Often, I have the nightly news on to fill the quite corners of a lonely apartment, and everyday I listen to the audio version of the New York Times as I ride the bus to work. I try to stay informed, and sometimes a story causes me to pause sautéing dinner and listen, before returning to my stirring.
I’m sad to say I don’t remember this particular disaster, when four were killed in DC’s flash floods on September 8, 2011. But for the last 48 hours, I have sat in my apartment on this cold and windy weekend, reading about just that in a mother’s blog. With no dramatization intended, it changed me.
Anna Donaldson, a young mom that looks like she would be a friend of mine, once wrote her blog about her family’s happenings, her thrift store finds and her holiday traditions. Six months ago, on September 8, her blog posts changed when the unthinkable happened: her amazing 12 year-old boy was swept away by stormy weather while in a neighbor’s yard. For the last two days, I’ve read about her grief, her strength, and most importantly, about this little boy’s life. For two days, I’ve sat here, my heart split wide open, and I cannot stop weeping.
I didn’t know Jack, but the force of his life and what he teaches in his death has moved me more than I can say. Similarly to how his neighbors wrapped blue ribbons around their trees, today I purchased a blue swatch of ribbon, that now sits on my nightstand – an homage to all that he, and his amazingly strong family, have taught me about the power of faith and the daily struggle to move forward.
As I read her posts, I stopped and re-read my own on this blog. What was I doing on September 8? I sat in a dog park, stressing out about my move out here and my jobless-ness. And in DC, there was a family experiencing their first night of Jackless-ness. On Tuesday, Oct 4, while she had the courage three weeks after her son’s death to write about the accident, I was hesitantly giving up my NYC apartment. The day she was brought to fetal position in WalMart when she saw her son’s favorite foods and instinctively reached for four plates for her now table of three, I was hopping a flight back to San Francisco with terror, optimism, and a temporary key to an even more temporary home.
I thought I was experiencing grief and a shattering of faith these past two months. And while I shouldn’t dismiss my own, there will never be a time when we can understand why tragedies of this magnitude happen to people, why innocent life is so violently taken. Because there are no right answers. As Jack’s aunt put it, “I don’t believe God caused this to happen, but I believe He can redeem it.”
So I wanted to say something to Jack.
Jack…Thank you for making my heart grow bigger…For showing me what profound faith and integrity look like, even at such a young age….For reminding me that I’m a very lucky girl with a lot of love in my life…For the inspiration to live a better life, one full of kindness, honesty, and value…For the reminder that everyday is a gift, and that true love doesn’t hurt…For teaching me your favorite Bible verse: “Nothing is Impossible with God.”
Your mom wrote it best: He was creative, smart, loving, and deep. He made us proud. He made us laugh with his silly quirkiness. With his strong moral code, he made us strive to be better, more faithful people. And now, somehow, he is still doing those things, but on a grander scale, far beyond just our family and our little cul de sac.
Thank you, Jack, for all the gifts you’ve given me today, on what would be your 13th birthday.
Happy Birthday, dear Jack.