Friday, March 21, 2014

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

In the dark theater, made darker by the wood paneling and Elizabethan flourishes, I prayed. Hard. I didn’t care about anyone seeing me, eyes closed, hands clenched tightly, lips moving quickly and noiselessly. What mom wouldn't understand my praying right now?
Jack’s class was about to take the stage at the Folger Shakespeare Library to perform an abridged version on Macbeth. Jack, who had just turned twelve, was playing Macbeth. It was almost more than my nerves could take.  “Please don’t let him forget his lines. Help him not to be frozen like a deer in the headlights and then run weeping from the stage. Help him!”

 When Jack confided the night before during snuggle time that he was afraid of getting up on that stage, I dished out my regular fare. “Your nervousness just means you care about how it goes. That’s adrenaline. It will help you focus and do well. That’s always how it works with me,” said the woman who had never, ever graced a stage unless you counted delivering one line as Tiny Tim in a church basement production of A Christmas Carol “God Bless Us Everyone.” Indeed.
“God, please bless Jack. Now!”

The spotlights turned on. Jack hit every line and nailed his entrances and exits. He even had to go with a change of plans when time was short and change from one shirt to another on stage versus offstage.
Acting was Jack’s sweet spot.
Even though in conversation he spoke so quickly he was sometimes hard to understand, in acting he enunciated clearly. When I’d pick him up from school or a sporting event I’d find my mother heart asking, “How did it go?" but really meaning, "Was it a disaster?” but when I’d pick him up from theater camps, it was like picking up a mini rock star. “Hey Jack’s mom! Jack rocks!” counselors would yell across the parking lot.

We didn’t record the whole play, but Tim did turn on his phone to capture this famous soliloquy:

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

Act 5, scene 5, 19-28

It guess it was Shakespeare’s version of our 1980’s mantra, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” It’s tough to watch any movies with Jack in them, but even more so as he delivers such a depressing indictment of our short, meaningless lives, only 3 months before his accident.

I have the hope of heaven, and like many bereaved moms, I operate with one foot here and one foot there. Death holds no sting or fear for me at all anymore.
But what about now? But what about the in between time, when I'm charged with continuing on, with living? Did Macbeth get it all wrong? Is there meaning in this life? Is there vitality and spirituality and significance right here? Right now?
I believe there is. Our lives may be short, but they are not meaningless. I don't  know what I plan on doing with the rest of my days, but I know I don't want to just strut and fret my hour on the stage. And I'm guessing watching reality tv and eating ice cream, which are my current past-times, are not quite the meaning and significance I'm thinking of...
What about you?
What are you doing with your awesome, hard, significant hour?


Sybil@PeaceitallTogether said...

The way you describe Jack on stage is exactly the way my daughter just seems natural for her, which I something I still do not understand. But, I am learning that God may have more "stage time" for me too. It is scary and it is hard, but God is asking me to do it, so I must say yes. To be significant, to bring God glory, that should be my one goal. But, when life and death get in the way, it is hard. Your message here, it is significant. Telling the world about Jack...I think God loves that!

Unknown said...

Well, that's an awesome, hard, significant question! I think I'm just doing my best to figure it out as I go along? This is a beautiful post and I wish I had gotten to see Jack perform. xoxo

Unknown said...

what do you think he's doing right now? At this exact moment? I wonder what heaven is like. Have you ever read "Heaven is for real?" That book amazed me! It gave me a picture of what it is like there. What a wonderful day it will be wandering the streets up there. I look forward to meeting your gorgeous son, you are certainly allowing the world to get to know this amazing young man. Thank you.

Momobug said...

He was beautiful, and was put here to teach you & us that life is beautiful! Keep strong in the Lord.

Suzanne said...

I've been following your blog for a while now, and I want you to know that the passing of Jack has changed the way I parent - I look at my children differently, I spend time with them differently, I love them intensely. I think of you and your family often, and I hope you know that your son's life has impacted so many of us. I continue to pray for you.

Gray said...

As a fellow bereaved mom, I am also watching too many housewife shows, playing too much solitaire, and trying here and there, in between, to figure out how I am going to transcend loss, like my book advises, and make meaning out of his death.
My son was a Shakespeare fan, and was in the Shakespeare club in high school, where he, too, played MacBeth.
You are not alone girl.
PS - Had my roots done last week.
Gray Maher

Paula said...

As usual, you and your writing are touching, inspirational, meaningful, and insightful. Sometimes reality TV and ice cream are as necessary as thoughts, words, and actions filled with "vitality and spirituality and significance." As you know, balance and moderation works best. God Bless you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Anna you and Jack are always in my prayers

Unknown said...

I love learning about Jack through what you post, since I didn't get to meet him when he was here. This was beautiful, Anna. I think often about how life is so short, that time goes by so fast, and it's a struggle to enjoy the sweet moments. But since I'm becoming more and more aware of these truths, I think I'm doing a better job of making the most of these days we have. Loved this and seeing Jack as such a handsome, successful actor.

GrahamForeverInMyHeart said...

It's certainly very difficult to find meaning when the person who gave your life meaning is gone. I agree that we need to value and appreciate every moment we have, but maybe the early years after the death of a child are so disorienting that just surviving is an accomplishment.

We used this quote from Shakespeare's Tempest on a plaque in my son's memorial garden "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep." Not quite as depressing as the scene you quoted from Macbeth.

Magoop said...

Dear Anna-- I just wanted to let you know that what you are doing here is changing perspectives and changing lives. That you share your journey with us means a lot and has definitely had an impact on *my* family and I imagine on a lot of others as well. So keep fighting the good fight and delivering your lines-- and thank you. <3

Kir said...

oh Anna. I needed this today, so much for so many different reasons.

I am struggling with loss right now, not nearly as deep as yours but loss just the same. I am reveling in the fact that Jacob will start a Drama Camp/Class tomorrow, my butterflies much larger than his I'm sure.

I read your words and felt every word with you. Loss and Light, sons and brothers, today and tomorrow.

thank you for sharing these beautiful words. You are on and in my heart today.

Patty said...

You are a strong woman!

Leigh Ann said...

Hits home. xo

IrishRN07 said...

You had me laughing out loud and wiping away tears in a matter of 30 seconds. Your gift for writing definitely counts as a meaningful way to spend at least part of your days! As for me, I'm working on my own little project, a son due in August. I hope and pray I will be half the mother to him as you are still to Jack and Margaret. xoxo

Greta @gfunkified said...

Oof. I always get the nerves and tears when my kids perform something, and when I was younger (and even now, if it happened), I felt the same way watching my mom sing in church. But now, for you, what a strange soliloquey to look back on. It must be one heck of a mixture of pride and grief and I don't know...irony?

Jennifer said...

Grief is so very hard, and it is so very easy to give in to it. This is a good reminder to stop giving in and to fight for all the moments we still have left.

Unknown said...

So beautiful.

Kiri said...

I am guessing it is this blog, and now your book, that bring comfort to others that are the meaning for you. For me it's The Angel Zoe Kindness Project, which focuses me on the meaning behind every day interactions, and also my involvement with some childhood cancer charities and organisations which I hope bring some light and encouragement to others.

Jenni said...

Sometimes I lay in bed at night and tears will fall from my eyes. My mind will race and I will start thinking about how I would go on without my only child.

This post really spoke to me.

Must remember happy times, and make every moment count.

Love and a huge hug to you, sweet mother.

julie gardner said...


I have read your blog for a while now (and have commented anonymously a couple of times) but refrained from introducing myself until now.

Your name is in my feed regularly and we read some of the same blogs. When I see your comments elsewhere, I always think, "Wow. She is wonderful."

I'm not going to list the many reasons why this post tipped the scales and impelled me to officially say Hi.

But I'll stick with this: It was just what I needed to read.
Right now.

So I'm introducing myself, for the record.

Hi. I'm Julie.
Thanks for writing this.
You are wonderful.

Rach said...

Probably nothing as worthwhile and worthy as I could be.

Food for thought...

(Love the photos of your darling boy! What a charmer.)

Arnebya said...

I'm doing too much stuff I don't want to be/shouldn't be doing. But I want to change that. Thank you for these glimpses into Jack and allowing us to continue to learn from him and be prompted to ask questions about our lives and existence because of his life.

Holly said...

You are so brave and such a wonderful writer. I imagine that Jack is looking down from heaven and is so proud of you.

Kris said...

I think your writing is very meaningful. It has helped me to appreciate my children in a new way. The way you so vividly describe Jack and who he really was as a person has made me look beyond the daily grind of homework, messy rooms, sibling rivalry and really see my children for who they are. Thank you for that.

Unknown said...

Your description of having one foot here on earth and one foot in heaven gives me insight into how you deal with your grief, Anna.

I know it probably sounds cliche, but thank you for the reminder to cherish our days, fleeting as they may be.


Jen said...

I appreciate your words, sharing and honesty. I feel God is challenging me to do hard stuff. Stuff I would have probably never thought of, or done before Blake died. Been prayerfully lifting it to God.
I think about what Jack and Blake are doing up in Heaven. I am thankful when we get glimpses of Heaven right here in this big world.
I continue to keep you in prayer. Asking God to give you that awesome peace that passes all understanding, laughter & comfort in the unbearable moments. I also lift prayers of thanksgivings for you, as you inspire & encourage me. Much love, Jen

Ann Imig said...

That speech has a new meaning for me. Thank you.

He's gorgeous. Sending love.

Anonymous said...

This is one of your very best.......laughing and crying and thinking very hard. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

This is one of your very best, it made me laugh hard, cry hard, and think even harder. Thank you

Alison said...

This post is the one I will go back to again, and again, should life and its inevitable disappointments and challenges, pushes me down. Thank you for the reminder that there is meaning to be found, even when it doesn't look like it.

Thank you too, for sharing Jack with us. It is an honor and privilege. xoxo

Katie said...

My students and I just finished Macbeth not too long ago. We spent three days on this speech. I knew, when we read it, I had students who had a past with suicidal thoughts and actions. We had some amazing conversation about Macbeth and his own attitude, but also about that "hour on a stage". In fact, it's such a coincidence (except I don't believe in coincidences) that you post this because I was outlining a new writing project for the macbeth unit for next year based on that speech. Maybe I will give you (and Jack) a nod and name it Your Hour on The Stage. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that Tim turned on his phone to catch that soliloquy. Of course no one is perfect, but he sounds very loving and present as a father.

I feel it's not my story to tell, but it's been about a year since a loved one had a very serious illness, and while it turned out to be a best-case scenario, that was by no means certain, for some time. It was frightening and very worrying, and your example of strength and courage, in a completely different situation, for which there's no comparison, was very helpful to me, as I was taking it one day at a time. I hope I would have been there, no matter what, but I just think reading your blog helped me, overall, to be there, to send the cards and make the calls, without feeling like I had to say anything profound, just asking simple questions about how they were feeling, but not expecting them to respond in any particular way, and I appreciate that very much.

Alexandra said...

I am lucky to know you That's the most important thing I can say for me. I am lucky to know you, Anna.

Unknown said...

Such a beautiful post, Anna. I know this will stay with me.

Unknown said...

First: treats and watching TV - something that is just needed to balance life and all that comes with it. That's my opinion.;)

Second: I loved this post. The depth, humor, loss...the beauty of it, of you, of Jack. Thank you for this.

Unknown said...

This hurts so much - to see a glimpse of this truly beautiful soul excelling at something, and yet he's not here to do it anymore. It's a comforting relief to know this is not the end or despair could very well set in.

But I can't answer your question yet because I've been going in the wrong direction. I've been trying to accomplish something with my own force - using my time here well - when the only thing that truly matters is how I spend my time developing my relationship with God.

I'll let you know how that's going.

DonnaLinn said...

I believe that there is meaning in our lives. But I am struggling to find that right now. I want my life to mean something...for me...for my son. Instead I find myself falling back into things that seem to be "frivolous" but I don't know what else to do. So I pray that God shows me how to have a live with meaning. Thank you for putting into words what I struggle to. :-)

Margaret E. said...

A lovely post.
I carry your Jack in my heart, even though I did not know him on this earth. I hold your Margaret there too.

Do you know this poem by Mary Oliver? I thought of you

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-- the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Thanks for your writing. I am looking forward to "Rare Bird"

Margaret E

Debby@Just Breathe said...

I love your posts and this one is so beautiful. Each time you share Jack with me I can't help but picture him doing these things in Heaven and keeping everyone entertained. You give me so much encouragement to move forward. I have not walked in your shoes but my shoes are heavy because my daughter has issues that are difficult for me. I continue to push forward through your words.

Unknown said...

Somehow, without knowing him, I miss Jack. I cannot wait to meet him one day

Anonymous said...

I think -- though I'm not sure -- that Shakespeare was speaking to the pointless nature of all the strutting and fretting. We all do it, yet it signifies nothing. I have always assumed that he meant "life as viewed by such shallow people as the MacBeths" is pointless.

But that his more revealed sentiment is from Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

The Macbeths were like the Kardashians but meaner (I think).


Anonymous said...

Beautiful, Anna. I think the part where you say;
"I have the hope of heaven, and like many bereaved moms, I operate with one foot here and one foot there. Death holds no sting or fear for me at all anymore" has made me realize THAT is exactly how my husband operates. He lost his daughter 24 yrs ago, he looks forward to Heaven, and lives life on Earth in a way that he can be sure he will get to Heaven to see her again. This post was SO profound and Jack and his sweet Mother do great things and help many people. Love to you.

Anonymous said...

God Bless you Jack and the Donaldson family

Anonymous said...

Jack's life has such beauty, grace, and...power. Through you, he continues to shine forth and offer those of us who read about his life through you (and, of course, all who knew him directly)something lovely and enriching for our own lives and how we embrace our kids. Thank you so much for that.

Andrea Mowery said...

This is so very beautiful, Anna. I'm so glad that you continue to learn from Jack. We all have so much to learn from our kids, even when we don't realize it at the moment.

Betty said...

I just stumbled across your site and have to say that you are such a beautiful writer! I am so sorry for what you have gone through. I love the point you make about death holding no sting, that you actually look forward to it. I can relate after losing my father and two of my very best friends. I recently read a great book by Joe Laws titled, "Held By The Hand Of God: Why Am I Alive" One thing I learned by reading this book and other books I have read on NDEs, is that our loved ones are happy and that we will see them again. It gives me such joy knowing this!

Unknown said...

What will my part be? I think of this daily. I often fail to see how my hurrying to get it all done is helpful to anyone. I have no answers but it's only in the moment where I am truly present do I add any value to anyone. And so I strive for a piece of that each day.

Bridget McCarthy said...

"I have the hope of heaven, and like many bereaved moms, I operate with one foot here and one foot there. Death holds no sting or fear for me at all anymore."

Nailed it.

A Speckled Trout said...

Every time you post I think, "Oh, that has to be my favorite," until the next and the next and the next.

You have the loveliest way with words.

The Newmans said...

The hope of heaven...yes, perfect words to describe the feeling of waiting to see my sweet boy's face. I always seem to find one of your posts at a perfect time. I can only continue to pray I can figure out what my "destiny" in our short time here is supposed to be. Will be thinking of your beautiful Jack.

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

Anna, I don't comment often, but just have to say your blog always makes me cry, laugh, and think. This post was no exception! (Laughed out loud about Shakespeare's version of "Life's a bitch and then you die." Ha.) Thanks! xo said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of your beautiful boy. Thank you for your question. I will be thinking hard about it.

Unknown said...

Your posts are inspiring! Altou i dont know you n you dont know me i feel connected to you and following your blogs it seems as if i do.. You are

Unknown said...

Ypu are a wonderful mom n i enjoy ur posts. Think n pray for you often. Much love to u all! We are on a journey n one foot n heaven n one here is a very good way t word it!