Friday, June 14, 2013

Sifting and Sorting

We have been doing house stuff-- purging and rearranging rooms-- as we strategize the next steps for our family.

I took it upon myself to take apart Jack's room. It was my choice, yet it was still unbelievably difficult. I do not recommend doing this before it's absolutely necessary. And for some, it could be fine to leave things exactly where they are forever. When my mom died, I took 10 years before I was ready, and I resented anyone telling me I should do it sooner. It was their problem, trying to control my actions and responses, not mine.

As you know, our family motto is, "The best things in life aren't things," and as I moved Jack's things and boxed many of them up, I wept, not over the objects, but over the hands that had arranged them just so. A Lego creation is just a Lego creation when I've moved it to a box, whereas when it's set up on a shelf, in a funny little tableau that tells a story, it's part of Jack.

I moved the new school shoes that had been waiting by his bedroom door, yet never got worn. They look so small now, even though they were slightly too large for him when I bought them. His friend Cortland came over to help me carry boxes. He knew how much Jack treasured his Legos, and he handled them with reverence and care. When I looked down and saw Cortland's enormous man-feet I bit the inside of my cheek to try to keep from crying. It didn't work.

I packed scout and baseball uniforms and butter-soft t-shirts, rubbing the fabric between my fingers, lifting them to my face in a futile attempt to catch a scent now long gone.

I found all his baby clothes and the baby calendar where I'd proudly written down when he said his first word, "Bird," at barely 7 months old. And I sifted through school work, which he'd kept neatly in a plastic tub, every single stitch of it, preschool through 6th grade. Every paper, every project, every doodle.

There was a lot of yearning, remembering, and loving as I did this. As I allowed myself many trips to the recycling bin for the things I didn't end up saving. I leaned over the trashcan-- full of notebooks, and binders and papers and things my son no longer needed-- and  the heavy lid came crashing down on my cheek. Tears sprang up again as a pink welt formed. Really? Really?

I made a ton of progress last Thursday, due mainly to the fact that my friend Cindy showed up unannounced and with boxes. We matched each Lego set to its instructions and original box (thanks for being a saver, Jack!) and we cried. It was Margaret's last day of school and I wanted to do the hardest part, the Legos, while she was gone. "Did you take pictures of the order everything was in?" she asked when she got home and surveyed the empty shelves. "Yes." "Good."

After she was in bed, I did what any mentally and physically exhausted mom does, vacuumed the shit out of the family room rug. I ran the vacuum roughly back and forth, jerking it this way and that in  frustration. But the stupid vacuum wasn't working and was dropping stuff right back out again. I took it to the kitchen to empty it over the trash can and investigate. When I pulled the bottom off, a square piece of paper blocked the suction. Three words in my messy handwriting, that I must have jotted down at some point when pondering Jack, my book, this life:

Love never ends.



I do believe this. With my whole heart. You can too.

*****
Off for a day with college besties...which will include a pedicure and a "chocolate tea." Yes, please!

85 comments:

K A B L O O E Y said...

That must have been incredibly difficult. Your friends sound wonderful for helping. I hope the besties weekend is a comfort and a blast. Chocolate tea? Sounds quite deserved. As would any number of glasses of good wine. All my love to you.

Cindy McMillion said...

That must have been so very hard. May you find comfort in God's embrace and the love of your friends and family.

Eliza said...

You, and your love and strength, inspire me to be the best person I can be, every day. I LOVE reading your posts. <3

al said...

You have such a beautiful way of detailing your grief, if such a thing can be beautiful. I admire you and your strength, and you have prayers from this stranger.

And your note is right--love never ends. Never fails. Always hopes.

Anonymous said...

You so deserve that chocolate tea and pedicure. You have done such a hard thing.

Best wishes for your family's summer.

-- Joan in PA

Sherri Newman said...

Oh Anna! I know how hard this must have been for you. I'm so sorry!!! Sending you Hugs and Kisses! Love you!

Sherri Newman said...

Oh Anna! I know how very hard this was for you! Precious Memories! Sending you Hugs! Love you!

Christy said...

Oh Anna. Tears and hugs and love. xoxo

Sharmaine said...

Thank you Anna, for sharing such a difficult move with us, and for your poignant note. We love you. Your family is always in our hearts and minds.

Sharon Lane said...

My heart just aches for all three of you Anna. I cannot even imagine how painful and difficult it was to go through Jack's stuff. It's been over a year since I found your blog and read your story. I still cry when i read your blog posts. Love never ends. XOXO

Anonymous said...

Wow! Chills. That was not random.

Amy

Kori said...

Your story jerks at my heart something fierce!

Obviously I don't know you, but wish often that I could sit with you and listen to your happenings and then hug the crap out of you!! :)

I am also always SO shocked and amazed at the signs you get that you will all eventually be able to bear this sadness, grief, life, love and just being here. I do believe more pertinent signs absolutely COULD NOT be written if this were fiction.

Have a great day out and you must tell...what the heck is chocolate tea?? Sounds like it could be a little bit awesome.

Erika said...

Love never ends. So true. Just what I needed to hear today. Thank you for your words, as always - you are so uplifting, even when you don't know it! Praying for your heart as you navigate this terrible storm - I wish I could give you a BIG hug in person.

xoxo,
Erika

Jennifer said...

My heart breaks every single time I read what you write but I will not stop reading because I want to be a part of keeping Jack's memory alive. I wish that I could do something to make it just a bit better for you but the only think I can think of is to keep reading what you write. I think often about Jack and about loss. My heart breaks for you.

Kori said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cassie @ Primitive & Proper said...

wow- i can't even begin to imagine how hard that was, anna. what a message to receive- love never ends. things might be in boxes, but things are just things, and love is always there.

Stimey said...

This must have been so phenomenally difficult. I love how you are able to honor him in every part of how you did this. Love never ends. So true.

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

When I saw this post title and that first photo, I paused for a moment, almost afraid to keep reading. I knew what was coming and it took my breath away. But as always Anna, I was amazed by your strength and courage. How incredibly hard it must have been to pack up Jack's things. But you are so right, it's not the things that matter, it's the love. And absolutely, love never ends! Hugs to you Anna!

Susan said...

I just got shivers. What an amazing mom you are, enjoy your weekend.

Anonymous said...

I don't comment much, but wanted you to know I think of you, Jack and family daily. You are always in my prayers. Whatever choices you decide for your little family, know that we are still here loving and praying. I hope you are all doing well.
Lisa G. in CT

IrishRN07 said...

So.Incredibly.Hard.
Crying with you and praying for you.
-Maureen

Gigi said...

It's true - love never ends. Sending you so much love, hugs and prayers.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna-I'm a momma. I so appreciate your willingness to share your healing ... a day at a time ...as you keep on keeping on. Thank you for Sweet Jack.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Anna for sharing some of your memories of sweet Jack. We are blessed to read your stories. Carol/Vancouver, Canada

laura@imnotatrophywife.com said...

Love. Never. Ends. Never.

laura

Halfway Between Hopes and Dreams said...

Holding you and your family close to my heart as you tackled another one of the many tasks no parent should have to do. I just recently started thinking about doing just that and have found myself walking into my daughter's room, looking around, staring off into space, getting lost in a memory, and doing...nothing. You made it through one of the most difficult of tasks and were "rewarded" with a reminder at the end. Love Never Ends.

Anonymous said...

I hope you have a wonderful time with your college friends! Miss Anna, I am so looking forward to your book. You have great things to share with us. Love from San Luis Obispo, CA.

Anonymous said...

I was happy to read at the end of all that about the pedicures and chocolate tea. Very well-deserved. That Cortland sounds like a gem, feet and all. Love never ends, and it sounds like new beginnings will be in store, too.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

I know, I know, I know... the tree my husband and I planted 24 yrs ago, in our front yard fell down today, no storm, no wind, nothing just fell down, and I cried. I cried because it was the 1st tree we ever planted, I cried because we watched that tree and our lives grow together and now I have neither, it just sucks! Head to head Anna, and a big hug from me to you. Love will win!

Manna said...

Oh Anna - my eyes are wet as I read your words. I have been following you long before you lost your Jack- and I find myself saying "our Jack"- as when we write about our kids and share them with our writing community we fall in love with them and their parents...

Know hugs from Oregon are coming to you.

Xo

Marna

Fiona, LilyfieldLife said...

Dearest Anna, I don't know how you got through that. I am teary just thinking about that pulling apart his lego and giving his things away.
big hugs my friend
Fiona

Ellen aka Ellie said...

Yesterday, I went to a jewelry convention/show with Vicki's mom Helen. As Helen shopped and I mostly people watched, she talked a great deal about Vicki and the times they had shopped there together.

As we left, we made note of a Brick World convention in the next room. Lego geeks (typed lovingly)of all ages. Boys with their dads. Huge creations being carted into the room with great care.

Of course I thought of my own son, now grown, but if I'd had the cash for admission,I would have gone in for Jack. This is hard to explain, but I think you'll get it in spite of my garbled words...I wanted to go in so I could tell him all about it. So my eyes could see it for him. I felt a great sense of sadness as we drove away having not done this for him. I guess it could be labeled compassion, loss felt for you?

There's a U2 song, "Trying to wrap your arms around the world..." and I think that Lego show just made me want to be able to scoop you up, to wrap my arms around you all the way from Illinois.

I'd feel crazy writing all this if I didn't think there was a chance you'd get it.

gabbygrace said...

Anna- I lost my brother when he was almost 9- very suddenly and with no explanation- it was the tragedy of my life. I gre up and a hole remains. Now we have 2 typical children and 2 children with special needs- rather complicated- I am in raging grief over the path our life has taken- the time and energy these babies consume from our typical kids- reading your words I am struck by what my dad told me about his own grief and has since become my mantra this past year- you may not be able to make anything better- but you can make it worse - so day by day- I don't make it worse. Love your raw, honest, painful, beautiful life. Thank you for sharing.

The Empress said...

I knew this is what you were doing. When you said you were doing something difficult, and asked for prayer, I said, "Jack's room."

Prayed for you, and there are no words I can offer you. But I do love you.

susan said...

I do believe it too. Thanks for opening your heart and sharing. Enjoy your day!

forphilip.com said...

Oh, he sent you a message when you so needed it! So many hugs to you; I am crying along with you.

Anonymous said...

Anna - I still remember the period of time that it took my mom to start 'working' on my brother's room who also passed away too soon. My grandmother was moving in so we had to make the room more feminine. His tiger bedspread, brown shag rug, his record albums, guitars, amps, dungeon and dragons stuff, boxes filled with trinkets, clothes all went into one of those big storage lockers. One thing that had made things easier on my mom is that the months after his death, his friends would still come and visit. One day she decided that these buddies of Scott needed something to remember him by. So, the next time someone visited she would ask them to please pick out something of Scott's room that you will give you good memories of Scott... it was amazing to see how thoughtful these kids were. Some would say - I need to think about it and others knew immediately what they wanted. Some wanted an album, a box with trinkets.. it was a very therapeutic for the kids and for my mom. Letting go is something that she's always struggled with... You will know if and when the time is right to let go of things. You may never want to let go and THAT IS OKAY! If it's how you hold on to the love that never dies, it's all good.

My brother has been gone for over 25 years and last summer my mom finally opened up the old lockers and we went through them together. There were Ozzy Osbourne, Santana, Kiss, and other bands tshirts that my son was big enough to wear... how special it was for me to give those to him. He's now outgrown them and I put them in posterboard frames and have them hanging in his room. I love remembering my brother when I'm in my son's room ... my sister has Scott's record albums in the nifty album frames and she has them hanging on the wall above a couch. These small 'rememberances' are all good and give you the feeling that he would like what we have done. They provide comfort on sad days and happy memories on good days. Never thought that 'things' would ever mean anything to me... but these do.

Bless you and your family

ashley said...

Oh, Anna. I am crying right along with you. What a challenge that must have been. Cartland sounds like a wonderful young man. No wonder he and Jack were friends...hoping you have a great girls' day.

~Ashley in Louisiana

Jackie A. said...

I am sorry that you had to do this. You are a very brave woman. Enjoy your day with your friend!

A Speckled Trout said...

Everything you write about Jack feels like an intimate prayer. You string your words in the loveliest, gentle way, but I have a feeling you do that with all parts of your life.

Not Just A Blonde said...

Yes, yes, no one should tell us how to grieve, how long to hold on to the stuff entangled with memories... It's our timeline, our healing, our hearts.

I especially love your family motto... so right on!

Oh, and vacuuming can be so therapeutic... God using even this to get a healing message to us when in desperate need. Miracle of love and a sweet reminder He and Jack are not so far away.

Robin Gaphni said...

I know what a difficult task this can be. I wanted to share something that a friend did for us after our son died. She made a quilt of his t-shirts. I wrote about it here: http://www.griefgratitude.com/2012/05/matthews-memory-quilt.html

Thinking of you all...

Leeann said...

OMG. That note. Bless your heart. I hurt for you as I read what you have been doing. I cannot imagine the difficulty and the sadness. God bless you and your family, Anna.

Heather Head said...

Holding you, friend, so close in my heart. I've not commented here before. I came from Glennon.

Honestly. I... I've avoided your blog. It is too painful, even looked at sideways. I have a 12-year-old, still here with me. I cannot even imagine what it is to be living inside that loss.

I've avoided your blog, but not your love. I think of you all the time, and hold you. You. are. amazing.

I came today via a circuitous route, and because I happen to have a little time for blogging today. And because I'm writing a story, a novel, and I'm learning to hold the painful things and look at them closely because I need to know so I can write about them.

Of course, I will never know. I hope. As you have said elsewhere (I think it was you), it's an exclusive club nobody wants to join.

But for a moment, through your words, I think I understand, a little bit. Thank you. We are all richer for understanding.

Love you.

Jamie Reese said...

Such a hard thing, to pack up. I've done some, but many, many things remain in the drawers. For overa year, I kept his pacifier in my purse. It was a backup in case one was left or lost. Hugs!

starnes family said...

Anna, blessings and love your way.

Anonymous said...

Wow-love never ends. So true. Is this yet another coincidence? No way. Jack's love for you, forever, your love for him, endless. God is just keeping Jack company until you are ready to meet him at the end of your journey.

God Bless,
Falls Church neighbor

bellefleur said...

You always state it so eloquently and beautifully. Thank you so much for sharing. Love never ends.

bellefleur said...

You always tell your story so beautifully and eloquently. Thank you so much for sharing your joys and pain. Love never ends.

Peg said...

oh, what a tough day that must have been. It took us over a year to start cleaning out my sister's house. It was excruciating. Just looking at your picture of the shoes brought tears to my eyes.

hnag in there and I hope the new steps for your family bring you comfort and joy.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for writing,

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

So hard... so very difficult...

Cynthia said...

painful.... so painful. And still Love Never Ends.
XO Love you so much.

Anonymous said...

love never ends & families are forever...love & prayers to you & your family Anna

Anonymous said...

After my first 5 days as a widow at 47, I am shocked as again I am crying at the computer. His last words were "I Love you". Yes I am quite certain that Love Never Ends...Thanks for the message

ella said...

What a heartbreaking task. I love reading your posts - they usually make me cry but they also help me be a better mama. Thank you. xoxo

Kiri (The Angel Zoe Kindness Project) said...

A hard thing to face, but I'm so glad you did it yourself and gave yourself the time to contemplate each object and all the memories they hold. The photos are a great idea.
I have just tidied things into boxes, my mum asks what I'm planning to do with them, but I don't know and I don't think I have to know for now.

Rach said...

Oh, Anna, I'm crying for you. Sobbing. For you. For me. For all the mothers who have had to do this task which should never have to be done.

It brought back so many memories of doing the same in Hannah's room. To know a child is to be in their space and see all they have created and all they treasure.

You've had a couple of really big milestones in the past few days.

Many hugs.

Meg said...

Your words convey your pain, your love and your strentgh. Sending cyberhugs and hope your day with your besties was fun, relaxing and full of love.

Recovering Church Lady said...

I am so glad you are getting away. Even though it really is not possible to "get away" from your reality. But I pray you will have big laughs and silly moments too. Bless you Anna
Susie

MaryLou Loconte said...

I love how to tell your story in detail.. sending you hugs Anna to you and your family .Your posts make me cry and smile at the same time you help me to be a better mom with every word you write. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to those who have gone through exceptionally difficult milestones, and those whose journey is just beginning.

Tim is in my thoughts and prayers this Father's Day.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

Harder to read this than talk to you about it. Hope you had a lovely time with your friends.

Korinthia Klein said...

I am just so, so sorry. This was painful to read, so I can't imagine how heartbreaking it was to write. I wish there were better words.

MaryDawnCarrier said...

Just a thought, and you may have already considered this. I have a friend who had someone make a beautiful quilt out of her husbands favorite shirts. Could be a neat way to keep Jack close. <3

Lisa C said...

I can't imagine the agony of that heartbreaking task.

I sincerely hope the time with friends, as well as your lovely reminder that he's there with you in your heart, was a little soul refresher.

Kelly Pack said...

Beautiful post. Good job on doing something so hard. It took a lot out of me for weeks. xoxo

Anonymous said...

Tears are flowing over my coffee...Big Hugs! With a 7 year old, Jack, that is also a LEGO fanatic (and my lego imprinted feet to show for it)--I can't imagine how hard it would be to pack up those creations.

I think of your Jack often. Take care, NoVA mom Jen

TK said...

My gray hair is colored brown. Every FIVE weeks the solid gray roots start to show through. My blond friends have more of a cushion since gray and blond kind of blend. Anyway, I googled gray roots and found your blog. I am so sorry for your loss. Thanks for putting life in perspective for me. My grandson Jack is ten and an avid Lego/starwars etc. kind of guy. I will never look at a pile of legos the same again.

luv2run said...

HUGS!!!!!!!!!!!

luv2run

EatPlayLove said...

I adore you Anna, thank you for your words, your honesty, your tears shed are with the community that loves you.

On a side note: I made my husband fetch a discarded shelf from a few blocks away. I envision painting it a very fun color, it reminded me of you! I'll send you a photo when it's finished.

Lady Jennie said...

If I could absorb even an iota of your pain, I would.

In the meantime I will be your friend.

Love you Anna.

Susan HeadInMyHands said...

I left Nick's shoes by the door for a very long time. You're ready when you're ready.

Anonymous said...

I think you are a sign i was looking for, to keep on pushing through. My pain is nothing compared to yours, I feel foolish even needing a sign. I only peak at your blog occasionally because the pain is so real and scary, thank you for being real.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna:
I know this is going to sound silly or perhaps too self-indulgent, but you might consider finding a "writing coach." You obviously don't need help with content or style, but probably just the anxiety over the enormity of the project. But anxiety can be even harder to overcome than so called "real" writing problems. It could just be a friend who sits with you knitting or reading or whatever while you're writing and tells you to sit back down when you start to get up and walk away :) Or a more formal paid coach. Just an idea.
Erica

Michelle DeRusha said...

I always say the same thing when I read you, Anna: I love you.

Anonymous said...

Amazing story! Indeed love never ends! Wishing you a peace on your path forward.

Anonymous said...

This is almost too painful to read. I kept picturing my son's face. You are amazing, strong and honest. To pack up a child's room? No matter when, it's got to be hell on earth.

Thank you for your honesty and reminding us that regardless of our stressful lives, we are fortunate for those that surround us..

Lorenne said...

Thank you for your posts about Jack! I had a similar reaction to yours when you saw Jack's friend's bigger feet — I saw Elle's best friend riding a two-wheeler bike. Grieving is SO HARD. But it's because Love Never Ends! One day I hope our grief will morph completely into deep, sweet love and faith that we'll be with our children again one day. Sending love your way!

Geri said...

I believe it too Anna. With my whole heart. And with my whole heart, I hold all of us who have had to sort through the belonging's of our dead child. May we lift each up in love, faith and hope.

anymommy said...

I know people always say this and it doesn't mean anything because you have do it, you have to live: but I honestly don't know how you did it. I can't face the crib that I should have taken down and put away or thrown away MONTHS ago. It's such a small thing in comparison. Maybe I'll manage this summer, thinking about how much you've faced.

Thrift Store Mama said...

How brave you were to take on the task. I'm not a saver and hate clutter, but yes, I get nostalgic about getting rid of my kids things for the same reason you mention - not because of the things but because they can connect me to a memory of when they were little.

Marinka said...

I believe it too, Anna. I do. xo

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Sitting here in tears....I can't imagine doing what you did. I'm glad you had help and that you took pictures. Another amazing post and I love, love, love your writing always.
Take care. ((HUGS))

Jenn said...

Thinking of you. xo