In Loving Memory
Friday, December 25, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
The boys were in a funny mood and my camera wasn't cooperating at first. I think we literally took about 20 photos before we made it to some decent ones. In every photo one of the boys would be laughing or looking at the other one, or had their eyes closed, etc. They were very good sports through it all and I remember us all rolling in laughter by the time we snapped the last shot.
The saddest part of losing those photos is that 2007 was our last Christmas with Austin. Never would I have imagined then we'd never have him with us again for another holiday season. I was pregnant with Austin on our first Christmas together so Tim and I have never had a Christmas without him, until last year.
Austin wasn't with us for Christmas 2008 but his passing was so recent, a part of him still lingered. He decorated the trees and the house last year, even placing the angel on the top in bare feet, so everywhere we looked we could feel and see his last gifts to us. This year, as we pulled out those boxes, all that remained was his memory.
I look at Austin's sweet face in the photo above, so full of life and joy, and think about how much happiness he gave us. We miss him so very much and the holidays just aren't the same without him here. There is an empty spot in all of our hearts that he took with him when he left. We will forever miss his loving spirit and the sound of laughter that filled our home whenever he was around.
Austin enjoyed having his cousins at the house for the afternoon. They ate quickly, opened presents, and spent the rest of the time playing in the kids' rooms.
We still spent that evening alone, baking cookies, sitting by the fire snug in our pjs, and watching the excitement from both boys as they counted down the hours til' Christmas morning.
It seemed we spent the majority of our time in our kitchen area so it brought me great joy to look upon this tree. Each ornament had a story behind it and special memory.
2005 was a blessed Christmas because it was the year of our motorcycle wreck. Tim and I were still recovering from our injuries and we were more than grateful to still be here celebrating with our boys. It reconnected all of us and made us appreciate the season - and each other - even more.
I remember truly appreciating every moment with the boys that season. I am ever thankful for that wreck because it really made us stop and enjoy life, appreciate the simple things, and never miss an opportunity to spend time with those we loved.
A yearly tradition of ours was making Christmas cookies, since Austin was big enough to hold a spoon. When he was very little I would pull a chair up in the kitchen for him to reach the counter top.
As he grew older, Austin wanted to make cookies and other goodies as gifts for his teacher. Each year his list got longer and longer, as he'd add bus drivers, secretaries and lunch ladies to his plans.
It tickled him so much to give them each a gift, even if it were only a box of cookies. They were always made with love though and gave us fond memories of spending time together in the kitchen. It was something he never outgrew. Austin's last year with us he was a freshman in high school. He passed away Thanksgiving break but talked that weekend about how many gift boxes he wanted to create.
Hard as it was, I tried to carry on his tradition, making small goody boxes for each of his teachers. I know Austin would have wanted that.
This was the year Austin officially stopped "believing" but he played along so well. Even as he grew older, he never let on differently around Noah. Each year he would ask if we'd wake him early and let him play Santa, which we never allowed. "Santa" still had a few surprises for Austin because you are never to old to believe!
2002 was a tough Christmas because Tim had lost his job just a few weeks before. Austin was so big through it all, letting us know from the beginning we didn't have to get him anything and that he understood. For a child of only 8 he was wise beyond his years. His heart was set though on a Xbox and he was so surprised when "Santa" delivered, thanks to help from family.
Tim's unemployment settlement came through - and arrived the day after Christmas. We were thankful that the money came after the holidays because it helped us remember the true meaning of the season. We were blessed beyond anything money could have purchased.
I captured this shot as they were decorating the tree and it has always been one of my favorites. It became our Christmas card that year. I can't look at the picture without smiling ...followed shortly by tears now. It expresses so much joy and love. Noah loved his big brother from the very beginning. He was - and still is - his hero.
Most memorable gift that year was a 911 set from Mamaw B & Papaw Carl. You wanted to be "just like Dad" and dressed up in it each day. You would pretend to doctor us and tell us what was hurting or broken.
Friday, November 27, 2009
That day was one of our best - and absolutely the worst day - ever.
In the beginning, that Saturday was the perfect family day. We woke to beautiful weather, especially for November, and immediately set to decorating our house for the holidays. It was an annual tradition to decorate Thanksgiving weekend.
Christmas songs filled the air, from our outside sound system. Tim and Noah went to the roof to put up lights and Austin and me decorated the rest of the outside. I remember how everyone was in such a good mood -and even that day I paused several times, counting my blessings for such wonderful memories. Austin and Noah got along perfectly that day and even wrestled outside in the yard, tickling each other. I remember commenting, "wow. what a great family day!"
As I finished up outside, Austin came in and began to decorate the inside of the house. He'd never done this before and actually in the past kind of groaned about decorating. He would poke fun of my traditions and how I had to take pictures of every special ornament and person hanging it. But that day, he loved it.
He put up the "kids tree," which goes in our kitchen, and has all their homemade ornaments by himself. He surprised us with it when we came in from a quick trip to the store with last minute supplies. He had left it bare, except for the lights, so that Noah could help hang the ornaments. I was so touched at the gesture and we spent the next hour or so pulling out each memory. The kids would comment about what grade they were in when they made this one or how much they liked that one. The last to go on was the "star" which we made from cut-outs of their hand prints a few years back.
Afterwards, I was tired from our long day and asked to put off the big tree until Sunday. Austin wouldn't have it. "It is tradition, Mom. We have to do it all tonight." And so we did. And it was wonderful.
He had grown so much the last few years - well over 6 feet tall, size 13 shoes and all. We laughed because he took over so many of his Dad's jobs that day, wrapping the ribbon around the tree and placing the angel on top - barefooted. Tim always had to get a chair and Austin loved that he could place the angel on it without one. Placing that angel, is one of the last photos I have of Austin.
Austin was so sweet throughout the tree decorating. He let Noah hang any ornaments he wanted without a fuss. He posed for pictures without poking fun. He even commented on what ornaments he'd always loved. I could tell then he was enjoying the moments; but looking back, it seemed as if his soul was soaking up those memories, knowing they'd be his last with us.
So many memories, simple moments, that day that are now priceless.We ended the evening by going together, just he and I, to get Subway sandwiches (his fave) and watched a Christmas movie as a family. Again, it was the picture perfect day.
If only we could have tucked the boys in the bed that evening and life would go on as we knew and loved it. Instead, just a few short hours of watching my sweet little man, nearly grown, place that angel on the tree, he would himself join the angels. And so, that is why our last perfect day is also our worst nightmare come true.
It is unbelievable that he has been gone from us a year. I don't know how we've managed to get through these days without him - or how we'll face this anniversary. We try to remain strong, with the knowledge that our good-bye is not forever but it still hurts. We miss him every moment.
Tomorrow, we will try to remember the gift Austin gave us his last day. He wanted so much to leave us with a beautifully decorated house for Christmas. We haven't been able to keep the tradition of doing it all in one day, as opening those boxes of memories have just been so hard. Instead, we finished the outside last weekend, in between the tears. Tomorrow, we will remember and honor him by finishing the inside, hard as it will be. The tree, especially that angel, will always hold special memories because of his last gift to us. And as much as we wish he could be here with us, a part of him always remains, as his spirit lives on in our hearts.
Monday, November 23, 2009
We began our holiday visits the weekend before, going to my Grandma Coons' house. Austin called her "Nanny" and always enjoyed visiting there. He did request on our drive over that he not sit at the kids table this year, which I'm glad I allowed now. He enjoyed sitting with the adults and having real conversations.
I remember listening to him interact with the kids while we were setting the table and thinking how much he'd grown and matured. He was correcting something the had done but in a nice way. In the past, it would have started a fight but they listened to him. Austin also enjoyed time with his great-Aunt Becky, who shared of love of sports and baseball cards with him.
We spent most of the day there, sneaking out that evening for a holiday movie with just the four of us that evening. It was a wonderful family day.
Thanksgiving day was spent between Austin's two Mamaw's. He loved visiting both, for different reasons. Austin has always been close to June because he spent so much time with her as a toddler. For a couple years, we lived very close to June and she babysat him daily. With my mom, Austin was her first grandbaby and so he was special to her for that. She also babysat Austin and watched him after school for several years, until we moved.
He loved visiting his Mamaw June and spending time with his cousins. From an early age he loved staying the night with Bub, Tamara, and Andrew. They all shared a love of wrestling and video games and always had a great time together. Austin also loved his Mamaw June's cooking. He loved her fried chicken, ham and dumplings the most.
Austin loved spending time at Mamaw B's for many reasons. Most of all he loved spending time with her but he also enjoyed the farm. He loved the animals, riding four wheelers, and exploring the woods, just as I did growing up there. He loved spending the day there playing board games, especially Rook. He loved family breakfasts that we would have, complete with country ham, bacon and biscuits and gravy. Anything Mamaw B or Papaw Carl made was wonderful and my cooking never compared! He especially loved Papaw's vegetable soup and grill bags, Mamaw's baked steak and mashed potatoes and dumplings too.
I remember last Thanksgiving as being a wonderful day of food and family. Austin enjoyed all the usuals - turkey, dressing, dumplings, pumpkin pie but what I remember most is his smile and happiness in spending time with family. One of my last memories of the day is of him holding my sister's babies. He loved them both so much and filled his phone with pictures of them and of him holding them.
We ended the night at home, just the four of us, watching holiday movies and making plans for the upcoming season. It was a perfect holiday full of wonderful memories.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I remember how unorganized you were and how that made no sense to a Mom who schedules everything. I miss laughing about having to remind you what you went in the other room for, as if you were an elderly grandpa....and those last minute trips to the school to bring you whatever you forgot...and how we'd fuss about your messy room until you'd break down and clean it top to bottom, only to fall back to old habits within a few days.
I remember buying you your first cell phone and how thrilled you were. I think it was permanently attached to you from that point forward. I miss funny texts in the middle of the day, our afternoon chats on my drive home from work, and hearing the random ring tones you found.
I remember the day you joined the fire department and how happy you were. I miss picking on you about only wearing fire shirts after that, as it seemed that became your uniform of choice. I miss seeing your excitement when you got to spend time down there and I even miss arguing with you over texts when it was time to for you to come home.
I remember wondering every day if this would be the last day you would hug me without asking. I expected you to shy away from it as you got older but thankfully you never did. I held on to each one though and soaked them up, just in case. It didn't matter if it was a one arm hug on the way out of the truck or a full hug that welcomed home each day, they were all special because you gave them willingly. Those wonderful hugs may be one of the things I miss most.
I remember family game days and how much you loved playing Rook. I miss your laughter during these games and how you'd pick on whoever was playing at the table. We haven't played the game since you left, because it just isn't the same without you there.
I remember breaking up wrestling matches constantly between you, your Dad, and Noah. I knew that something was about to be broken in the house or someone would leave the floor crying. I remember how little you were when these matches started..when you'd hang from Dad's neck and try to pull him down with all your strength. And I was amazed at the change when you outgrew your Dad and were able to get the best of him on most days. I miss the laughter in our living room floor from those moments.
I remember your love of food and miss cooking for you. I loved making the meals you enjoyed most and seeing your smile when you smelled what I had cooking. I remember how you'd look at me for approval when we were eating out, before you ordered. You were like me, in that you enjoyed trying new dishes. Usually, I splurged and let you order whatever you wanted and you'd savor every bite. I miss spending time with you in the kitchen and taking you out to new restaurants.
I remember your love of music and how I was proud you appreciated all types. I tried to expose you to all genres from an early age. You were a great musician, playing multiple instruments and loved being in the band. You enjoyed listening to country, Christian, and some Top 40. Your favorite though, I think, was 80s hair bands, which I loved too. You raided my cd collection and fell in love with AC/DC. I miss going through my old favorites and sharing them with you. I miss driving nowhere with the windows down and the radio up jamming together.
I remember how helpful you were. As a toddler, you enjoyed helping me because it was something new and it made you feel big. After our wreck, you helped in the beginning out of necessity but I think you realized then how much of a difference it made. In the end, you helped because you wanted to and I rarely had to ask. If you saw me carrying something, you lifted it out of my arms. If you noticed the trash was full, you emptied it. If your dad was working on a project, you were right by his side. I miss coming home to see your smiling face in the driveway, so happy to see me and help me inside. Whenever I find myself needing to reach something or with my arms full, I look over my shoulder, wishing you were there.
We miss you so very much.
Friday, November 20, 2009
I remember Austin being so tired from school as a little boy, that he fell asleep at the table, in the middle of dinner. And I remember letting his head stay in the mashed potatoes long enough to take a photo.
I remember the first time Austin learned to ride a bike and how wobbly he started out. He practiced in our backyard because the grass provided better cushioning than gravel. And I can still see his big smile when he finally got the bike straightened out and peddled on his own.
I remember taking Austin to college campuses for "Super Saturdays" where he got to choose classes to attend because of his Gifted scores in school. He always chose the science-based classes and loved being in the big labs.
I remember Austin's love of rocks starting early and simple - with gravel. He would play in the driveway with his cars and wrestlers for hours. He would find a rock that looked cool or special and tuck it into his pocket. I was forever finding rocks in my washer.
I remember simple, sweet moments with Austin, in my bed or his, lying on our backs and reading a book. I began reading to him while he was still in my belly; in a rocking chair as he fell asleep in his baby bed, on the foot of his bed as a toddler, and then letting him read to me as grew older. In his teens, I remember sharing books. He would read books that were my favorite growing up and he would pass along a book that he found and knew I'd enjoy too.
I remember baking with Austin at the holidays, or anytime of the year. Even before he could reach the stove, he loved to cook. Whether it was cutting out cookies or mushing up meatloaf, he enjoyed being in the kitchen with me.
I remember watching Austin drive the lawnmower around the backyard for the first time. He wasn't mowing, just driving, but he loved it and I guess it made him feel big to be allowed.
I remember warm sunny days and fishing trips. This was really more a "boy's trip" but I came along for food support and to sneak photos when they weren't looking. I remember Austin's first trips to fish and how he'd rather spend the time throwing rocks in the water than his line.
I remember how you memorized the cases to all your favorite Disney movies years before you could read. We could pull the videos out and you would match them by placing back into their cases. (And these were old VHS days when there were no pictures on the tape!)
I also remember how much you loved repetition of your favorite shows. We watched Barney and Disney sing-a-longs a million times!
I remember how fiercely independent you were from the very beginning. Once you learned how to do something, you did it yourself. You loved fixing your own snacks - I guess it made you feel big to pull it out of the frig, heat it up in the microwave, etc.
I remember your first prayers and how much you enjoyed saying them at dinner. You would grab our hands, close your eyes, and say, "God great. God good. Thank you food. Amen!" As you grew a little older, your prayers grew in length because you would thank God for EVERYTHING on your plate and anything that surrounded it.
I remember how imaginative you were, acting out characters from books and movies. You always wanted to be "just like Dad" and would pretend to be a firefighter and EMT, and whatever job Tim had at the time.
I remember how cute your speech was at this age, before you were in school and frustrated by the difference. I loved how you'd use big words like "Knucklehead" and "Turkey Lips" to poke fun at us. My favorite saying of yours has always been, "You're getting on my nervous!" when you would get mad.
I remember your excitement in seeing something new at this age. I can close my eyes and see you squatting on chubby legs, amazed at discovering an ant hill. Whatever the experience, my joy always came from watching your reactions in those moments.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
bringing you home from the hospital, going into your nursery, and rocking you in the chair that my grandmother rocked me in. It was our first moment alone in our home together. I read to you the book I'd read aloud so often while you were still in my belly, "Love you forever" and dreamed of our future together.
how good you were as a baby, never being a cryer or whiner, instead always smiling. In fact, there were times we found you had ear infections at a well-child checkup because you never complained. When you did fuss from needing a diaper change, you stopped the instant I carried you into the nursery, because you knew you would soon be dry.
family snuggle time in the mornings after you would wake. You rarely woke us up by crying but would instead by singing, cooing, talking or laughing. As you grew, you would pull yourself up and peek into our room from your baby bed. You knew that Daddy would come get you and the three of us would enjoy special moments to start our day. We'd read and sing, tickle and play, and just enjoy you at this precious age.
thanking God every day for the gift he'd given us through you. Every "first" moment I got to experience with you was such a blessing. I treasured your first smile, laugh, words, and first steps. I felt so blessed to be a mom to such a wonderful little boy!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I said, "God, I hurt."
And God said, "I know."
I said, "God, I cry a lot."
And God said, "That's why I gave you tears."
I said, "God, I'm so depressed."
And God said, "That is why I gave you sunshine."
I said, "God, life is so hard."
And God said, "That is why I gave you loved ones."
I said "God, My loved one died."
And God said, "So did mine."
I said, "God it's such a loss."
And God said, "I saw mine nailed to the Cross."
I said, "But God, your loved one lives."
And God said, "So does yours."
I said "God, where are they now?"
And God said, "Mine is on my right and yours is in the light."
I said, "God, it hurts."
And God said, "I know."
sent to me from a sweet friend, who is walking this grief-stricken path of losing a child
(by Emily Kalb, St, Joseph Parish in Jasper, IN(from the Criterian))
Knowing Austin is by God's side is what brings us comfort in our loss. I can only imagine what beauty he sees and the good he is doing. We know that someday we'll be together again...for eternity.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Part of me would like to just turn the pages until I reach January and forget the upcoming dates. Sometimes, I feel like ignoring the holidays this year because my heart is breaking and I can't imagine a holiday season without Austin. But then I think back to our last day together and can't help but think Austin wanted to ensure our celebration of season for years to come.
I often wonder if somehow Austin knew, if his soul was aware, he was going home that night. As I've written about "Our Last Perfect Day" and I think back to how at peace he was, I can't help but feel that is true. What I know for sure is that Austin thoroughly enjoyed his last day on this Earth celebrating the upcoming holidays with his family.
His last day was spent decorating our home inside and out for the holidays. I was so impressed with how helpful he was that day and how much I could tell he enjoyed it. As a teenager, I expected him to shrug off this yearly tradition at some point. However, this day, it was almost as if it was his mission to ensure we completed everything. While Tim was on the roof hanging lights, he would be in the yard setting up the deer and other decorations. And while we made a last minute trip to the store for supplies, he surprised us by putting together the kid's tree we display in our dining room.
Evening was approaching and I was tired from a long weekend. What I wanted to do was go to bed and complete the decorating in the morning but Austin insisted we do it that night. He was adamant that we put up our large tree in the family room, complete with taking time for pictures as we hung our individual ornaments. He said to me, "This is tradition, Mom. We always do it all in one day." And last year, as he hung ornaments or arranged them on the table for Noah, he would comment about each one. He remembered stories of why we bought it, where we were visiting, which ones were his favorite, and so on.
At the time, I thought it was so sweet and treasured it, thankful that he hadn't outgrown it, and proud that he enjoyed my sappy traditions. I never imagined I would look back and treasure it because it was our last with him. I can close my eyes and see his soul smiling that night, sitting on the couch with his Dad. I remember his laugh and his sweet, gentle spirit. He was so kind to Noah, allowing him to take over many parts of the decorating. There were no arguments about who got to hang which ornament. Austin gladly sat back and soaked up the moments of watching Noah do it. The entire day could not have been more perfect. They are wonderful memories that I will remember and cherish forever.
That tree and decorations brought us such comfort last year, as they were Austin's final gift to us. He would leave us just a few short hours of placing the angel on top of our tree. As the holidays approach this year, I am filled with painful emotions. Yet, I am reminded of Austin's last gift and know that as hard as it will be to pull out those memories and relive moments of the past, it is what Austin wanted. His final gift will come back to us each Christmas season and because of that his spirit and love for us lives on.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Even though Austin isn't here physically, a part of him is always with us. He is forever on our minds, on good days and on bad, in sad moments, and the few happy ones we have had. And we like to hope that pieces of him are all around us and that he is here in spirit. We've seen and felt too many signs not to know this is true.
Still, I long for just a moment more with him. I walk into a room and wish he'll be in there. I hear footsteps behind me and hope I'll turn around and see his smiling face. I long for his laugh and the joy he filled our home with. I miss his strong arms, that would offer help to me daily and fill me with warmth from hugs. My soul seems to constantly be searching for the link that was Austin.
Every parent thinks their child is amazing. Austin was that - and more. I can't help but feel the world suffered just a big a loss as we did last November. He had such potential and I can only imagine what he would have accomplished as an adult. I am still in awe of all he did as child! I'd give anything to have him still be here with us but I'm so thankful and grateful for the 14 years we had. Austin blessed our lives in every way possible.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
When I started this blog for Austin, it was mostly for me. It has been therapeutic to be able to write about him, to capture those moments and feelings that I so often keep inside. As time progressed though, I noticed more and more people were reading. I've received so many kind comments from those who come here and that gives me inspiration to continue. As well, I imagine there are others who happen upon it accidentally but linger and my hope is that they leave knowing a little about my son and how wonderful he was. This is all I have of him now and continuing to write keeps his memory alive.
I've had a need to write for several days but for some reason, I am just blocked. The panic of the approaching anniversary lingers within me. There is still so much yet to say but sometimes there are just no words. So, today there isn't so much a story or a single memory to share but just me trying to capture his essence and of what I am missing most these days.
When I think of Austin, which is as often as the beating of my heart, I picture first his smile. I see him with that big smile that just swept you up in happiness. His eyes would sparkle and followed shortly by the smile would be a big, hearty laugh. Austin had a laugh like no other. It was contagious. It made you laugh along, it carried you into that moment. You felt, instantly, his sincere love of life. He never held back in his laughter, never guarded it depending on the situation. If it amused him, he let it show. I loved him for that confidence. My ears still search for it, pausing, as silence echos and so often fills the space now.
I miss so many things about him. Even silly, funny things. So many things bring memories of him to me. Making hot chocolate last night, I stopped, remembering how he'd drink it with a straw or eat soup with a fork. Those were things unique to him and a simple bowl of soup or mug of cocoa brings that back now. I miss picking on him about things like that - and I miss him picking on me. Austin made us smile every day.
I even miss his temper! He was so much like his father that the two would often butt heads and I'd be the mediator. Neither of them would ever stay mad long though, they were too close. But I miss him coming home, venting about something. I miss him stomping off, if he didn't get his way. I miss hearing his door slam.
I think I miss his soul the most though. I just miss that connection, the energy, the warmth and kindness that surrounded him. I miss the connection that we shared. How I didn't have to say a word but he just knew I needed a hug. I vividly remember our last big hug. It was in the living room and he stopped me on my way to the kitchen. Most of the time he gave me one arm hugs (still great) but sometimes they were just in passing. This was a full, two arm, embrace that filled my soul. I remember it so well it brings tears to my eyes. I miss him so much.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
There are so many memories with him tied to this time of year...
I remember his first Halloween. He was only three months old and too little to go out. Instead I dressed him in a cute Mickey Mouse one-piece and we greeted the Trick-or-Treaters as they came to our door. We had many guests that year because everyone wanted to see "Smiley" in costume. He was a cutie.
When he was too young to enjoy decorating pumpkins, I would do elaborate carvings. He didn't know what he was looking at, but Austin enjoyed sitting outside and watching the flickering glow of the candle shine through the pumpkin scenes.
The next year, we started the tradition of attending the annual apple festival. Austin's favorites were grilled corn on the cob and the big swing ride. I have such a sweet picture of him gnawing on a corn cob and even though I'm not sure which album it is in, the details are vivid in my mind. He would ride the swing ride over and over, so many times that I feared he would get sick, especially when his belly was full of corn, cotton candy, and caramel!
As he grew older, I enjoyed going on field trips with him and his preschool groups. He loved picking out his own pumpkins, running through the corn maze, and taking hayrides. And I loved coming up with cute costumes for school fall festivals and Halloween.
I don't remember every costume but I do remember him winning first prize for Dracula. We did this costume when he was five. His hair was already jet black so we just slicked it back and added a widow's peak. He didn't enjoy sitting still while I painted his face white, but it was all made better once we got to add fangs and blood.
We also did a "Chucky" costume once for a haunted house the fire department ran one year. I created the costume and did the face painting, which lasted a couple of hours. That wasn't great fun for him; however, in the end, nobody recognized him. Austin had a fun time that year scaring people as they walked by. He opted not to continue the costume for Halloween though, as it meant sitting through another make-up session that year!
Once he was old enough to handle a knife, he enjoyed carving pumpkins too. We had many great family nights, gathered at the kitchen table, floors covered in newspaper to catch the mess. Unlike his younger brother, Austin enjoyed sticking his hands inside the goopy pumpkin and pulling out the guts. (Actually, Austin would get a kick out of the fact that it made Noah sick each year and would taunt him with the insides!) In the end, he would have a masterpiece though. I have timeline pictures of Austin and his pumpkin every year.
The past several years another tradition was attending our church's Hallowed Fun Night. Both boys always enjoyed the booths of fun and our favorite stop was the big bonfire, where we'd roast hot dogs and make s'mores. As much as they'd run around with their friends that night, it was the one activity we gathered as a family for.
Austin was getting older though and traditions were changing. He didn't go Trick-or-Treating last year with us for the first time. The past couple years he hasn't dressed up but he would walk his brother door-to-door. Since my accident, my knee didn't allow me to trek the hills, so I followed them in the truck. He was always so patient with Noah, always watching out for his safety on the roads and skipping any homes that didn't look right to him.
Last year, he asked if he could skip it and stay at the station instead. I knew the day would come, and I appreciated that he asked politely before doing so, making sure I would be ok. Of course I said he could, and that we'd be fine, but it wasn't the same.
I remember seeing him smiling and laughing though when we made our way back to the station that night. He had such a good time being with his buddies and passing out candy. The rest of his night was spent telling jokes and playing corn hole with the crew. He'd traded in his plastic firefighter costume for a real one. My little guy had grown up.
I imagine he'll will be at the station again this Halloween, at least in spirit, watching over all the kids - especially Noah, and shaking his head on missed shots at corn hole.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Some of his favorite finds were a bowling ball and bag (which he never used), an ice cream factory (still in the box), and a used gumball/vending machine. We didn't have a key to make the vending machine work so instead we filled it with baseball items - one compartment with balls, one with baseball cards, etc. It was a neat collectible for his room.
I think this weekend is the big Hwy 60 yard sale and that brought back memories from last fall. We surprised Austin last year by getting up early on that Saturday and making the drive. At first, he was impressed there were so many yard sales in a row. He thought the neighbors just got together and decided to share the date. When I explained it went for miles and miles, he was ecstactic. Each stop, he was like a kid in a candy store, ready to explore and find great deals. I don't even remember what we bought that day but I do remember what a good time he had.
We ended up heading on into Evansville afterwards and happened upon the large flea market there. This stop was the icing on the cake for him. Rows and rows of miscellaneous items for sale that could have held his attention for hours. Once he found the baseball card booth though, he was fixed and spent every last dollar he had there, including borrowing some from Mom. (As if he needed anymore cards.) He was thrilled though and called his great Aunt Becky on the way home to discuss his finds and figure out if there were any of great value. The next week he checked out a book from the library to help him calculate their worth. Just a simple box of cards to me but hours of entertainment for him.
It is strange how everyday things like a yard sale can bring back so many memories. Even though they often begin with tears, there are special moments to think back on and smile about too.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I left Austin's grave one day deep in prayer, searching for help and hope and answers. For whatever reason, that simple scripture entered my mind. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." For the first time I realized all that God had done for us - for me. I realized what a true sacrifice it was. And I realized that he truly did understand my pain. It spoke volumes to me.
Only someone who has a lost a child can really understand the depth of grief and pain you experience. It is unlike any other loss you will face, there are no words. I thought back to the early days, once the shock had passed, when I felt so alone crying in Austin's bed. I screamed and cried and prayed and felt nobody heard me. I felt God had left me. But this verse made me realize how much he was there and has been there for me throughout. He knowingly sent his child to die, fully aware of the pain it would cause them both, to save the world. That is amazing love!
And as much as this new found realization has helped me the past few weeks, it doesn't make the pain of losing Austin go away. It still hurts with every breath and I still miss him every moment. I don't understand (or even agree) that Austin had to leave so soon. But I trust that God had a plan in it and I have to believe there was a good purpose to Austin passing so young.
I remember saying to someone early on how much I prayed the night we lost Austin. I never prayed harder, more deeply, urgently, sincerely than that night. I didn't understand why he didn't hear me, why my prayers weren't answered. And they said, "Do you ever think that God could have been using Austin in your life to strengthen your faith?" I had to turn away from that for some time. I still struggle with it. Sometimes it makes me angry, to think that I had to lose my child to become closer to God.
I still don't know the true reason(s) and won't until my time here is done but I feel God and Austin pushing me forward. I have to hope that his legacy is meant to inspire and lead MANY to Christ, whether to strengthen what was already there or to bring those lost to him. What a wonderful legacy that would be!
As I've shared before, Austin became a Christian very early in life. He was proud to be a Christian and loved God. I can't think of any better tribute to him than to lead others down that path. I know nothing would make him prouder.
Austin loved to throw a good party. He enjoyed nothing more than to have friends and family over. He'd be first at the door, to open it with a wide smile that greeted you hello and welcomed you in. It was followed by those wonderful hugs only he could give. I know that when my time on Earth ends, he'll be the first to greet me with open arms. And I can't wait for that day. I know he'll be there for each of us he loved so much, happy to welcome us home.
If you don't know God and how powerful his love can be, I encourage you to find him. Open your heart and ask him in. You don't have to pray any special prayer or say a certain scripture, just confess your sins and ask God to take control of your life. Doing so will change you forever! And when your days on Earth are through, you'll see my smiling boy on the other side, with his arms open and ready to welcome you in. I know he is anxiously at Heaven's door, planning one terrific homecoming party for us all. I hope you accept his invitation!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
You wish for just one more day, one more minute, with the one you love and miss. I regret any missed moments with him knowing now how little time I had. You can't be with your child every minute of every day but I look back now and am sad for any days I missed.
Most of those missed moments were because of my job. Managing Relay events for over a decade, I was on the road quite a bit. The job required frequent travel, sometimes overnight, and I was gone from home more than I preferred. Many nights of the week I didn't make it home until the kids were already in bed. I missed dinner, homework, and just the quality moments of the day. And as much as I tried to rearrange schedules, there were games and other events that I either missed or only saw a part of because of meetings for work.
Sometimes the guilt from that falls heavy on my shoulders but I feel like Austin was proud of what I did. I certainly wasn't burning the midnight oil to climb the corporate ladder. Success in my career was never my focus and the traveling I did was for a purpose. I hope that the moments I missed were balanced by the work I was doing. I know that Austin was passionate about Relay and finding a cure for cancer. In the papers and stories I've read he wrote about me and my job, I feel understood - and approved. I hope.
While I wasn't always there, I tried to make the most of every moment. Whether it was a quick story at bedtime, a phone call on a long ride home, or funny text messages back and forth, I tried to connect with him each day. And when we got the chance, Mom & Austin days were always a great way to fill back up on our time meter and be together. I treasure every moment that I ever spent with Austin.
I guess I will always wonder though if it was enough.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
As I looked down at the front cover and read "Class of 2012," I realized it was yet another milestone of his that we will miss. The tribute page to him, and another child gone too soon, was beautiful but the rest of the book just brings me sadness to look through it. Each page is filled with moments and memories that Austin didn't get to be a part of. The happy smiles of his classmates and friends, just bring me tears because my heart aches for the missing photos of Austin.
I look through the book and wonder how his high school years would've been. What would have been his favorite class? teacher? memories? What moments would we have been proud of for him - would he have excelled in school or with sports? Who would he have taken to his first school dance, his first date? How handsome would he have been in cap and gown, ready for the next chapter in his life. And then, so many thoughts of his future and what he would have chosen to be. As much as I know I shouldn't sit and dwell on these thoughts, a mother can't help but do so. I had the same wishes and dreams for him when he was here and it is hard to let them go now that he is gone. His future is not what I had hoped for, or at least the timing of it.
I graduated with the mother of the other son who passed last year from Austin's school. He died in a motorcycle wreck just two months before Austin. Strangely enough, the boys grew up together. For a couple of years they were neighbors. I remember Austin going over to his house to play and the boys playing together in Austin's tree house. Who would have ever thought that seven years later I would reconnect with his mother because we both lost our sons? It is just such an odd coincidence. As I've mentioned before, I am finding more and more of my graduating class who've suffered, or are currently in pain, from the loss of a child.
When we graduated all those years ago, our minds were filled with dreams of the life we would have. All of us were so ready to take on the world, to be grown-ups and all that it brings - jobs, marriage, families. None of us envisioned this sadness and pain we would all someday face. It just shows me how little control we have in our futures, how short and sweet life is, and how much we should treasure every single moment.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
First thing in the morning and last thing at night, are two of the hardest times in any given day for me. In the morning, as I walk past his closed door to wake up Noah for school, I am instantly reminded. It is a pause in my day, from the very beginning. A reminder of our loss. Abrupt and painful, it hits me, forcing me to remember and start the waking nightmare I live each day all over again.
It was a daily routine to open his door first. Actually, we woke Austin up 30 minutes before, allowing him to have time to shower and Noah to sleep a little longer. Never did I wake up Noah before Austin though. So, walking past Austin's door without being able to open it and find him sleeping, arms and legs dangling to the floor, isn't normal. Such a simple, every day activity, a habit, a way of life, that is forever ripped from me.
I often watched him sleeping, as it was about the only chance I got to really look at him. He was changing so much; especially the past couple of years, transforming into a man before my eyes. During the day, if he caught me looking, he would turn away -or walk away! - and comment in some funny or snide remark that it wasn't polite to stare.
Waking him up got easier with his age, instead of harder as I'd expected. He used to sleep so soundly we'd joke that a train could drive through his room and wouldn't wake him. Later, all I had to do was say his name and he was up. Of course the running joke then was how long he took a shower. We seriously think he found a way to go back to sleep standing up, shower running. As the only woman in the house, he exceeded me on shower time by a long shot.
And my day ends, just as it begins. Yet another pause, a rude reminder of my loss. My last moments each night were hugging and kissing my boys. It often happened a couple of times, as we would kiss the boys good-night on our way to bed and inevitably they would follow us, or come back to our room to say something.
Almost every night before I closed my eyes, Austin was there at my side, leaning over to kiss me good-night. Actually, he would appear at our doorway, lingering to make sure we hadn't already fallen asleep. If we answered him, he would say good-night again and "I love you" to us both. He'd then come into the room and kiss and hug Tim. He'd tease me, acting like he was walking out without doing the same. I'd have to fuss and yell, he would laugh, and circle our bed, coming to my side. My last memory of Austin each night would be of him bending down, wrapping his one arm around me, and hugging me good-night.
But those moments are now just memories. Unwelcome pauses in my life. Painful reminders of a life lost.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
For whatever reason, we didn't have big plans approaching that holiday weekend. Often it is on those long weekends that we tackle household projects, like staining the deck, because we need the extra day off to accomplish it. I don't remember much about the weekend, but that morning of Labor Day, we woke up with no specific plans and ended up in a place where time stands still.
Somehow, I had learned about Pine Knob and we decided that the weather was a perfect day for a drive and picnic. The boys had no idea where we were going and they always loved surprise road trips. We hit the parkway heading toward Elizabethtown and they were both at a loss, for it was a route we didn't frequently take.
With today's technology, it was hard to keep many things secret, especially with Austin. If he got any hints that would lead to a clue, he'd text friends to find out answers. I don't think he ever figured out where we were going though as we weren't really sure either until we arrived.
The town of Pine Knob appeared to have been frozen in time. Maybe it was the time of day we arrived or because it was a holiday, but the town was empty. The picturesque white-washed homes, church, and school house lined the lonely gravel road as if created for a movie set and abandoned.
A wooden bridge that arched over the creek was the first place we pulled aside after eating. This bridge was unnecessary that day, as the water was so low in many areas you could just walk across the creek bed. We all took our shoes off and plunged into the crisp, cool water sliding our toes over smooth stones.
At the foot of the bridge was a dirt path that winded up, leading to natural steps made by large rocks jutting out of the hill. It is this location where we all stopped for photos. The picture of Austin below was taken on this day and is one of our favorites of him. He enjoyed the peacefulness of the place, the natural beauty, and the many different shapes and sizes of rocks found along the trip. This is also one of the photos that we chose for his monument. Tim and the boys ventured farther up the hill but didn't explore too much, afraid to leave Mom too far behind. With my knee, I don't get too adventurous in areas unknown, but I was perfectly content meandering through the creek and snapping photos. I remember how silent it was in that place; even nature seemed to be a little lazier that day, as if all the earth were at peace and resting.
Once they made their way back down the hill, we drove to the old school house and church and peeked inside windows. We tried to imagine how life would have been back then, with everyone in the same classroom, no matter the age. I later found out that my grandmother grew up in that area, which the boys and I found interesting. The boys wondered if grandma had walked those same paths on her way to school or played in the same creek.
The Pine Knob outdoor theatre is along the route and while snooping, we noticed the many picnic tables so it made an easy choice for our picnic spot. I remember the weather being unbelievably perfect that day, a cool breeze blowing through the shade trees. The smells of summer blending in with the early stages of fall mingled in the air. We shared simple sandwiches and chips, with a side of laughter and togetherness.
We loved viewing the creek that winded through the town and water trickle from the sides of hills, as it was reminiscent of the mountains. There was even a spout stuck into the side of one, where a natural spring spilled out water so clear and fresh. The boys were hesitant to taste it but surprised after doing so.
The entire morning was completely unscheduled and we lingered as long as we wanted at any given spot. Later that afternoon, while driving with no purpose, we ended up visiting Rough river, which the boys enjoyed. After a day of adventure and exploring, we were all ready for a refreshing plunge in the water. The afternoon was spent chasing each other at the beach and splashing around.
Our entire day was unplanned and unscheduled with new and exciting activities. Such a simple holiday, filled with precious memories. I imagined Pine Knob as a little piece of Heaven and like to think that Austin now lives among beauty and peace such as was found on that perfect summer day.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I can't say the phrase "9 months" without thinking of being pregnant with him. I've always loved to journal and I treasure everything I've written regarding Austin now. I recently pulled out my pregnancy journals and was shocked to find out the date I learned I was pregnant with him was November 29. How strange that this date would be the most blessed and joyous of days in one point of my life and the most horrid date later in my life.
Throughout my journal, I write about how hard it was to wait for Austin to arrive. In these past 9 months, I've spent the time wishing he was here; that it never happened, and that he'll walk back through the door. Back then, I prayed for a safe, healthy and happy baby. Now, I pray to understand what happened, hope that Austin did have a happy life and to know that he is at peace.
I have always enjoyed watching butterflies but they seem to be a little more special these days. Lately, I feel like I'm being followed by a little yellow butterfly. And whether there is really any connection, it makes me think of Austin, and I smile.
I've noticed that this little yellow butterfly seems to always flutter by whenever I am down. It flitters around me when I'm visiting Austin's grave. It floats in front of my truck on my lonely drive home from work each afternoon. It dances in the yard as I walk back from checking the mail and waiting for Noah to arrive on the bus.
This little butterfly always seems to know just when to appear. Instantly, I am lifted up and put at ease, if only for a moment. It makes me feel like Austin is there, checking in, hugging me with his sweet spirit.
"Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."
Yellow was one of Austin's favorite colors. Yellow looked great on him, a contrast to his pitch black hair. One of his favorite shirts was a yellow t-shirt advertising an ice cream shop in Evansville. He won it at a Otters game and wore it so much it went from vibrant yellow to a pale, muted color. And the color just represents his presence - yellow is sunny and cheerful, yellow is friendly, yellow is warm. All of those are who Austin was.
I was surprised to learn this week that a butterfly's life is a short one. For most, butterflies live less than a week. The fact that I've seen a little yellow butterfly so often made this new found knowledge all the more special.
"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough."
Sunday, August 23, 2009
One of my best friends from school was pregnant the same time I was with Austin. Sadly, she lost her baby. We grew apart after that, mostly my doing. I felt guilty because my child lived and I feared that every birthday he had was a reminder to her of what she lost. I missed her over the years and longed for the friendship we once had. We talked occasionally if we saw each other out but the connection was broken. However, when I lost Austin, she was right there. And she seems to know just when I need to hear from her now, as a message will be in my inbox from her, just checking in on me.
Shockingly, several of my classmates from high school have lost children. In my graduating class, I can think of at least five classmates who've suffered this loss. One lives down the street from me, in my same neighborhood, and experienced this horror just a few short years ago. Another, who's son was a friend and neighbor to Austin when he was around five years old, passed just a few months before Austin. And while I was in the midst of this pain, yet another classmate's beautiful daughter left this earth, also too soon. None of us would have ever imagined we'd be connected in this way when we graduated together.
Austin's babysitter when he was a toddler, passed away while giving birth to her baby. I think she was the first child's funeral we attended. They were friends of our family and Tim worked with her dad. Tim recently reconnected with him, I'm sure because he needed to talk to someone who knew what he was going through.
In my job, I've also been blessed with friendships from couples who also have experienced this great loss. Some of them I knew about before losing Austin and were an inspiration to me even then. Some of them, have come forward with their story, now that they know I'm walking this painful journey too. They all somehow know just when to call, when to hug, when to check in. They are ones whom you don't have to fake an "I'm good, how are you" to, as they know.
And just a couple of months prior to losing Austin, I was in one of my all-time favorite plays, "Steel Magnolias". In the story, one of the main characters loses her daughter. I formed so many wonderful friendships with those women during the course of that season. Strangely, those lines I had memorized and rehearsed so often, came back to me during the funeral. They were a comfort to me, as was seeing all the ladies come as group and surround me in one big hug at the service. Never would I have imagined that any of us would experience a loss similar to what we shared in that performance.
All of these relationships have been tremendous strength for me through these past eight months. While I would give anything not to have the connection - or rather reason for us meeting, I can't deny their power, or wish their friendships away. Each of them came into my life when I needed them most and many have continued to be a source of inspiration, motivation, and peace to me. They are like my angels, appearing to me along this path, each leaving an impact in my life and making me better because of it.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Once upon a time there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer.
He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day and began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn't dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer he called out, "Good morning! What are you doing?"
The young man paused, looked up and replied, "Throwing starfish in the ocean."
"I guess I should have asked, why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?"
"The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die."
"But, young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!"
The young man listened politely, then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said-
"It made a difference for that one."
I have always enjoyed this story and have used it in classes, as part of a volunteer thank you, etc. For some reason, I was reminded of the story today and how it captures a large part
Austin was with us only 14 short years but he made such a difference to so many in that time. And like the boy in the story, there wasn’t one specific amazing accomplishment he made. He didn’t receive any awards, wasn’t made famous by his acts of kindness, but he did make a difference. Austin made this world a better place and to the people he touched,
We all have that gift. Each of us can make a difference every day. It doesn’t have to be tremendous; it doesn’t even have to be something everyone knows about.
Find your starfish – and throw it in for Austin.
Both my boys have always loved baseball but Noah wouldn't even talk about it this last Spring. When I mentioned fall ball, he just shook his head. He finally told me that he didn't know if he will ever be able to play baseball again because it reminds him too much of Austin. That makes me so sad for many reasons and I hope it is a phase that will pass. My hope is that someday memories are not so painful but joyous reminders of him.
Austin never played basketball so I didn't think this sport would be painful for any of us. He did coach Upward with his dad one year but that was held at our church. This league is being played and coached by the high school. I don't know if I didn't realize that when Noah first mentioned or if I just pushed the thoughts aside. However, walking into the high school last night, it was obvious that this wouldn't be easy for Tim or me.
As we entered the doors, I realized that I hadn't been in that school since losing Austin. My last memory is of picking him up early from school in November, to take him to an appointment. That desk is the same spot we had to walk up to last night to sign Noah up for ball.
I've learned to "check my emotions at the door" and have become fairly good at hiding the pain, when needed. Noah didn't need to see me break down (or anyone there for that matter) and so I had to be strong. What I wanted to do was turn around and go back to my truck, but Noah needed this, so I stayed. Tim was rather quiet throughout the practice and though he said nothing until we were home in bed, I figured he was going through the same emotions.
For me, it wasn't of the memories of high school with Austin that hurt because he wasn't a student there long enough to create many. He started his freshman year last August so he was there just three short months. What hurt the most was the thoughts of what was lost, what could have been. I was hit with memories from my high school years and what Austin didn't get to experience. Teenage boys walked past, finishing up from practice or an after school activity, and my eyes followed them, wishing Austin was among the pack. My heart cried last night for the memories we didn't get to make with him.
It still amazes me what triggers grief. It is the simple, little things - the every day moments and memories - that hurt the most. Holidays and anniversaries are obvious and you brace yourself for the pain. But what is harder is moments like last night that you don't expect. Life goes on, even though inside you are screaming for it to stop. Every day is one more sunrise, one more sunset, that you did not get to experience with the loved one you lost. You miss what you had, think back on memories you shared, but it is a different pain to reflect on what you never got to do with them. "What could have been" hurts your soul.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
I so enjoyed shopping with and for my boys for school. With Austin, it was about the only time in the school year I was able to be an active participant, it sometimes seemed. As a teenager, he didn't disclose much of his school days to me. However, at the start of the school year, he was always willing and eager for me to shop with him. He trusted my opinion about clothes and appreciated me helping him organize his supplies.
Austin didn't take after his mom in the organizational arena. This often got on my nerves, as I couldn't understand how you could lose and need a new pencil every day or forget an assignment. Looking back though, I chuckle about it. That is who Austin was and I wouldn't have changed him for anything. Besides, I did a lot of bargain hunting for school supplies so I had an endless amount of pencils anyway!
I enjoyed purchasing everything on his list and a few extra surprises along the way. We'd sit down a couple nights before school was to begin and pack everything into his backpack. Last year, he was determined to be more organized moving into high school. I bought him an expandable filing contraption to hold assignments for each of his classes. We picked different color folders and notebooks for each subject to help him remember and stay on top of things. He was excited about the new school year, and while I don't know that it made a huge difference, I could see a change in how he kept up with assignments. Plus, it made me still feel like I was needed, even though my baby was starting high school.
We had a fun time school shopping last year too. Of course, he had outgrown everything over the summer. I think he grew inches overnight! He went up an entire size in shoes too, wearing the largest size most stores carried. We joked about having to borrow shoes from Shaq or some other basketball star, or special ordering some online the next year.
Tim doesn't really get the need for kids to have certain brands or styles. He thinks it is silly to have more than one pair of shoes (really that is more towards me) or pay over a certain amount on jeans. Most of it, he does in fun; however, I don't think Austin ever really knew how to take him. Would he really be upset if he bought these jeans that were $50? They both got a kick out of picking at each other. Austin would bump the price up, just to see Tim's reaction. Tim would say, "You seriously aren't wearing those jeans, are you? I mean, I have some with holes in them for free at the house." And I think Austin picked out a specific pair, complete with sharpie drawings, on purpose just to pick at Tim last year.
I was impressed with Austin though for being price-conscious. He kept up with what he was spending from store to store. If I suggested something, he'd say it was too much, or shrug it off as it he wasn't interested. Only after I told him it was ok, would he go ahead and purchase it. And he didn't buy anything particularly expensive. That is just how Austin was. He shared comments with Noah too while shopping, letting him know he if he was spending too much, wasting money, or making a fashion mistake!
As I was buying school shoes for Noah last weekend, I was reminded of that. Last year, Noah had wanted these shoes with drawings or something on them (just because he thought it was cool). Austin proceeded to lecture him though about being fake. He said, "Those are skater shoes and you aren't a skater. Don't be fake." Noah could have really cared less and wasn't trying to be someone he wasn't but Austin didn't want him getting a reputation, I guess. I laugh about it now remembering the two of them in the store.
It hurts, seeing a new school year approach, and knowing my guy won't be joining his classmates. Austin would have been a sophomore this year. He had planned to drop band and join the football team. He would have been on the countdown for getting his license and taking over his dad's truck. So many dreams I had for him, so many memories cut short.
I miss him. Every moment.