Typically, I never would've left a comment. There were already hundreds. Anna had so much love pouring in on her blog already after the accident. What difference could one more "I'm so, so sorry" possibly make?
A world of difference, actually.
To me, to their family, to the wall of grief threatening to swallow them whole.
When a twelve-year old boy is swept away in a neighborhood creek, never to return home again, all bets are off. Everything is wrong. The world is no longer playing by the rules.
Adding my voice to the many hearts opened and hurting that day led me to care and awkwardly pray for a family I've never met, for a boy I couldn't fathom was gone, to a God I wasn't sure was listening.
The Donaldsons haven't left my heart since. They haven't left the heart of millions. I believe our voices mattered to a family needing to see miracles. To feel unearthly love. To know compassion on a larger scale than they have ever known before.
And we need them in return.
After Anna's book, Rare Bird, comes out that circle of hearts will widen and more people will be forever moved by their story and their boy named Jack. More people will learn how to bring comfort when the worst thing imaginable happens to a family. More people will understand how to keep waking up when the act of living does not feel like an option. More people will have hope.
Anna's grief unfolds real time in Rare Bird, just as it does on her blog. Her shock is delicately transparent as she tries to process the incredible trauma it is to lose a child. Anna does not hide how she and her family suffer, fight, and struggle to be the cohesive unit they just were. She allows us to see how every little detail of her life, even the privacy of her own driveway, is brutally unrecognizable. There is no point in pretending. Anna doesn't need dramatic words to help us understand her pain. She simply describes her days, layer by layer, while we walk with her and force ourselves to breathe.
I rest a bible underneath my copy of Rare Bird while I read. As if doing so will negate the outcome, somehow bring Jack back to her. It's an unread powder blue-of-the-softest-leather-bible I bought at a thrift store. I know Anna would give that purchase a thumb's up and coupling it with the story of a mother's greatest pain seems right to me. It is my crutch when I want to deny the details of that terrifying afternoon. Anna's words gently lead up to that indescribable moment when she feels in her soul that "...Jack is gone forever." A moment that riddles your arms with goosebumps that flush through to your toes. Anna's honest disclosure is both horrifying and divine all wrapped in one. That glimmer of knowing without understanding how you know.
One of the first impossibles.
Anna goes on to reveal many more inexplicable moments. Signs of Jack where there should only be trees. An unexpected visitor who brings her peace when she only knows anguish. Premonitions that would typically be cast aside as coincidence. A deep connection that escapes reason yet somehow brings comfort. Despite crippling heartache and constant longing for Jack, there is a connection.
Things that should be impossible but are not. Because once you get to know Jack, you understand his life verse in new and fascinating ways. "Nothing is Impossible with God" is more than a collection of prophetic words. It's a glimpse into a vast inter-connected place with the kind of beauty you only get from a boy with such soulful eyes.
You will fall in love with the entire family. Anna has such gift with words that allowing you in to her world feels like a visit over tea. Add to that her refreshing funny bone and you just want to ask The Donaldsons to wait up for you for their next camping trip. They are each unforgettable.
But it is Anna's daughter, Margaret, who shines like a comet for me in this book. She is a witty, real life broken-hearted warrior who inadvertently inspires her parents to keep going. As you would imagine, Margaret tends to her own overwhelming loss in private ways, right for a 10 year old girl. Her natural charm springs off the page, intimating at the humor she shares with her brother, the one that forever glues four people together, not three.
Living without Jack is not something Anna, Tim, Margaret, or anyone who loves him ever planned on having to do. Nobody ever dreamed it would be a reality. But now, after reading Rare Bird, I can see it is a daily reality they each must make on many different levels. A choice that will never feel easy or right.
But one that is somehow, beyond all understanding, beginning to feel possible.