so achingly beautiful

Do you ever hear about a stranger’s tragedy, and it hits you like it happened to a dear friend of yours?

That’s how I’ve felt for a few days now. I like to read a certain blog, Inch of Gray, written by a mother who just likes to write about her thoughts on life. She also likes to refinish old furniture and antiques, and you all know I can’t get enough of that.

A few days ago, her seventh grade son Jack was killed in the flashfloods that were occurring throughout different parts of the midwest. I heard about the accident through a different blog, and when I went to visit her site, the last post up was about her kids and their first day of school…just a normal mom, writing about normal stuff. Unaware of tragedy about to strike. That’s what hits me so hard about it.

This morning, she posted a beautiful summary of Jack’s life.  Here’s the beginning:

We’ll talk. We’ll talk about the regrets and what-ifs and the senses of foreboding. We’ll talk about an ache so deep that it can’t be named. We’ll talk about the excruciating pain of looking at neighborhood kids playing outside my window today, on a day that is impossibly, infuriationgly sunny. And the feeling that I want to hug those kids so tightly, or scream at them because they are alive and my kid is dead. Or both. We’ll talk about backpacks still on hooks and clothes in the laundry basket and favorite foods in the fridge. We’ll talk about how my kids’ blog names were different from their real names so no one would come murder us in our beds. We’ll talk about how I really don’t give a shit about that now. We’ll talk about news cameras. We’ll talk about neigbhors holding us up when we couldn’t stand. But for today, my friends, when THERE ARE NO WORDS, I’ll share with you what I read at Jack’s service yesterday. Because, though spread far and wide, though we may not have met in person, you ARE my friends, my people. And when I was speaking in the church, I was speaking to you too. I love you. 

I’m sorry if this is totally depressing for some of you, especially moms who are keenly aware that every moment with their kids is precious and fleeting and could be taken away at any moment.

But this woman’s friend (on her blog, “Momastery“)summed up the reason I am putting this here. In talking about Jack’s memorial service, she said:

There were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of guests there. The pastor said that in his thirty year career, he’d never seen the sanctuary so full. Most of the guests – children, adults, teens, elderly- wore teeny Lego cross pins.

And in the middle of the service, we witnessed a miracle.

Anna, Jack’s mother, stood in front of the masses of mourners and delivered a flawless, tearless, divinely inspired tribute to Jack and to the power of faith. I have never seen anything braver or more exceptional in my life.

Please, don’t respond by saying – “Oh my God. I could never do that.”

Because what Anna taught me yesterday is that a mother can do the impossible for her child.

Maybe you could do what Anna did yesterday. Because Anna is just a woman who decided that she would not stop mothering Jack, she would not stop honoring her son just because he left the Earth. And so trusting God to help her, she stood and spoke with power and love and her voice did not quiver, not once. And she honored her boy and proved true his belief that With God, Nothing Is Impossible.

She proved that scripture, her son’s life verse, to be true – in front of hundreds of grieving people. Many of whom, like me, had been experiencing a crisis of faith since hearing the news. Many of whom, like me, had spent some time shaking fists at God and then doubting His very existence. Many of whom, like me, walked into that memorial with less faith than they’d ever had in their lives and walked out full to bursting.

As I watched her, in utter disbelief, I thought-

Anna is a Mother. With a capital M. I am witnessing the essence, the transcendent power of motherhood. It seems, somehow, that Jack’s death did not rob Anna of her role as his mother, but intensified it. Capitalized it.

Anna Mothered all of us yesterday. She comforted us, she strengthened our faith, she ministered to us in her darkest hour. I don’t think she set out to do that. I think she just refused to quit mothering her boy. I think she just wanted to do justice to her son. He was her miracle and so she honored him by performing a miracle of her own. I will never forget it as long as I live. I will never forget her regal posture, her visible resolve, the mixture of tenderness and toughness in her face. Anna, standing on that stage, will forevermore be my mental image of “Mother.”

I have been praying for Anna and her family in a million different ways since I heard the tragic news about precious Jack. And I am still praying. But my prayers have changed since I saw Anna speak yesterday.

Now my prayers sound less like “Help them.” And more like “Help them. And please help me find the strength and faith that they have. Help me Mother like Anna does. Help me believe like she does. Help my son learn what her son knew. Help my daughters trust God like Anna’s daughter does.”

It’s like, this tragedy had me so afraid. So very, very afraid. I was having so many selfish feelings – if it could happen to her, it could happen to anyone. It could happen to me, to my son. Terror. How would I survive being separated from my only son?

Anna taught me yesterday to quit being afraid, because nothing can separate us from our children. Not even death. I don’t understand it, I’m just telling you that Anna proved it.

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  • Beth

    I’d never heard of that blog, that family, or that tragedy… it’s so incredibly sad.

  • Beth

    Have you seen any news stories with more details about what happened?

  • Kelly

    They are both pretty careful about giving out their last names or towns, so I haven’t been able to find anything 🙁

  • Paige
  • Kelly

    wow, Paige, where did you find that?

  • Paige

    I just goggled “Jack child flash flood death” and it was the first thing to pop up. The dates matched, so I just assumed it was him.