In Loving Memory

  • Remembering my beloved child, Austin, who passed away at the early age of 14. He lived more in those 14 short years than most and is an inspiration to us all.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

An Accidental Blessing

Austin wasn't planned, at least not when it happened. To say it was an "accident" makes it seem as if it were unwanted. That wasn't the case at all; however, it just didn't happen on our timeline, it happened on God's.

Tim and I had planned to be married awhile and I wanted to finish school and get a good job before having children. (You never think you have enough money to start a family.) We were certainly poor then in the terms of money but Austin brought so many riches into our lives!

I was babysitting my little sister, Raven, the day I decided to take the pregnancy test. A part of me already knew but I took the test to make sure. I didn't want Raven to know what I was doing, in case there weren't two pink lines on the stick, so I told her I was testing our water. Moments later I sent her outside to find Tim. She ran up to him yelling, "Uncle Tim, the toilet water's clean!" When he entered the house and saw my face, he knew. Our lives were changed forever.

My pregnancy wasn't easy, the last few months I spent on bed rest, as we tried to prolong delivery. Not that we lived that far from Owensboro, but just to be safe, the days before I expected to deliver, we stayed with my grandmother so we'd be closer to the hospital.

The labor was hard and scary for a first-time, young mother. Fourteen hours later, my little miracle was born. Austin didn't cry and I held my breath, waiting. Tim and I could see the concerned looks on the hospital staff's faces. The doctor held up two fingers, which we later discovered meant he had the cord around his neck twice. It was a scary beginning but thankfully, Austin was ok. He was 7 lbs, 5 oz of perfection.

The first year was a whirlwind, going faster than we'd ever imagined. Austin reached all the milestones weeks and months before he should have. As I review his baby book, nearly every entry includes a comment about his smile, or how happy he was. I wonder if he knew how happy he made us.

There are many things in Austin's life I would go back and change, if I could. The biggest one of course would be to have him still here with us. However, we aren't in control. I would have never planned to have had a baby as young or newly married as we were. I would have never planned to raise a child, and juggle college and jobs and saving for our first house. But look at what God's plan gave us - a beautiful, wonderful child that we were blessed to share 14 years with. Some "accidents" aren't accidental at all, just not on our timeline. It is those unplanned gifts from God that are the sweetest.

What Austin taught me

Parents are supposed to teach their children, to show them right from wrong, help them learn to read, bring them up into wonderful adults. Who knew children could teach us so much, at least mine did and still do.

Austin taught me to love life. He found joy in the simple things - clouds, animals, trees, sunsets.

Austin taught me how powerful knowledge can be and that we should never stop learning. His mind was like a sponge and I loved to watch him soak up everything around him, to absorb it.

He taught me patience. As a child, his questions were endless. As a teenager, his mood changed daily - sometimes hourly - and as a mom, I had to learn to ride the waves!

He taught me kindness. And he is still teaching me this. I know that an act of kindness, no matter how small, is noticed and remembered and treasured. Make friends and keep them. Be nice to everyone, even if you've just met and will never see them again.

Austin taught me to have fun. Life can be fun, if you allow it. Take chances, don't always follow the rules or a schedule. Be spontaneous. Savor the moment. Laugh a lot - and loud, who cares who is listening!

Most of all, Austin taught me to treasure every day. He showed all of us how quickly life can pass and that we never know what day may be our last. Even faced with close calls to death myself, on more than one occasion, it is his passing that has taught me this lesson the most.

Hold close to those you love - each kiss, each word, could be your or their last memory. Don't let it be one you'll regret. Fill your life with love and kindness, fun and family. Thank God for each moment you have on this Earth. Make the most of it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Love Letters

As I've written before, we have been so touched by the letters, cards and calls we've received about Austin. So many just wanted us to know how great he was - as if we didn't already! However, it is always nice to hear from another. You raise your children up and hope that when you aren't around they remember. In Austin's case, I think he was even better than we could have imagined. We are certainly prouder than ever to have been his parents.

I wanted to share just a few lines of some of the words that have touched us most. Some were from kids at school that really didn't even know him well. I am impressed because at this age is when some kids pretend to be something they aren't. It isn't always cool or easy to be the nice guy but obviously, Austin didn't care. He was who he was and it didn't matter where.

"He always made me laugh."
"He wanted to be a firefighter and that was all I ever heard about!"
"He was the best kid ever."
"He wasn't like any other guy. He was sweet and never tried to be mean."
"He was like a brother to me."
"He was always happy and he always made everyone else happy."
"No matter what, he always wore a smile."
"He had his whole life planned."
"He had ideas for everything."
"He was very understanding and would listen to you."
"He always helped me with my homework."
"there are a lot of respectful people but none like him."
"He was a student that was known for never getting in trouble."
"He made a big impact on my life, makes me want to be a better person."

Train up a child in the way he should go....
"Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example for other believers in your speech, behavior, love, faithfulness, and purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Peaceful Spirit

Austin's last status entry on Myspace is "I wonder what will happen tomorrow." He wrote this the night before he passed. I asked him that night what it meant and he said he just knew we had a busy weekend, preparing for the holidays. I didn't give it a second thought, until I lost him the next night.

I think back to that last day, Saturday, November 29th, and what I've called "our last perfect day together" and wonder if he knew on some level he was leaving this Earth. We never know how many days we have, only God does, but I wonder if our spirit knows in some form. Austin was at such a peace that day, you could feel it. He was softer, kinder, gentler, happier - not that he wasn't already all of those things but it was just more that day.

As I've wrote before, that last day couldn't have been more perfect. We didn't do anything special but each memory is precious. And it was enjoyment in the moment, not just because now it has the memory of being our last day. Throughout our decorating that day, I could sense Austin's enjoyment, could see him soaking up the memories of each moment. You could see the peace on his face, as he handed us each ornament, commenting on his favorites or reliving past holiday memories. I wonder if on some level, his spirit was preparing for his journey home, that would happen just a few short hours later.

We ended our evening, eating dinner together and watching a holiday movie. All were tired from a long day of decorating but it was a good tired. We were content to have had the day together as a family and were excited about the upcoming holidays.

Austin passed away moments after leaving our house that night. Sometimes, I have wondered if I'd kept him home, would it have happened? Could we have saved him? And then I wonder if it happened outside the house to protect us -mostly Noah - on some level. I thank God that Noah didn't have to see and experience what we did. He was protected, at least a little, by being in the house. I wonder if Austin knew, if his spirit knew, and he left to protect all of us so we wouldn't have that memory in our home.

He passed away right beyond our backyard, along the tree line. It is the same tree line that I watch the sun come up each morning. At first, I didn't think I could ever look out my back windows again. I didn't know if I could view another sunrise and have the same appreciation. I can't deny that it hasn't been hard and some days I haven't wanted to but I do. And as I look at the new beauty of the day God has given us, I can only imagine the view Austin has. I am thankful for seeing a small piece of it, thankful for another day with my family here, as I await the day I will see him again.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Best Big Brother in the World

Noah would describe Austin as the "Best Big Brother in the World" - and he was. From the start, Austin was so excited to have a little brother. (Actually, in the beginning we thought Noah was going to be a "Hannah" so he was excited to have a little sister.) He would gently touch my belly with his ear to see if he could hear anything. We would read together to the baby each night. Austin even took a Big Brother class at the hospital to learn how to wash his hands and help care for the baby. He waited with anxious anticipation for the arrival.

When Noah was born we were all certainly surprised but I know Austin was excited to have a little brother, instead of a girl. He proudly visited the hospital room and could hardly wait for us to get home. What he learned from the class stuck with him and he ensured anyone who came within a few feet of Noah had clean hands. They had to sanitize and wash, sit in just the right spot, prop protective pillows all around, and just when Austin felt it was safe and ok, Noah was allowed to be held by the visitor.

While he was thrilled to have this new addition to our family, he was quick to let you know he was still important. He had been an only child for 5 years so we were prepared for jealousy to occur. One evening, Noah had several visitors and we were in awe of this tiny miracle. Austin very loudly proclaimed, "hello! I am here too and you aren't paying me enough attention!" We quickly corrected this and tried our best to not let it happen again!

Throughout the first year, Austin continued his protectiveness and always kept a watchful eye over Noah. It wasn't until Noah began to walk and get into his things, that the butterflies and roses came to a halt. Now, he still loved his brother, but his things were his things and the battles began!

They had this love/hate relationship the rest of their days. Pals, hugging and tickling each other, that quickly changed to wrestling, which led to hurt feelings (or body parts) and usually ended in tears. Raising boys, I quickly learned that things change on a dime and good furniture is something you wait to purchase! However, no matter how big the fight, it never lasted long and by the end of the evening, they were always made up and playing, laughing and loving.

Austin's protectiveness over Noah never ceased. Nobody was allowed to touch Noah...except Austin. If someone hurt Noah's feelings, they heard about it the next day - or the next minute, if they lived within walking distance or had a cell phone! He was Noah's bodyguard and in his own words, "he was my hero!"

Sometimes Austin took his care to the extreme, trying to fill the "Daddy" role of the family, which didn't sit well with Noah or Daddy, if the timing was wrong. After school, he made sure Noah got straight to his homework and had a healthy snack until I got home to make dinner. I'm sure Noah felt at times like Austin filled both the roles of his Mom and Dad! I know he was certainly a help with Noah and I couldn't have trusted him in better hands.

My heart breaks for Noah when I think of the loss he has had. They say children are the forgotten mourners. People think of the parents and the child is often told, "Be strong for Mom and Dad." And Noah has been; however, I know he hurts. I cannot imagine the void he has. While he and Austin didn't share a room, it was not uncommon to see them both sleeping together. Noah has bunk beds and Austin would often sleep in his room, if Noah were scared or had a bad dream. Austin's room was right beside Noah so many times during the night, he went to him first instead of coming to us. Sometimes we'd find Noah asleep in Austin's floor on a make-shift pallet they made in the middle of the night.

Noah looked up to Austin and tried so much to be like him. He wanted to watch the same shows, wear the same clothes, play the same games, just like his brother. He wanted a cell phone because Austin had one. And most of it wasn't sibling rivalry, it was sincere admiration. He just wanted to follow in his footsteps. I can't think of better feet to follow and I hope he continues to follow the path Austin left behind.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Austin's favorites

Some of you knew Austin well, some of you are learning more about him through this blog. I thought I'd keep his memory alive with this blog about all his favorite things.

Number - 23
Color - Blue
Day - Saturday
Month - July
Song - You Shook Me All Night Long
Food - steak, stir-fry, white chili, enchiladas, shrimp
Sport - baseball
Drink - mountain dew, gatorade
Candy - sour anything, white chocolate
Ice Cream - cookies and cream
Season - summer
Band - ac/dc ..or 80s hair bands
Movie - tommy boy
Website - myspace
Animal - dog
Item of Clothing - aeropostle hoodie...or holy jeans
Word - oh my gosh!
Place - fire station
Book - baseball bios or Pendragon series
TV show - Family Guy, Bones, CSI
Subject - Band, Computer Tech
Game - Cornhole, Xbox video games

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hug Somebody

From the start, Austin gave great hugs. He wrapped his arms around your neck and squeezed..sometimes so hard you had to tell him to stop! We called him our "Little Blair Bear" partly because of his great, big bear hugs.

Through the years, I was amazed that his hugs didn't stop. As a 14 year old teenager, I expected them to. But he hugged Tim and me daily - and at least weekly, he hugged his little brother. He never left either of his Mamaw's without hugging them too. And, I guess, he hugged others, so I've been told. It was kind of the thing he left us all with.

Doug said at his funeral, "Pay it forward. Pass it on..hug someone." And it caught on. Tim & I never received more hugs in our lives than we did that week! I still get hugs from some people every time I see them and they say "this is from Austin."

Many of Austin's friends on Myspace became my "friends" and I noticed their status or name would be changed to "RIP Austin - Hug Somebody." So many of them commented to me that they've been hugging a different person every day for Austin. I had one of my best friends say she hugged people so much the week Austin passed she thought they were going to file harassment charges! ..Austin would've got a kick out of that.

I've said before, I'd give anything for one of his hugs but I realized today that he is still sending them to me. I am amazed how when I need it most, someone comes into my day and gives me a hug. And the good ones too...where they grab on and hold you for more than just a second. Where you can feel them lifting you up with their prayers and comfort.

Noah has now taken that spot and is giving the biggest, best hugs ever. And yes, he squeezes a bit too hard at times and has to be reminded too!

What a wonderful legacy to leave behind...hugs. Doesn't matter what kind of day you've had, a hug can cure what ails you. It is the best medicine out there. I've never met one I didn't like.

If you knew Austin, or are learning about him through this blog....carry on his legacy. Hug Somebody for him.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Missing him...

Common, every day things are what you miss the most when you lose someone close to you. When they lived in the same home as you and you shared every day experiences, there is a hole where they once were. Rituals, daily habits, and just the pace of life changes because nothing ever seems normal again.

When I wake in the morning, there is an instant void because the first thing we did was get Austin up for school. In the afternoons, my phone is quiet, where texts and calls from him once filled the space. The empty chair at dinner reminds us again of his absence. At night, we lie in bed, waiting for him to come in and tell us good night and that he loves us. No matter what we do or where we go, we miss him and are reminded of Austin.

I miss Austin as a whole, as my son, as Noah's big brother. But there are special things, unique to him, and reasons I loved him that I miss too.

His laugh - Austin had this bold, big laugh that was loud and full of joy. He loved to laugh and didn't hold back if he enjoyed something. It is something I loved about him because most of the time I spent watching him enjoying whatever we were doing. He truly loved life and soaked up every moment. Our house seems quiet now and empty without it here, filling the air.

His hugs - Austin hugged me every day. I braced myself every day for it to stop, because being a teenager, I figured it would. Sometimes I got several in one day, sometimes just a few but never a day passed that he didn't hug me. In the past couple of years he shot up and towered over me. His one arm enveloped my shoulders, embracing me in a tender hug. Occasionally, I'd get a peck on the cheek too..but that was sometimes pushing it. I'd give anything for one of those great hugs now.

His smile - Austin had a beautiful smile and like his laugh, it would light up a room. His eyes twinkled when he smiled. And when he smiled, it was either a full smile - almost open mouth, laugh included...or a sweet, simple smile, no teeth. Most of the pictures I have of him are like the latter. He didn't like to smile with full teeth for the camera. Why, I don't know, because he had beautiful teeth.

His eyes - Austin had soft, brown, puppy dog eyes that could melt your heart. From the start, he had me wrapped around his little finger. He could look up at me as a toddler - or down at me as a teen, with those sad little eyes, pleading for whatever he wanted and he had it before he even really asked. They say eyes are the pathway to the soul and you could look into Austin's and see light, love and kindness.

His ears - I miss Austin's exceptional listening skills. He could've made an excellent counselor one day because he truly listened with his heart. He tuned into everything, could sense when something was wrong with someone. I could never hide much from him because he knew right away if I were sad or upset about something. He was my sounding board for many things and even though he was only 14, he had wisdom far beyond his years. He could always give me a perspective I couldn't get anywhere else. He must've been a great listener with his friends too because I heard that from so many of them. His ears sometimes got him in trouble though because he tuned into to conversations he shouldn't have at times...If Tim and I whispered, Austin's ears were on full alert!

I miss talking about our day, hearing about something funny that happened at school, laughing together, watching the boys wrestle on the floor, seeing him grow taller each day, the smell of his cologne, silly text messages, my co-pilot in the truck, learning the latest gadget/website/or other techno-thing, hearing the newest funny song he's downloaded, beating him in Guitar Hero, breaking up another fight between him and Noah, resting on his shoulder as we watched tv in my bed, never learning how to play Chess, cooking his favorite meals and letting him jokingly complain about it, tickling his feet, seeing his cell phone stuck to his ear, watching him play sports, buying him whatever he couldn't make it another moment without, just being with him...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Who Austin was

I spend a lot of time lately thinking about what Austin would have done, how he would have grown up. Each time I hear the song, "Who You'd Be Today" I cry because I think of time lost. However, I am continually amazed at who Austin was and how much he lived in his 14 short years here.

From the start, Austin was a very independent boy. They say children grow up fast but he just seemed to zoom by, passing all the milestones well before his time. Even as a toddler he would carry on conversations with adults and understand so much more than he should have. So many times in his baby book, I wrote "you taught me so much" -and he did.

Austin always wanted to be doing something, learning something new - exploring. And as a mother, it brought me such joy to experience his firsts. Although "why" was a constant word in his vocabulary, I appreciated it and answered him with such amazement. You could see him just soaking everything in. I remember one day while we were walking, he stopped to see an ant hill. To see all those little ants marching, building, carrying, excited him so much. I can still see him squatting down to their level and me to his as we watched this new world to him.

When you send your children to school, you feel like you're losing the baby in them forever. Austin started preschool at 3, so I really struggled with how quickly he would grow up. I knew though how much he'd enjoy the interaction with other kids and most of all the learning. He did mature so fast though.

Age was never a factor for Austin. If he saw something he wanted to do, he did it. It didn't matter if most considered him too young. He started playing baseball before he was really even big enough to hit off the tee. Because he wanted to go deer hunting with his dad, he took a gun safety class while he was still in grade school. Through the Gifted program at school, he was able to attend some classes at college. While he wasn't really attending college classes (just sessions held at the college), in his mind he was. He was so proud to go to the campus and had such a great time exploring and creating in their science lab.

Sometimes, I worried as a Mom, that I was letting him grow up too fast. I hesitated in letting him do some things because I thought, "he has his whole life to do this" and "he needs to be a kid now". Seeing the joy and excitement in his face was all it took though and looking back now I have no regrets because he lived so much in his life!

Austin was honored with a beautiful eulogy that captured the essence of who he was. As I listened to Doug list his accomplishments, I was amazed. Some of the things, even I had forgotten about. I'll try to list them all but even as his Mom, who wrote and logged most of his childhood, I may not remember it all because Austin did so much!

He was an athlete - playing baseball since he was two or three years old. He loved the sport and outside of playing it, he was a follower. He collected hundreds of baseball cards and could tell you the stats on just about any player in history. Baseball season was his favorite time of year and he would sometimes use multiple televisions to watch all the shows he wanted. Seeing the game live though, was his favorite. In the past year, his passion moved to wrestling. It was a mixed martial arts - UFC type of sport and he loved it. He watched it on tv, researched it on the internet, and went anytime the club was open and he had a ride. He was still in training so we never got to see him in a match, although I witnessed many moves between him, Tim and Noah - and that made me nervous enough!

He was a coach - Austin coached Upward Basketball with his Dad. I was initially concerned about it, because he was young and didn't know if the church would even agree. However, it was a deal breaker for Tim and if he couldn't have his sidekick with him, he didn't want to coach either. They coached Noah's team, which also worried me because you know how brothers can be. However, it was the perfect season. I was so touched by how generous and motivating Austin was. The boys enjoyed having him and learned so much that year. Austin continued to "coach" Noah for any sport he played. He was always there on the sidelines, rooting for him or pushing him more because he knew Noah could do it.

Austin was a musician - He played both the trumpet and french horn in band. I didn't think he could learn two instruments his first year playing but he did. Although he set out to play trumpet, after learning that the band director needed another french horn, he jumped right on the opportunity. Outside of the band, he had a guitar here at home he was learning to play. And although it might not qualify to some as music, he was Rock Band King. He could do it all but loved the drums most. Austin, Noah, and I spent Christmas Break 07 playing some killer tunes on those games, and making great memories.

He was a scientist - anything and everything to do with science, Austin enjoyed. From an early age he wanted to know why, how, when, what. He loved making experiments with his science kit as a young child and then later his own ideas (with the help of the internet). Many times, I didn't know about something until after the fact, which was probably good because it scared me enough past tense! He loved collecting rocks and had shelves of them. He knew what each one was, where it came from, what made it unique. We found a rock store once while on vacation and we could have cancelled all other plans, and just let him spend more time there. He saved the rest of his spending money on that trip to stop in there before we headed home and make one last purchase.

Austin was a prankster - he loved to make people laugh. April Fool's Day was one of his favorite day's of the year. Salt in our coffee, water in our coke cans, were both common jokes. He was quick-witted and could always come up with a cute attack. His dad was the butt of most jokes but it was done in a sweet spirit. I think his brother, Noah, is picking up right where Austin left off.

He was a volunteer - if someone needed help, Austin was right there. Whether it was organized or not, if there was a need, Austin found it and dove in head first. He absolutely loved high school because of all the opportunities. In the few short months he attended, he never failed to volunteer at something every week. He was so excited and proud to have been selected to work ER at the hospital, though he never got the chance. Relay For Life was an instant passion for him. I never pushed him to do it because that was my job and I didn't want him to feel like he had to help but he wouldn't have it any other way. Once I gave up being a team captain for our family team, he jumped right in, not wanting to see our team fizzle away. He was only 8 the first year he did it and I have to say, he did a better job at organizing it than I ever did! He was also a huge advocate for us, especially regarding tobacco. I was so impressed with how he carried himself at our Lobby Day last year. Austin could sometimes come across as shy but he wasn't intimidated at all to speak to the politicians on our behalf. He wanted a smoke-free Kentucky and I know he'll be smiling down on us when we get there.

He was so much more but I'll end for now with him being a firefighter. I think it was the thing he was most proud of. Tim's been a firefighter for over 25 years so it was all Austin ever knew. He sat in the cab of a firetruck before he could walk so it was only natural, I guess. My kids never tired of being at the fire station and sometimes I think Austin would have lived there. The day he officially joined was one of the happiest of his life. He was so proud to be Unit #210. If he'd been old enough to take all the classes, he would have been certified within the first year because it was all he wanted to do. We had to pace him because as a 14 year old, there were limits to what he could do. He didn't understand and it was hard for us as parents to put enforce those restrictions when he was so eager to help. I joked sometimes that I don't know why I bought him any other clothes, because a fire shirt and blue jeans was about all he ever wore. He spent many Friday and Saturday nights down there, sometimes not coming home until after midnight. I let him stay later down there because really, there were far worse places a teenager could be. I knew he was safe there and had great role models to learn from; however from talking to them, I think now he might have taught them a little more.

I think I could write for days about who Austin was. I could fill a novel and he was only here 14 years. Such a short time but he sure made the use of every, single day. When I think back to where I was at his age, there is no comparison. He truly lived his life, lived for every moment and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a lesson I certainly have learned from him. As always, he teaches me. I hope he teaches you some too.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Austin's "presents"

We've felt Austin's presence so many times since he passed. They are what we called his "presents" or gifts to us.

The first time, it was the day of visitation. We were silent in the car on the ride over. Our hearts were heavy and we were bracing ourselves for what we knew would be a long day. The radio was turned off, because I got mad and turned it off the night before. Austin passed right in the middle of the holidays so every station was always blaring some cheerful Christmas tune - and I didn't want to hear that. Anyway, as we pulled into the funeral home, the radio came on and one line of a song played. It said "God's getting ready to do something good in me" - and that was all. Then the radio went off. Instantly we were calmed and ok to walk in. I feel it was his message to us, to help us through the day.

Since then, there have been many times that I will smell his scent, especially after I've been very upset. Or the beautiful chimes we were given in his memory will start to play, on a windless day. I know he is watching over us and sends us those small presents so that we feel his presence.

Today is my birthday. Of course, all day I haven't much felt like celebrating. I would have rather forgotten it but my friends and family wouldn't let that happen. I don't know that there was a single hour that someone didn't call, email, post a message, come by and see me, etc. But as I was driving home today, I still couldn't shake my sadness. The only gift I really wanted was Austin. And I knew that was impossible.

Lately, I've been checking the mail as soon as I get home. I make sure I'm home before Noah gets off the bus and I check the mail so that he doesn't have that reminder. (He and Austin would race each other to the box each afternoon). As I opened the screen door, there was a large white envelope. For some reason, I didn't open it right away. I knew Noah would be home soon and didn't want to upset him. So, I waited for Tim to get home and we opened it together.It was Austin. His freshman school photo. Our last school photo of him. It came on my birthday. Now, I don't know when photos should have gone out but I would have expected before Christmas. I thought about them once during this process. I figured, since I hadn't received them, that Austin probably lost the order or turned it in too late. (He had a habit of doing that!) But they showed up today, at my front door, on my birthday. So, he was here, in some way for my day. ....Just another one of his "presents" to me.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Words of Kindness

We have heard and read so many kind words for our son, Austin. Some we knew, some we didn't. I was touched most by his small acts of kindness and how they helped people.

From the start, Austin was a happy baby. His nickname quickly became Smiley, as everywhere we took him, he greeted the world with a big smile. As he grew older, his smile was not quite so toothy, as he tended to sometimes be shy, but he always had a sweet smile just the same.

He was always a helper around the house, sometimes to my dismay! He loved to help clean, which as a toddler, sometimes included throwing mom's keys or phones away. He loved to cook, especially during the holidays. Each year his list would grow longer for the people he wanted to give gifts of food. Every teacher, bus driver, and others through the year would make the list. And he always helped from start to finish. I had to carry on his tradition this year, even though he was gone. Each of his teachers received a small mug of goodies from him.

Every afternoon I would pull into the driveway, he was there, waiting for me at the door to open it and carry in my laptop, groceries, and anything else. Many cold mornings he would go out and start my car, so it was warmed for me when I left.

When Tim and I had our wreck, he was phenomenal. He was only 11 at the time and so mature beyond his years. I can only imagine how scared he was from the ordeal but he never showed it. He helped me out of the hospital bed, up and down stairs, pushed my wheelchair, etc. And he helped around the house, picking up extra chores, helping Noah, and anything Tim needed too.

At dinner, he would never take seconds, unless he was sure everyone had enough food. And he was a hungry boy, always finishing his plate before we really even started! And he was such a wonderful big brother to Noah. Sure, they had their fights, as all brothers do, but he protected him. Nobody but Austin was allowed to touch Noah...or else! He babysat Noah after school, during trips to the store, and throughout the summer. And he rarely complained.

I could go on and on about how precious my son was but of course, a Mom is always bias. What makes me know Austin was wonderful is from the hundreds of cards, phone calls, and in person accounts of who he was!

The best present I received this past Christmas was from the high school, where Austin was a freshman. They delivered a wrapped box, full of letters from students telling us what they remembered of him. So many were from kids who barely knew him but he'd done some small act of kindness they never forgot.

"He helped me pick up my books one day in the hall while everyone else laughed"
"It is because of him I survived 7th grade"
"He took up for me in grade school, when everyone else made fun of me"
"He smiled at me every morning and said hello"

Simple, every day things that so many people take for granted. How easy is it to smile? I always joked with my kids they used more muscles to frown than to smile...but I didn't think he listened. :)
And his dad always shared with him about how important it was to stand up for the little guy. ...who knew he did it so much.

There were longer notes and stories kids - and adults - have told us. He was truly a hero. He made this world a better place. And now, as his Mom, I must share his story. So, as was said in his eulogy, "Pay it Forward." Help people, do random acts of kindness, smile! Together, we can all remember Austin in this way and his spirit will live on.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Austin's obituary

Timothy Austin Blair, a beloved son and brother, died on Saturday night, November 29, near his home.

Austin left a legacy in his 14 short years on this earth. He will always be remembered for his compassion for others, his loving spirit and for having the heart of a volunteer. Austin was a freshman at Ohio County High School, where he loved to be with his friends, to learn new things, and to volunteer.

He was a member of OCHS Band, OC Drug Free, Youth Advisory Council, and donated his time at the animal shelter, the library, and was selected to shadow in ER at Ohio County Hospital.

He followed the passions of his parents, raising money for Relay For Life and by becoming a Jr Firefighter for Beaver Dam Fire & Rescue. Austin was a member of Beaver Dam Baptist church and proud to be a Christian. He loved all sports, especially baseball, starting at the early age of 3. He was currently in training for MMA Wrestling.

Austin is survived by his loving parents, Tim and Heather Blair of Beaver Dam and by his little brother, Noah. His grandparents were June and the late George Blair, Bonida and Carl Evans, and Tim Coons. His great-grandparents were Virginia and the late Henry Coons and the late Wavie and Aleta McGuffin. He will also greatly be missed by three aunts, 5 uncles, many cousins and countless others.

But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God." Luke 18:16

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Our last perfect day

I lost my 14 year old son on November 29, 2008, at 11:13 p.m.

I still feel like this is all some crazy, scary dream - nightmare. Each time the clock chimes I scream inside - "wake up" but nothing happens. I smell him, feel him, see him in my husband and younger son. I feel like he'll just be walking in the house any minute, laughing because he was "late".

Saturday, November 29th, was the perfect family day. We awoke to beautiful weather and immediately set to decorating our house for the holidays. We turned the outside sound system on and let the Christmas songs fill the air. My husband and youngest son, Noah, went to the roof to put up lights and Austin and me decorated the rest of the outside. Everyone was in such a good mood - no harse words, just fun and laughs. Even Austin and Noah (who always had at least one brotherly fight a day) were perfect. They wrestled outside in the yard, tickling each other. I even commented - "wow. what a great family day!"

As I finished up outside, Austin came in and began to decorate the inside of the house. He's 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 this day, he loved it. I could feel him soaking it in, enjoying the moments. 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 w/last minute supplies. I was so touched but also tired and asked to put off the big tree until Sunday. He wouldn't have it. "It is tradition Mom. We have to do it all."

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 the tree - barefooted. "Dad" always had to get a chair and Austin loved that he could do it without one.

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. Around 10 p.m. his dad and I went to lay in bed and watch the news. He asked to ride his bike around our neighborhood. The weather was good for this time of year and he'd been riding nightly with the neighbor.

Minutes later a knock at the door brought my husband out of the bed, to hear the neighbor crying, saying Austin had passed out. The next hour was unreal - is unreal. I will never forget the sound of my husband screaming in the field behind our house. I knew. Instantly. I felt his voice shake me to core. It broke my soul. I drove to him, held my son's hand but knew he was already gone. My husband, continued to do CPR until help arrived. Someone took me to the hospital and I prayed the entire time, begged God to give him back. When I finally entered the hospital room, I heard them call time and then some voice inside of me screamed, broke - a sound I didn't think I could humanly make. It was over.

To date, we still don't know why or what happened. There was no trauma, no broken bones, no reason. It could take months to find out - and we may never know. He was healthy, strong. Growing so big. He was my rock, my everything and life just isn't "life" without him here. The only positive thing in all this is the difference he made, the testimony of his life. He was such a witness, a true servant and had a heart of gold.

I have heard and received so many blessings from people - strangers - in how he touched their life. Just an average 14 year old! He lived more in his 14 years than people do in a "lifetime" and helped so many people. "He was my bodyguard." "He said hello to me when nobody else would" "He made me want to raise money for charity" "He helped me when I lost my friend" "He was always smiling"...He was a Christian and lived for God. I think about all those teenagers at his funeral and the beautiful words our pastor said - about how God always used a teenager to do awesome work....Daniel, Timothy, Moses, Mary, etc. and MY son. I wonder how many of those kids he turned to God. For that, I am honored and so proud to be his Mom. To have lived that kind of life - it is something I will strive to do daily, to honor his memory.

Did you know?

Did you know how many lives you touched with your smile?
Did you know how many you helped when you went that extra mile?
Did you know how much joy you brought into our lives from the very start?
Did you know your memory will forever remain in our hearts?
Did you know you were the best big brother, son and friend?
Did you know how many loved you, the number never ends.
Did you know by decorating our trees you’d make Christmas special this year?
Did you know that angel will always hold special meaning now, dear?
Did you know you were a hero who left a legacy that inspires still?
Did you know because you loved us, how treasured we feel?
Did you know how much we’d miss you and that we will the rest of our days?
Did you know your love remains here and with us will always stay….
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