or yet another year- the right and perfect timing... Blessings

Ellen aka Ellie said...

I had lunch with my friend Helen today. She still mourns her daughter Victoria who died in November 2010. Vicki's ashes are waiting to be strewn in two places, so there is no letter saying how about now.

I kind of like this because it allows Vicki to be everywhere.

But I also like that Jack is in the crock of his grandma's arm and with Jesus. A bench to sit and contemplate the life FORCE of such a person seems ideal--if their can be such a thing in this situation. Perhaps there can be stepping stones around it? Lego in cement, a Yankees logo, Luke 1:37?

Oh, and on that bench, the words you typed here--in a very small font..."How do you capture..." Because in that paragraph you really did say so much. Not all of it, words can never do that, but a fitting real tribute for your young boy.

Shannon Wallace said...

My heart aches for you. I've also buried a child (he was just 7 and died in a water-related accident too). In our situation, we didn't have any choice. We had to choose his burial plot and headstone within a week of his passing. We are military and wanted him laid to rest in our home state--in order to remove the deceased from one state to another, there has to be a place of burial. I guess in a lot of ways, this made it much easier on us than it is for you all, because we didn't have time to think--we had to act, and act fast. We also had him laid to rest at a National Cemetery, and that eased a lot of our decisions because all headstones at National cemeteries are the same except for what is written on them. I wish that I could give you some help, but I do not know what to say. I shall pray for you all. May God lift your troubled heart and give you peace. Hugs :)

Debby@Just Breathe said...

I cannot imagine having to pick a marker out. I have a dear friend who lost her son, he was 12 and they had one done with his face etched on it. I do however think a bench would be very nice. I think the carved bird by anonymouse is a lovely idea. I am so sorry you have to make these decisions.

Christy said...

Oh my god Anna. I can't bear to think about this, and you're forced to deal with it. I wish I could hug you so tight and take some of this pain away. It's just so effing unfair. Love, hugs, prayers. xoxo

ella said...

My first thought was the same as Ellen's....a bench with your paragraph. That paragraph, it's perfect.

Extra hugs and prayers to you and your family as you're working through your options.

Elizabeth said...

Ever. Never. A parent should not have to bury his/her child. So not fair!

I like the idea of a bench. I have seen stones with several etched photos...a "through the years" timeline. Although the one I saw had a timeline of 43 years, unlike your handsome Jack who only had 12. Prayng for you, Tim and Margaret.

Michele said...

I'm so sorry. I've read your blog for awhile but never commented before. I felt this time I could hopefully add something. I work with our Church's Cemetery and have some experience working with families on the memorialization process. Everyone grieves differently and approaches the marker process differently. You are not alone and a great company will make the process a beautiful one and will spend alot of time with you designing it, capturing his essence. I would look for a small, family owned company with a good reputation and do a consult. Kind regards, Michele

Anonymous said...

I am so very proud of you for even being able to talk about this choice.

The desire to set a good example for Miss Margaret is understandable, but are you sure you want to define "having it together" as making such a choice without difficulty, as if it were no big deal?

Your beloved Jack was SO KIND, and he would not want his mother to suffer over this choice, especially when she is exhausted from grief. His focus would be (actually, is) on YOU.

God bless you, and I'm so sorry about the other losses mentioned in the comments, too.

Kathryn said...

I'll admit...choosing my daughter's gravestone and seeing it in place for the first time was some of my deepest pain in losing her. But I was SO glad once it was done, even if I don't visit often. It's not a place of solace for me. It's a reminder to me that she's gone. I go for my family and friends that need that place, but not often. I chose a simple pink stone with a little girl on it because she was a girl. The girl is playing with butterflies because we associated butterflies with our girl, and still do. It's nice the stone is there, but I still hate that I have to have it, and that I'm not calling out that beautiful name inscribed on it because she is here.

I love the bench idea, and the person's idea "How do you capture?" It's a very hard thing to do, but once it's done it's done. My FIL helped us with our stone, so that we wouldn't have to deal too much with it. He did it pretty much right away so that it was out of the way for us. Maybe there is a friend or family member that can help you with it...because it is one of the worst things a parent will ever have to do.

I'm just so sorry. I hate being a part of this club too. I'm coming up on 16 years, and though it's easier now and the pain is not as blinding, it still really really stinks. I would love to have her here. I pray for you when you come to my mind heart aches for you and your sweet family.

Love, Kathryn

Amanda said...

I get it . For me, I've been waiting 5 months for Daniel's to be placed. I'm nervous to see it there, but really feel it's needed. I actually hate seeing a temporary marker there. I see it as my last gift I could give him. Of course, I'd chose a million other gifts if I could, but I can't. We picked a heart for Daniel because, to me, he is my whole heart-save two spots for my other sons. Take your time; there aren't rules for this sort of thing because this sort of thing shouldn't happen. When you do chose one, I know it will be perfect.

A Speckled Trout said...

This is a heartbreaking post to read and the are surrounded by the most gentle, lovely mothers who have walked your path, know your pain and can give sound advice.

Their kindness is beyond what I'm capable of most days. It is humbling.

Marissa said...

Anna, this blog is an ongoing tribute to Jack and everything he did, does, and always will mean to you. No matter what you choose to mark that particular spot, he is not just there--he is everywhere your readers are.
But, a bench is a wonderful idea. Also, this might sound strange--but what about a birdbath? I know there are probably restrictions against that.

Anonymous said...

As I read your post I immediately pictured a bench with your paragraph written around the band that goes around the circumference of the bench. (Maybe some additional words that you and Tim and Margaret come up with as a family).

You could either have his name and dates on one side or even on the top of the bench with a small picture of a bird.

Of course, I know nothing of your pain and hope suggestions from strangers do not offend but this popped in my head and I thought it would be elegant and simple all at once.

I am so so sorry for all of your pain. Someday I will write you and tell you how much you have helped me in dealing with a completely different hurt. You actually gave me permission to deal with a sadness in my life that I was struggling to acknowledge. I thank you for that and I thank God for finding your wise words.

And by the way, whatever you decide to do will be the right thing, even though this is all so wrong.

Blessings and thank you. -- Theresa

Julia said...

Anna, you just captured him...on this blog. You captured his wit, his wisdom, his soft cheek. I know him...yet never had the privilege of meeting him.

xoxo, Julia

Lisa said...

Your words have captured the essence of what should be engraved. Perhaps there you have your answer. Love and Prayers, Prayers and love.

Katherine said...

Crying. Love you so much.

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

Sending ou love and prayers Anna!

NanaDiana said...

I don't think there is anything harder. We finally put a flat stone with a lamb lying atop my granddaughter's grave. Of course, we didn't have 12 years of memories with her yet-only a few short months. xo Diana

Chicory Blue said...

I think you just wrote the most perfect paragraph for Jack's marker.

How do you capture the sparkle in an eye? A contagious laugh? Wit? Wisdom? A pat on a sister's back? How do you show a love of logic and math coupled with words, words, and more words? An introvert? A leader? The world's softest cheek?

Can we truly convey the essence of someone who touched so many lives in 12 years, but should have had about 71 more to do it in?

It perfectly says what can't be said.


Robin Gaphni said...

Everything you said made sense to me. I'm just a year ahead of you in the grieving process and I so understand where you are coming from. We ARE Jewish, so we did have the grace of a year to sit and wait to pick out the headstone for our son, Matthew. I dreaded it, and yet it actually ended up being a beautiful tribute. I wrote about it on my blog. The stone we chose, the person who carved it, all had tremendous meaning for us. I don't visit it often, (it's too painful) but when I do I am grateful that we had the year to wait and to find the perfect stone. Sending you love. Robin
Here's the link.

Jill said...

Ugh ... just ugh! Tears and love for you as you go through this.

Stimey said...

I think the idea of a bench is beautiful and welcoming. I also think that all those things that won't fit on a headstone have a permanent place in your heart and the hearts of the people who loved him. And also the hearts of those of us who are getting to know him through you. You will find the thing that is right for your family, when it is right. And as always, it will be blanketed in your love.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

Sweet sweet, Anna...You ask how does one convey the essence of one.... I think you do that wonderfully here. I've always struggled with grave sights, they aren't full of life and the thought of someone coming to visit me buried has never been something I wanted, I used to joke that I wanted "I'm not here" on mine. Jack lives on thru your stories, you convey his essence, his short but full life has changed hundreds of lives. Your right nothing about this is fair. Prayers that you all can find peace in your decision for a headstone.

Mrs Changstein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrea said...

My mother in law is super into taking care of her parents gravesite. She waters it a lot - bringing in her own water - and has gotten to know a few "neighbors" around her parents site. She switches pots for the seasons. I love hearing her stories at the cemetary. Thinking of you!

Varda said...

As I was reading through, before I got to the end, as soon as you said "some sort of stone" I thought - s place to sit - a bench! And then I saw further down that you thought that too. Jack would have liked to give something to the people who came to visit him, and a nice place to sit would be just that. I think you should find a way to make this happen.

Also, being Jewish I have always thought that that waiting a year thing makes sense. We have a ceremony then, called and "unveiling" where people gather at the gravesite to see the stone, but mostly to come to remember together, once again, the person who has gone. with an elderly person there is often a sense of, well not quite closure but a sense of peace with the passing. Obviously with Jack, this will be never. But it is nice to honor his life and memory once again in a special way - so maybe you can borrow our tradition and have something like an unveiling when the stone goes up, a little party in the cemetery for Jack... with flying balloons, of course.

Jessie said...

I definitely can see why choosing a headstone would be difficult and I know I'd be struggling in the same situation.

I found myself intrigued by this idea and found myself wanting to narrow down the possibilities for you (just for the record, I have absolutely no vested interest in any of these benches/markers. I have been following your blog for awhile and thought it might help to see what's out there.) I found that a lot of the benches looked too 'cold' to me and many of the designs were repetitive.

But I found these (of course, you would need to check with the cemetery to see if they would allow this) (I like the bench all the way at the end of the page-- the one with the roses)

I also liked this style. It's smaller and less formal: While this is on a site that sells headstones, these are listed as 'garden benches' so I'm not sure if they could be used in a cemetery.

This place had a special section for teens/young adults which offered some unique designs. I really liked the one with color in the 1st row and I liked the one with the star.

Again, I have ni vested interest in any of these companies. I just hoped that it might be helpful to have someone else narrow down some choices. Thank you for sharing this extremely difficult journey with us. I am always struck by your ability to communicate your feelings so eloquently.

Mel said...

My heart aches for you. I find it a bit incomprehensible that they have a 1-year rule. You deserve all the time you need to figure out how, exactly, you want to honor your son.

I do have a thought about words to put onto whatever you choose to erect. You said it beautifully yourself: "How do you capture the sparkle in an eye? A contagious laugh? Wit? Wisdom? A pat on a sister's back? How do you show a love of logic and math coupled with words, words, and more words? An introvert? A leader? The world's softest cheek?"
While you may wish to add to that, I think it beautifully captures your feelings about your beautiful boy.

Jill said...

I think that something like the words you wrote would be beautiful on a marker or bench. They would sum it up beautifully:

How do you capture the sparkle in an eye? A contagious laugh? Wit? Wisdom? A pat on a sister's back? How do you show a love of logic and math coupled with words, words, and more words? An introvert? A leader? The world's softest cheek.

OSMA said...

I like your idea about continuing the silent protest because no, moms (parents) should never have to bury their children. The bench sounds perfect for those who want to pay respects to the Jack we have grown to love through his lovely mom we pray we could heal. No mom should have to make the decisions you are having to make. I'm so sorry you, and your readers who are enduring unimaginable loss too, have to carry these extra loads of pain. I wish I had more words in my brain to help you all.

Jack is so loved.


Rebecca said...

Beautifully said.

Ballentine said...

What about a Lego bench like at Legoland?! And, maybe include Jack's life verse. Praying for you and your family.

Me, My Life and I said...

I am always thinking of you. You all are in my heart and prayers every day. Love to you all.

Anonymous said...

I am Jewish and I have always found the tradition of waiting a year to place a headstone to be a beautiful tradition. It gives the grieving family time to process and provides and outlet to express their overwhelming sadness on the first anniversary of their loved one's death. At least that is what I always took from it. I agree that there is no way to sum up what Jack was to you and to the world, but you have gotten some wonderful suggestions here. I love the idea of a bench there for you to sit and be with him. and i think his life verse should be included. As a non-Christian, I wasn't familiar with this verse but I have grown to love how it expresses such an awesome concept so beautifully and elegantly. I can see what he loved it.

Becky said...

I read every post but don't always comment. But this post? I just wish I could give you the world's biggest hug. My heart breaks for you still.

Geri said...

Poignantly written, as always.

I love the bench idea, a lot.

And if you aren't ready at the year mark, and they do throw a flat stone down, even for a fee, you can always have that removed later on when you have decided how you want to commemorate where his ashes are buried.

Sending much love, and prayers.

Rachel said...

I agree - I think you already have found exactly what that beautiful bench should say:
"How do you capture the sparkle in an eye? A contagious laugh? Wit? Wisdom? A pat on a sister's back? How do you show a love of logic and math coupled with words, words, and more words? An introvert? A leader? The world's softest cheek?"

Meredith Self said...

I imagine it is especially difficult as someone so gifted with words.

And since you already know words can't possibly capture his essence, perhaps something symbolic...whatever you decide, the love you have will shine.

Maybe a bird somehow?

If you wanna chat about ideas, happy to ;isten with you.


Anna Whiston-Donaldson said...

thank you for all of these helpful suggestions. thank you for being the most compassionate, caring readers (friends!).

Gina said...

Yes, it is all just completely shitty!!!!! I remember sitting with the funeral director, in a complete utter state of shock, as he fondly remembered all of the babies he had buried with a smile on his face. Don't get me wrong he was a kind man, very compassionate, a probably a very strong relationship with God and a very different view on death than I had. But I wanted to punch him in his smiling face as we sat there. And, I recall, I had a few choice words for him as I protested even having to go through the stages of planning a funeral for my first daughter. A daughter I had prayed for, wanted, loved desperately and ached to die right along with her once she was gone. Anna, my heart heart is with you. It is hard to be pressured into decisions, whether it be a couple a days or almost a year after your child dies. BECAUSE IT JUST ISN'T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN!!!!!!!! I am praying for you and your sweet family.

fiwa said...

Someone else probably already suggested this, but can you just let the cemetery put whatever they are going to put for now, and give yourself permission to let it go for now? In time, when you are ready, I think you will know what it should say about Jack.

Wrapping you all in hugs and love.

Anonymous said...

The stone is but one piece. This blog is the best grave marker ever.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry. I am praying for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

It's such a permanent choice, which must make it that much more difficult. It's hard enough to make life's transient choices. But you'll hit upon the perfect thing, because as you know, "Nothing is impossible with God."


Kathy at kissing the frog said...

Anna, I feel you so much in this decision. Picking out Joey's headstone was so difficult for me. It was hard to find something that fit him, but wasn't cheesy and babyish. Plus my husband and I disagreed about what should be on it. Finally, I just made him do it.

It's so hard for me to visit his grave, but I feel awful if I don't. But then I feel awful when I do. It's just not as easy as it seems. Always thinking of you and sending hugs and prayers.

MeggyT said...

For comfort and guidance.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know Jack but I've been following your blog for a while and feel like I did know him just a little. When I think of him I imagine what you've written on here several times, "Rare Bird" ... that seems to capture Jack's rare and wonderful life.

Kristin said...

Would it be any easier if the stone didn't have to capture any of that and could just be what it is, a rock marking the spot where a beloved boy's ashes are buried? It seems the work of capturing and remembering who Jack was can be done elsewhere--like here--and you're already doing a really good job of it. I think the best course of action in this and most cases is: Do whatever feels easiest. Love to you.

Sharon said...

I like the idea of a bench with a bird carved on it, and maybe Jack's favorite Bible verse. There is just no possible way to capture the essence of Jack on a headstone or on a bench, but you do capture it in your love for him and on your blog. Thinking of you, praying for you, and wishing I could just make all of this go away for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Prayers for your dear Anna. I agree, those little markers say so much. There's no way to express all the wonderfulness you miss each day in stone. May God give you the idea that will bring you comfort when he knows you are ready for such a step. - Katie

The Kitchen Pixie said...

No suggestions from me. Nothing that comes from anywhere outside of you would be right. I can tell you, though, as a sibling, what it has meant to me to be able to visit my brother's grave. I make my way there anytime I'm facing a big life event, because not talking to him about it just doesn't feel right. And I bring candy or cookies or cake - something to share while we chat. Sure, it's a pretty one-sided conversation, but being there, with the Little Boy Blue grave marker that's as much him to me now as anything else, gives me a feeling of my brother's love that I don't often get anywhere else.

I know the reasons why my mother picked the stone she did - it had to be flat, per the rules of the cemetery, and they were too poor to afford anything custom, so it had to be from the one or two child-themed stones in stock. It isn't anything grand. But by reason or accident, she ensured that her nursery-rhyme-loving youngest daughter would be able to bring a little bit of who her brother was into her heart and soul any time, just by reciting the nursery rhyme.

By reason or by accident, your choice will be the right one.

S. Taylor said...

Nothing grand from me either - just continued thoughts and prayers.
I am a big reader and today as I filtered thru my google reader I read your post...then hopped on to the houzz posts I was behind on.
This was the link it took me to: I find that the art piece really reminds me of you and Jack...and legos... (which is sort of silly saying since we have never met or spoken). I have followed your blog since just a few days after the accident.
Anyway - I hope the link will make you smile and give you a warm lego style hug!

-Still praying in Michigan!

joyfulchallenge said...

Hugs to you. The whole selecting the stone was somewhat of a fog for me. I was on auto-pilot, which is mostly how I've felt this whole process. But, it came together and, as much as a stone can hold, it did capture a lot of our special boy. I've never found solace there either though. I go, I clean, I leave flowers, but he is not there. Praying for you....

Michelle H. said...

Oh Anna...I'm so sorry you have to face this. Maybe once it's done you'll find it's been cathartic in some way to have decided on something. You won't capture everything, but you'll decide on something that is representative. Maybe with Jack's favorite passage, or a picture of a bird etched in? I love the bench idea, too. You can do it... Thinking of you.

spedhead said...

A daunting task. A stone bench with a bronze bird perched on the edge? Whatever you decide to do will be the right choice for you. As others have said he is not there. You memorialize him so well with your words which is much more meaningful than a grave marker could ever be.

Cynthia said...

Oh that cheek, I wish I could kiss that soft little cheek.

Leire said...

I have no idea what it could be....
If I only had one minute to let someone know I would try to sparkle their curiosity and lead them somewhere where they could find much more.

And I like the Lego stuff...

Maybe Margaret knows best, her feelings and thoughts are attention to what she says?...

Whatever you do, it will be fine...all my love to your family

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna-I don't think I have ever written before. I started reading your blog about a month ago. I think about you all the time. I lift you and your family up in prayer. Sometimes I have to stop reading because it is too painful. You're experiencing what just the thought of what you are going through brings me to my knees. Thanks for writing this blog and sharing those really hard things. It matters. I know you are helping others who have experienced the same lose. I know you are helping those who haven't. I think you are building up the Kingdom of God right here on earth. You are doing a beautiful thing. I wish you peace. I wish you joy. I wish you blessings. Much love from a total stranger, Karen Memphis, TN

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna-I don't think I have ever written before. I started reading your blog about a month ago. I think about you all the time. I lift you and your family up in prayer. Sometimes I have to stop reading because it is too painful. You're experiencing what just the thought of what you are going through brings me to my knees. Thanks for writing this blog and sharing those really hard things. It matters. I know you are helping others who have experienced the same lose. I know you are helping those who haven't. I think you are building up the Kingdom of God right here on earth. You are doing a beautiful thing. I wish you peace. I wish you joy. I wish you blessings. Much love from a total stranger, Karen Memphis, TN

Princess Kate said...

I keep reading this entry trying to come up with something profound and helpful to write and NOTHING. All I got is that this is totally shitty.

Just know that I'm here, I care and I will always be praying for you.

SanH said...

I know hat it should have a blue bird of some sort, other than that I really don't know.
Praying that you get the answer soon enough

Anonymous said...

yes, a bench, and maybe a bench made out of cedar or teak or cypress -- stone is just so somber -- and though teak/cypress/cedar does eventually decay (unlike stone), it also is livelier and it does not try to be permanent which, of course, is not possible.

whatever you choose will be perfect, but choose it in your own time -- not the cemetery's time.

macmac524 said...

Many times these past months I've wondered what I would do in your situation. I think about you driving over the bridge where Jack was found. Could I do it? Would I want to move far away from the sad reminders, or stay where the fondest memories of my child were made? Most all your posts stay with me for some time and think of things I've never considered. Like a headstone... why, why, why should this EVER have to be part of a mother's thought process? Jack's death is so unfair. It feels somewhat trite saying how often I think and pray for you all. I wish I could do more.

Mandy said...

Have you thought about putting a geocache out in honor of Jack?

Mimi said...

I can't imagine how painstakingly hard this is for you. I had a hard time finding the words to engrave on my grandfather's headstone. He was military so I didn't have a lot of room. He was a HUGE lover of birds, and eventually I settled on I will fly away. It didn't capture all of him, but I knew he had flown home.

I will continue to pray for you. Sam still doesn't sleep through the night, so rest assured, you are being well prayed over at odd hours of the night. It might be a Jack conspiracy ;)

Anonymous said...

a bench is a lovely idea Anna. Jack's life verse must go on it. perhaps a poem?

we wanted you more
than you will ever know,
so we sent love to follow
whereever you go.

it broke our hearts to lose you
our precious, brown eyed dove
but our love will continue to find you
as you watch us from above

a piece of us went with you
you did not go alone
our family is forever Jack
it will follow you home

Anonymous said...

Dee from Tennessee

My brother's marker had to be flat also -rules, ya know. My brother -my only sibling- ALWAYS signed any note, card (and there a millions notes from because of my mother's hearing impairment, Love, #! Son. (Of course, he was the ONLY son.....sweet little joke btw them.) She had that inscription engraved on his marker "Love, #! son" and music was his passion I asked her to include some musical notes scattered around on it.

The night my brother passed away from brain cancer, hospice at left, they had come for his body, the three of us - my mother, my husband and myself, locked the doors, got in the car - and in a small voice from the back seat my 75 yr old mother said, "I've already been to the funeral home and I've got everything picked out. But you'll need to pick the music..." I had zero idea that she had already done that. I would have went with her - but my mother knows she is a stronger woman than I am.

The right words will come -you'll KNOW in your heart of hearts. I am just so sorry. No mother should have to do this.

Mandy said...

I often read your posts and leave without commenting, simply because my words seem so ineffectual in the face of your profound grief.

This post brought back a childhood memory - my mum was an avid geneologist and many a sunny afternoon was spent in an ancient graveyard searching out relatives from centuries past. I used to love tracing my fingers across the worn (often illegible) stone letters, it gave me a deep sense of timelessness and peace. That people are loved and precious throughout the ages, of the agelessness and unchanging character of God. For me, the gravestones that said the least spoke the loudest, leaving me with a sense of the enormity of their loss. A loss that, indeed, cannot be expressed in a few words.

All my love and prayers for you in this incredibly hard decision.

Heidi said...

Anna, I love the idea of a bench. It's so fitting for Jack and for who you are as a family. And you've got to add something with a little Lego...
I've been catching up on your posts today. Ahem, Margaret is right. Potty talk is the universal language.
I'm sorry about the storms - what a horrible reminder and now it holds a different meaning for you. When I drive by a massive car crash or hear about a road closure to a death on the highway I say a prayer. It never fails to hit close to home.
"The world's softest cheek"...I was just telling Ben that this morning. So, when I read this I gasped and cried. Each time I press my cheek to Ben's I will think of your Jack.
I love you, Anna.

Loukia said...

Well damn it.

You just cannot capture all he is and was. I like the idea of a bench. I like a simple wooden cross, or something else simple and plain. I can't truly imagine how hard this must be.

Shell Flower said...

"So Jack's blank grave is, in a way, my silent protest."

Such a powerful statement.Again, so sorry you have to make these kinds of choices.I like the bench idea, perhaps it could be carved to look as if it was made of legos? OR you could make one out of real legos. That would be pretty awesome.

Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

if anyone can find the right words - it's you. even though its impossible to capture and convey who he was/is, what we all lost and how much he is missed-- whatever you end up with will be just right. i often think about the remarkable Rare Bird poem your friend wrote -- which expressed so much, in such a beautiful way. Thinking of you and praying for you. And I will do my part and buy some jewelry. How nice that something like that can be used to help others in need -- brilliant idea! sending you, JACK, tim and margaret prayers and love.

Michelle DeRusha said...

Loving you, praying for you (does it get old that I always say the same thing?).

To shake things up, I'll add that I loved the Taco drive-thru post - that one made me laugh. You have such a natural writing voice - you could write a book, you know (not that it's a top priority right now, or ever, but just saying).

Kim Elkins said...

I think your last few thoughts would be a great tribute to him. He was too great to sum up in a could say just that :)

Anonymous said...

This may sound like a crazy and/or tacky idea, but I recently read about QR codes being placed on grave stones - you scan it with your phone and are taken to a web site. The code could take a passer by or visitor to a page with information about Jack, about his passions, his family, his all too short but so very full life, it could feature a slide show of him, some of your blog posts, or a link to samaritan's purse... QR codes are definitely not attractive to look at, but it could be placed on the side of the stone, or a leg of the bench - somewhere visible but not obvious, you would always have the ability to change the information on the page - the code may be set in stone, but the content isn't.

Anna, I'm constantly thinking about you and Jack and Tim and Margaret even though I'm a stranger. Your words have done so much for the memory of Jack, be assured that the gravestone is NOT the definite summation of him - it couldn't be, not when he's so deeply ingrained in your hearts, your memory, your community, and your readers.


Steve Martin said...

I could not imagine the pain that you have for the loss of your son.


I remember the story of a Lutheran pastor who had (in advance) decided that his gravestone should read (under his name) "He's not here".

He lives in your heart and in Heaven with the one who created him and who has promised to dry every tear for him and for you and the family.

Lisa said...

I love the idea of a bench. It would be a great memorial. Sending prayers your always.

Anonymous said...

All I put was a prayer. Under the usual it says, "God keep her safe till we all come home." That little pink stone can't possibly hold all she meant to us or all the potential lost. But, I did my best.

Anonymous said...

On our 18 mo old son's marker, we put the last words we spoke to him before the casket was sealed -- I kissed his cheek and we told him he was such a good boy.

Marinka said...

I have no words. Just so much love for you all.

Bon said...

moved, by your protest. by your words describing him.

it took us six years to scatter our newborn's ashes, at first because of the insufficiency of it you describe. then simply because we got used to having them with us. but on what would have been his sixth birthday, we finally found the right thing for us...or the right thing by then. perhaps it took that long to come truly to terms with the fact that the real right thing - him being there with us - would not come to pass.

you honour your son with your words. you let us know him, and your love for him shines through. that matters more than any stone.

Amanda said...

I cannot know what it is to stand in your shoes, but the unfairness and impossibility still bellows.

My mama heart aches for you and those 71 years that should have been.

Mellow said...

This one was hard for us as well. I understand the protest. When it was put in finally, we all travelled there to see it, and celebrate his life...we released balloons that day for him. I guess we just make the best of a crappy situation and keep putting one foot in front of the other, whether we want to or not. No other way around it, it totally sucks.

Thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

no stone will ever suffice, in the end it doesn't matter if a masoleum is built. Jack is in your hearts and will never be forgotten.
God bless him and your family.

the mama bird diaries said...

Lots of love and prayers. Whatever you decide, whenever you decide will be exactly right.

Jennifer Dempsey said...

I well understand your silent protest and actually chose to avoid the gravesite issue altogether. The number one item on Nick's bucket list was jumping out of an airplane, so we took his ashes up in a private plane and released them over a beautiful lake near our home. As they were swirling in the wind, we recited these words by poet Mary Frye:

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die."

I like the idea that Nick isn't anywhere, in any one particular location. He's everywhere.

If we had chosen to bury his ashes, however, I probably would have just picked out a simple, elegant marker with his name, birth and death dates and maybe the words, "Beloved Son and Brother".

I rarely would have visited him there.

Children don't belong in cemeteries.

Instead, when I wanted to feel close to him, I would have gone to the park where we visit him now.

A beautiful tree was dedicated in Nick's honor a few months ago at the local park where Nick performed many hours of volunteer work. A dedication plaque at the base of "Nick's" tree is inscribed with this quote by Red Skelton:

"If by chance some day you're not feeling well and you should remember some silly thing I've said or done and it brings back a smile to your face or a chuckle to your heart, then my purpose as your clown has been fulfilled."

Friends tell me they "feel" Nick there and keep an eye out for butterflies when they visit. (We released butterflies at the tree's dedication ceremony.) Nick's tree is right next to the park's playground, so its branches continually echo the sound of children's laughter. It is a place of life and happiness, not death. I am more at peace visiting him there than I ever could be at his graveside.

I am so very sorry that you are facing this difficult and heartbreaking task! Mothers should never have to face these sort of decisions! I will pray that you are led to remember Jack in a way that honors the beautiful life he lived and brings peace and comfort to all who loved him.

Much love to you!

Anonymous said...


I thought of you this morning during the reflection at my yoga class. It was about the resilience of the human heart. My heart goes out to you. May you find peace in some part of today.


Caddie said...

My brother passed away when he was 12. His marker has a poem by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson - "The Going" - we thought it captured him/how we felt perfectly...
"He's gone.
I do not understand,
I only know
That as he turned to go
And waved his hand,
In his young eyes a sudden glory shone
And I was dazzled by a sunset glow,
And he was gone."

msdoctoru said...

Hi Anna,
Thought this woman's blog post might lend insight. I have sent her to your blog, too.
Love, Lori

Fairy Godmother said...

You have every reason to be overwhelmed. Sending you love!

Anonymous said...

I haven't read everyone else's comments but how about this:

"Here rests our rare bird."

I think it calmly conveys everything you know and love about your boy.

Unknown said...

My comment is, in no way, going to capture the lump I have in my throat, and the horrible pit in my stomach for what you're going through. But ...

I know of a woman who died from breast cancer very young, had recently married, and her tombstone reads (at her wish) "Our light and momentary troubles ..."

Perhaps Jack's could read, "With God, all things are possible" ...

Love you.

Alexandra said...

Oh, a bench.

A bench, Anna.

A bench.

Kim @ A Brush of Whimsy said...

Thinking of you...

mom-of-four said...

On top of the bench could be tiny square tiles made by the folks who loved him, a tribute and a reminder of who he was, and is to you, and not just blank stone....I am so sorry for your loss. I can't imagine. It is my greatest fear. But you express yourself with Grace and beauty. Thank you for sharing that with us all.

IrishRN07 said...

Hi Anna,
I stopped by Jack's grave this morning on my walk and said a quick prayer.
As I was walking away, a thought came to me sort of out of the blue. It's a lyric, I think from a song in Les Miserable: "A heart full of love". Kind of random, but I thought I'd share, as I'm sure your heart will always remain full of love for Jack.

Susan said...

I'm playing catch up after over a month away.
I cannot imagine how difficult this would be. Just can't. I hope a bench fits...that would be just beautiful.

WorkingMom said...

"Where the stars meet the sea,
That's where I'll be."

That's the saying on our gravestone. The one I ordered eight weeks after we buried Jimmy. From a lovely older woman who hugged me until my sobs stopped, the tears that started when she asked if she could help me.

I don't know the pain of losing a child I loved for 12 years. I only know the loss of our "what ifs", the ache of knowing before the doctor looked up from the u/s machine that our 29-week-old pregnancy was going no further, and a year later, of a miscarriage at 9 weeks, another loss of hope, on, ironically, Jimmy's due date.

And all I can say is I am truly so sorry for your loss. The loss of a child is truly a pain no one should ever have to experience.