I first met Anna many years ago online when we started following each others blogs. I loved her posts on refinishing furniture and her sweet children, who were very close in age to my own. In 2010 I had the pleasure of meeting her in person at BlogHer in New York City. On the first evening I saw her walking in registration looking a little lost. Luckily I knew the ropes and was able to help her. That weekend that we realized that we were members of the same college sorority. She introduced me to Jill and Kate. We spent the better part of that conference finding each other in the crowd and continued to cheer one another on from afar. I felt like I had another close blogging friend, even if we were on separate coasts.
|Me, Jill, and Anna. BlogHer '10|
I wish I could remember what I was doing that September day. I was probably stressed out, (headless, remember?), trying to get a kid ready for football, cooking dinner, ushering kids to shower and Go to bed, already! I had seen Anna's post on An Inch of Gray the day before about their first day of school, Jack and Margaret starting to look so grown up. In my head now, it's a blur of links and sympathy, and shock. What happened? That's not possible! I was confused and bewildered. This news can't be true.
My friend Anna had lost her dear son Jack in freak flooding incident behind their neighborhood on September 8, 2011. Jack, who was the same age as my son. Jack who was standing next to his sister Margaret on their first day of school. I was paralyzed. I scanned Facebook for news with tears streaming down my face for about 3 days. In these types of situations in my offline life I'm usually a Doer. I take meals and extra toilet paper. I call. But from California all I could do was watch Facebook for more news and weep. I spoke with other blogging friends who attended the funeral, I read Anna's posts on her blog, but I hated not being able to be there for her. To sit in her living room and cry with her.
My heart wanted to be broken in Virginia, not in California.
Yesterday, Anna's memoir about Jack was released. Rare Bird is rare, indeed. It is a look into a family whose love and loss is bigger than I can imagine, and whose hope and healing is more Divine than I've ever seen. This book is the most well-written non-fiction book I have ever read. While devastating, it is not a sad story-I honestly did not cry while I read. (I saved the tears for after the last page.) Rare Bird is a story that gives you hope and courage and faith.
Rare Bird is the conversation that I wish I could have had with Anna in the weeks and months following Jack's death. In reading about Anna's journey through her grief, I was able to live it in my heart with her. Like I wanted to in 2011.
There is so much more that I could say but my words would never do hers justice. You must read them for yourself to believe how beautiful Jack's story is.
"I mean, why are we so ready to give God the credit for every good thing in our lives, [...] yet we let him off the hook for all the bad stuff? That seems ridiculous. Isn't He powerful enough to command our destiny? Because that's the God I want to worship not some good-luck charm we call upon tho help us find a parking space when we're running late. I want a powerful God who is willing to make the hard, unpopular choices because He sees the big picture and knows what's best. Sure He wants our worship, but He doesn't need our approval." from Rare Bird by Anna Whitson-Donaldson*****
I want more of the story. I want to read Tim's story because we only get glimpses of it and his story is just as powerful as Anna's.
"I remember reading that sex can be one of the greatest comforts to a man. So I say yes. We make it through. And it is good. I'm proud of us, but I wonder how long it will be before we can do it without both of us crying." from Rare Bird by Anna Whitson-Donaldson
I have learned from Anna that friendships can blossom in tragedy.
"I want to hear how Jack's death has affected my friends....I want us to look at one another's faces and cry. To say the F word. To question God. To hear that Jack meant something. It is in the telling and retelling that we work our way through painful territory and gain insight." from Rare Bird by Anna Whitson-Donaldson
"Margaret needs an outlet too. I'm proud of her for knowing she's angry and finding a way to deal with it. For opening that cabinet door and getting out a bowl. And a cheap one too. She may not yet be able to put voice to her feelings, but instead of yelling at me right now, she's finding a constructive way to express them.
She comes back in five minutes later, her face red from crying.
Damn bowl wouldn't break." from Rare Bird by Anna Whitson-DonaldsonI hope to someday read a book by Margaret Donaldson about how her brother Jack taught her to fly.
Please treat yourself to this book. It is powerful. I will be buying an extra copy to have on hand to give away when the moment is right. Buy Rare Bird on Amazon. Buy it at your local bookstore. Get a copy of this book into the hands of someone who might need a message of hope and love in loss.
And to Anna, I am so honored that you asked me to help share your hopeful and magical story. On this 3rd year Crapiversary I hope you, Tim, and Margaret can feel the collective love that is surrounding you from near and far this week. I love you and hope we meet again someday. xo