When I read about the tragic death of Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s twelve year old son, Jack, four years ago, it saddened me to the core. His death not only sent me to my knees in desperate prayer for Anna and her family, but for my own, as well.
Our daughter, Heather, had come out gay a few years prior to hearing about Jack’s death. And life was really, really hard. Derick and I were distraught and gripped by feelings of confusion, (mostly, over religious views) and it had put a strain on our family, not to mention how it was damaging mine and Heather’s mother/daughter relationship.
Anna's story of her dear, sweet Jack made Derick and I more appreciative for the Now. It forced us to look at our heart, bring together all that was close to us, and hold it closer. It helped to lift us from our own losses and difficulties, changing our perspective on things. After all, our daughter was still alive. For the Donaldson’s, however, their world would only become darker.
In the rawness of her grief, Anna poured her soul on paper, bringing forth her book Rare Bird, which was published last year, and became a New York Times best seller.
I have read Rare Bird. It’s not a scary book about death. Anna openly wrote about the loss of her son, how her family found their way out of the darkness of grief, and back into the light of living; she openly wrote about how in the rawness of her devastating loss, her faith and love for God was tested, but found the strength to hang on. Anna’s words will bring you to tears, but they will also make you smile, as you come to know Jack and his family.
Rare Bird taught me a lot about life, grief, faith, and trusting God in the storms. It taught me that the past holds both fond memories and sorrow, and that God purposely designed us to not know our future, but it’s living in the present that truly forges our path to this future. It taught me that when we show up and be present with our presence, whether it’s with a smile, a hug, or a listening ear, we are a channel of light, love, and compassion for others. But more important, it taught me to cherish what I have in the Now.
Jack would of been sixteen today. He is deeply missed by his family and friends. And that will never, ever change.