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.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A true hero

Austin's heroes on his Myspace page were "God, and anyone who would run into a burning building to save someone else." He was my hero, still is.

I guess it is normal for a child to want to grow up "just like Dad" but Austin had a true heart for the fire department. He had an intense desire to help others - it wasn't just about cool fire trucks, lights, and sirens for him. Joining the department as a junior, he didn't get to experience all of that anyway. He was lowest on the pole and only had classroom trainings and a few hands-on classes to look forward to. If hoses needed rolling or the bathroom needed cleaning, he was among the first to be asked, because of his ranking. Yet, he never minded. He just enjoyed being at the station and he soaked in every moment.

His uniform of choice became any fire t-shirt he could find and a pair of jeans. I joked with him about not ever needing to go school shopping, because that was his favorite thing to wear. He was proud to wear his fire t-shirts because he was proud to be a fireman. I have heard from his friends since that it was also about the only thing he wanted to talk about! He could not wait for the day to make his first run. His father was so proud to see him following in his footsteps and I know he would have been an excellent firefighter.

I will never forget the line of firefighters that attended Austin's funeral. When I turned to sit down, it was all I could do to hold back the tears, seeing them fill the walls and lined up outside the room. They stood the entire service and I can only imagine the surprised smile on Austin's face, looking down, to see such support.

For anyone to get a true "Firefighter's Funeral" is an honor and is usually only bestowed on someone with many years of service to the department. We were so touched to see them come out full force to honor our son.

I tried so hard to keep it together at the service, mostly for Noah, but also for the rest of my family. I knew they were looking to me for guidance and strength and by staying strong, I helped us all get through it. However, seeing our fellow firefighters, lined up with heads bowed and helmet in hands, was almost more than I could bear. When they sent out the tones and the last call was announced, I broke. It hurt so much to know that he would never be able to respond as "Unit 210" again - that he never really got to at all - and now I was hearing his last call. His number would then be retired, never to be used again. To see those big, strong service men, with tears falling, made me crumble inside. It was why I left so soon after and made my way for the car.

As hard as it was, it was our proudest moment as parents for Austin. For a child of his age to be honored in this way, is just unimaginable. We knew then he wasn't just our hero, he was a hero to so many more. In the end, I guess it doesn't really matter how many years of service, how many calls, how many lives you saved - what matters is that you had the heart. Given the chance, I know Austin would have saved and helped so many. And I guess in his own way, he did - and still is.

The match I never saw

A few months before Austin passed, he began studying MMA (mixed martial arts). A friend of ours, who is a policeman and also studies, suggested it to Austin one day because of his size. That is all it took. Austin went to one match with him and he was hooked.

The first couple visits he could only watch but I can still remember his excitement the first time he got to grapple. He came home that night, filled with adrenaline, and ready to recap the entire evening. Of course, he had to show the moves he learned by wrestling with his Dad. It didn't take long for Tim to realize Austin finally had the upper hand on their frequent matches with the new moves he learned. Austin pinned Tim and I chuckle remembering the surprise on Tim's face and the joy in Austin's.

We were later told by the guy who took him, how amazed he was at Austin's ease in picking up the skills so quickly. He had never witnessed someone learning so much just from watching. Austin was a natural.

The gym was in Owensboro so it was difficult to get him there as often as he wanted to go. He networked with some other members who lived in Ohio county and found rides for nearly every night. In addition to working out at the gym, he began conditioning by riding his bike, working out at our local health club, and practicing on Tim and Noah.

The week of Thanksgiving, I finally got to take him to practice. We didn't stay and watch, mostly because I didn't want to embarrass Austin by being the only "Mom" there. However, when we came back to pick him up I did go in and meet the crew and see the club. He was proud to show me around. On the way home, he couldn't stop talking about the things he learned, how much he was improving, and awaiting the day when he could actually get into the ring for a real match. Little did we know, that would be his last visit to the gym.

I was always such a proud Mom, watching Austin from the stands in any sport he played. We looked forward to watching him in his newest endeavor and it saddens me that we never got the chance. I hope he knew how proud we were of him, even if we never got to clap and cheer him on from the crowd.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Musical Messages

Austin and I both shared a love for music. Like my mom did when she was pregnant with me, I exposed Austin to all types of music starting from the womb.

Music was always a part of our play when he was a baby and his favorite shows as a young child were the Disney Sing-A-Long series. I shared my favorites with him but allowed to be an individual in the choices he made. His taste changed over time. When he was younger, still in grade school he was all country - and his Dad couldn't have been prouder! As he grew older, he began to dip into my cd collection and found a love for classic rock. AC/DC was probably his favorite band when he passed. He loved the song "You shook me all night long" and it was his tune to play, anytime he needed to get pumped up.

Austin also enjoyed playing instruments and I was thrilled when he decided to join the band in middle school. I was impressed that his first year he mastered not only the trumpet but the french horn. He enjoyed playing for OC Band and was torn, knowing his freshman year would be his last to play. (His class schedule later wouldn't allow time for it.) I am so sad that I didn't get to see him play with the high school band, as he passed before their Christmas concert.

I have fond memories too of playing Guitar Hero and RockBand with him. I think he was surprised and impressed the first time I picked up the game guitar and rocked it out. He didn't quite know what to think the first time I beat him. It was funny but he was actually proud of me for being able to hold my own with it and would brag about it to his friends.

I've been amazed that he has used music so often to send messages to me from beyond. So many, many times a song will play at just the right moment, with just the right words I need to hear. The most impressive was the day of the visitation. Tim and I were so lost, unsure how we would make it through this day. The night before, I had turned off the truck radio because I was tired of hearing the joyous Christmas music. As we pulled into the funeral home, the radio came on by itself and a song played, "God is gonna do something good with me" and we were instantly calmed. As quickly as the radio came on, it went off again, as if only to share that brief message with us. And it was what we needed. We were filled with such a sense of peace that day that it held us up to make it through.

Most of the songs playing on this site, were played at his funeral, and were my messages to him. They share who he was and how we feel about him. They are a comfort to me still, even if I cry every time I hear them. Music is healing.

The latest song I have heard that makes me think of Austin, is "Riverbank" a country song by a new artist. The song started playing one day, while I was especially praying about Tim and hoping he have some peace with this loss. The song's words were so perfect to explain where Tim was and how he is feeling.

The chorus is: "I wish this was a riverbank instead of a graveyard, wish we were sittin and fishin and this wouldn't be so hard. It was my favorite thing that we use to do, but now we cant. I wish you were here, I wish this was a river bank." And the bridge: "I know you wouldn't want me sittin around being sad, you taught me better then that. So I'm leavin now and gonna head on out and try and catch a few, and while I'm there, I'll cast a line for you." I've added it the site.

Maybe the song will send a helpful message to someone else.

kindred spirits

I've thought about my Grandpa Coons a lot lately, for some reason. He and Austin had a lot in common and shared those great qualities I admire. They both had such kind souls and never met a stranger. I imagine Grandpa was among the first to greet Austin when he entered Heaven.

I was pregnant with Austin when my Grandpa's health declined. I remember him being in ICU and whispering in his ear that he needed to get better so he'd see his first great-grand baby. Grandpa pulled through and even though he and my Grandmother were both in the hospital when Austin was born, he was proud to hold him and welcome him to the world.

We spent a lot of weekends at Grandma and Grandpa's after Austin was born, and I know they enjoyed spending that time with him. I so very much wanted Austin to grow up knowing this man, who made such a difference in my life. My Grandpa was one of the greatest male role models I could imagine. He was the one who taught me to love God, and actually helped lead me to salvation. Grandpa was a preacher and I fondly remember growing up in his church and listening to his sermons. He instilled in me early what it meant to be a Christian.

Grandpa's face would light up, each time Austin was around. He enjoyed having Austin on his knee, sitting in the recliner. Grandpa always loved babies but I think he was proud to have lived to see his first great-grandchild. Sadly, Grandpa spent those final years struggling with illness and passed away while Austin was still a toddler.

I don't think Austin remembered him in the physical sense but I tried to pass on those wonderful qualities of my Grandpa to him. I believe he mirrored Grandpa's kind soul and genuine love for people and the desire to make the world a better place. Like Grandpa, Austin never met a stranger and would gladly help someone in need. I know Grandpa was smiling down, the day Austin decided to be a Christian. And although some thought at the time, he was too young to make the decision, I knew he was ready. I am ever-thankful that he was lead early and was able to be a Christian nearly half of his life on this Earth.

When your children are away from you, a mother worries. Knowing that Austin had Grandpa there to greet him, gave me great peace. I can only imagine the time they are enjoying together and the difference they are making from above. I can't wait for the day when I'll see them both again and I know big hugs are waiting for me.

Vacation Memories

I'm in the midst of planning our Spring Break trip and it is unbelievably hard because I'm constantly aware of one less person being with us this year. We've never taken a family vacation without Austin. I'm not sure I know how.

I think back to our last family vacation and how many wonderful memories we now have. It was our first trip to Florida as a family, to Pensacola, last July. We rented a house with my cousin and her family and spent a week enjoying the sun, sand and sea.

I initially worried Austin wouldn't enjoy the trip. He was older than all the other children and being a teenager, I felt he would grow bored or want to do his own thing. However, he was so content and thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

Austin was my co-pilot for our midnight drive down. Tim and Noah slept in the backseat and Austin helped keep me awake for the long trek. We rocked out to classic 80s tunes, counted Waffle Houses, and just talked. It was wonderful.

We drove straight through and were pushing it to make it to Pensacola's beach for the Blue Angels show. As we hit the heavy traffic, our truck began acting up. On the 3 mile bridge, it nearly stalled several times and was a crazy, hectic way to begin our vacation. We made it across the bridge (and changed into our swimsuits in the car!) and pulled into a McDonalds. Austin immediately took charge of Noah and took him inside to cool off and get a snack, while Tim and I surveyed the truck's damage.

Basically, it just overheated from sitting so long in traffic and not moving on the 3 mile bridge but we were hesitant to stay and risk getting caught in the traffic leaving the BA show. We decided to head on to the vacation house and Austin was quick to let us know he was ok with missing the show. I was so impressed with his easy going attitude. We were hot, tired and disappointed and he could of easily complained, but he didn't. We drove on the house in Perdido Key and luckily missed the storm that later hit. (Turns out the show didn't happen so we didn't lose out on that memory either!)

At the house (and really throughout the vacation), Austin was such a help. He carried luggage, played with the kids, packed supplies up and down the stairs, etc. And he did it without asking. He made the vacation so pleasant and easy. On our beach days, I worried he wouldn't enjoy himself but it was actually what he requested to do the most. Austin loved the Quietwater Beach and found the love for snorkeling while there. He, Tim and Noah had such a good time exploring the ocean floor. Austin found tons of sandollars, a sea horse and more, but was most thrilled to find an old cell phone. He knew it didn't work but thought it was too cool that he found it there!
The day we spent at what the kids called "The Angry Beach" he had fun catching jellyfish with my cousin's little girl's butterfly net. He also loved the Blue Angels show (as we all did) and was glad we didn't miss it that first day.

One of my favorite photos of him now was taken on our vacation and is of him sitting in a chair, enjoying the beach. He has a full smile and I am glad I caught that moment of time, a snapshot of happiness. It is a vacation that I will always remember fondly, mostly because it was our last family vacation.

And so, we bravely try to make plans now for Spring Break. We've wavered, hesitated, changed our minds so many times. So much of us can't imagine a vacation without him there. Yet a part of us also needs the time away, together, to reconnect and relax, to get away from the every day. We also know that Austin would want us to - and we know he'll be there with us, every step of the way.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

PS...This is Austin

I commute about 40 minutes each way to work. My ride time is usually spent talking to God- and to Austin, especially in the afternoons. I try to save those talks for the ride home, because my family doesn't care if my mascara runs!

I pray during that ride for our family to survive this tragedy, to find hope and inspiration. I pray for strength to carry on, because most days all I want to do is go back to bed. I know though that Austin wouldn't want me to give up. He said once, "I was the strongest women he ever knew" and I will always keep that close to my heart. When I feel I can't go another step, that is what carries me through.

I keep a picture of him on my dash and it is in my line of sight when I drive. It is a casual picture of him, in a rare actual pose for the camera. He has the sheepish half-smile that he showed so often. He looks happy and at peace in the photo. And it seems as if he is looking right into my eyes. As crazy as it may look to other drivers, I talk to the photo - to him.

Most days, it is to tell him how much I love and miss him. I wonder if I told him enough while he was here. It is something we said to each other every day but I still worry. I tell him that I won't forget him and that I'm doing all I can to make sure nobody else does either. And sometimes it is like I hear him speaking back to me. Maybe it is in a whisper of "It's ok, Mom" that I just feel in my heart. Maybe it is a song that comes on the radio at just the right moment. A song that was special to us - or that says something I need to hear. Or maybe my phone will ring with someone checking on me, just because, and I wonder if he urged them to call.

Today, I wasn't saying much out loud at all but a dozen thoughts were going through my head. I was glancing back at his photo off and on and as always, the tears were streaming, releasing what I'd held in for the day. I could find nothing on the radio to suit me and was about to switch to my trusty "Casting Crowns" cd when the radio said, "PS, this is Austin".

It is a country song that really has nothing to do with Austin at all, other than the name. When he was younger he thought it was cool the song had his name in it. As he grew older, it got on his nerves when we'd sing it to him. At any rate, I just felt him in that moment. I knew he was speaking to me, telling me it was going to be "ok" as he always did when he was here. I know he wants that, for us to be ok and to be better. And while my mind knows he is ok, my heart is having a harder time listening. My heart feels his whispers though and is getting stronger, or at least trying, for him.

And as that song says, "PS..if this is Austin, I still love you."
And I do.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Daffodils and Dandelions

I don't know what is harder - the cold, depressing days of Winter because you are stuck in the house and all you do is think; or, sunny Spring days which remind you of fun times.

As Spring approaches, I'm flooded with memories of Austin. Somehow, seeing God's beautiful creations through blooming trees and flowers, makes me feel more connected to Austin. I think you are somewhat closer to Heaven when you are surrounded by nature. I try to imagine, when seeing a smiling patch of daffodils or a burst of pink buds on a dogwood tree, what beauty Austin sees now.

Flowers especially bring back fond memories of motherhood and precious bouquets given to me by him. As a toddler, he loved picking flowers for me and I would chuckle at the choices he sometimes made. He was in awe of dandelions when they were in "cloud puff" form and loved to swish through them, sending them flying. He also loved picking them one by one and blowing away the clouds with puffy cheeks. Austin didn't know they were really a weed; they just made him happy, and so he enjoyed picking them for me. And I treasured every one.

As he grew older, he began picking daffodils, especially at my Mom's house. The fields by her farm are filled with them this time of year so the bouquets were endless. It took a few years of practice for him to learn to pick them at the bottom though. Those early years, I learned to put the shortened versions in drinking cups, which were a better size vase for the buds! We enjoyed adding food coloring to the different vases and then watching them transform. It was a tradition I passed down to him from my Mom, as it was a pleasant childhood memory of mine.

In the past few years, he began helping me more and more in the yard. Especially after my wreck, he was my "knees" for weeding and digging in the flower beds to plant new blooms. As I look at my winter-worn beds and flower boxes, I am reminded of our Spring-time traditions and that I now miss. When I plant new flowers this year, it will be with teary eyes and I guess that will be their first "watering" of the season.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chef Austin

Austin loved food. Like his mom, he loved to try new things but he also had his favorites.

He loved his Mamaw B's baked steak, and country breakfasts and Papaw's grilled veggie bags. He loved his Mamaw June's fried chicken, dumplins and dressing. He also loved his Aunt Vivian's enchiladas and never failed to tell me that mine didn't compare!

He was an expensive date because he had a big appetite and always wanted to try new things. I never denied him though and would sometimes order less for myself, if I needed to stay within a budget. I loved to see him happy and enjoying good food.

I have great memories of cooking with Austin too. He loved summertime because our kitchen expanded to the back deck. He loved to help me grill, especially if squash was on the menu. We always enjoyed baking together during the holidays. He was also so helpful, starting dinner for me on nights when I knew I'd be home late.

One of my favorite memories was a cake recipe that Austin wanted to try and make. Luckily, at the age of 5 his short attention and memory kept us from actually baking it but I did get the chance to record it in his words. I'll share it below. It still brings a smile to my face and warms my heart.

Austin's Cake Recipe:
3 eggs - boiled
3 c water
1 c sugar
5 apples
salt
carrots
mashed potatoes
meatballs
Put water in a pan. Get salt in your hand and sprinkle it all around. Get the yellow stuff out of the eggs. Keep whites. Cut in little pieces. Cut apple skin off and stir cut up apples in bowl with eggs. Add sugar, meatballs, carrots, potatoes and a little coke.
Put in stove for about 30 minutes. Take out and add mashed potatoes on top.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

6 foot stature

I miss Austin's confidence. The past couple of years, I think he grew about an inch a day. His height was matching his maturity and with every inch, his confidence grew too.

He was so ready to jump behind the wheel and get his license, even though he had two more years to go. He was also ready to finish his training with the fire department and become certified, even though he wasn't old enough to complete all the classes! Sometimes it frustrated him because he was ready to grow up faster than his body and age would allow.

Tim and I were talking last night and remembering how he loved to pretend he was "Mr. Blair" on the phone. His voice had grown deeper and if someone would call for "Mr. Blair" he took it and ran with it. He also used it to his advantage when calling the phone or cable company. He didn't wait around for Mom & Dad, he just took care of business!

When he was tired of his satellite box continually messing up, he called customer service and complained. A new box arrived at our door step a few days later, along with a free month of the baseball channels.

When his cell phone quit working and he was tired of them just sending replacements that broke a few weeks later, he called customer service. I still chuckle, thinking back to his conversation with the rep on the phone. We drove to the store so he could compare phones with what the rep was offering. Whatever model it was, Austin wasn't satisfied. He said, "Sir, I think you are giving me the run around. This model is a lower level than the one I currently have. Considering that I'm not in a contract, I would think you'd want to work to keep me as a customer." And they did. He got a nice upgrade and left the store with a big smile. "Mr. Blair" could rock a complaint call! As my cell phone has been messing up the past few weeks, I think of Austin often and wish he were here to get Mom an upgrade!

Sometimes it was hard, seeing Austin achieve so much without needing my help. It was a sign he was growing up. You long for the days when they were little and still needed Mom. But looking back, Austin was always independent. Even as a toddler, he would say, "My can do it myself!" I guess what he "needed" from us was the freedom to grow and be himself. I'm glad we let him because that was a big part of who Austin was.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Baby Book Memories

I wrote so much in Austin's baby book that I ran out of space. His book is filled with stories from the front cover to the back on any blank spot I could find. It was a "birth through seven years book" so it spans half his life. Looking back, I wonder how I found the time to write so much. I did it, hoping to give a gift to him when he was grown, a memory of his childhood. Little did I realize the gift would be for me. I certainly treasure those stories now more than ever.

The past few weeks have been rough and I find myself needing sources of joy and laughter. Reading about Austin as a toddler and young boy brings me that joy and I hope it does the same for all you. I'll share below some of my favorite memories...

April 26, 1996 - You get cuter every day! Now you've started saying, "Yeah, Yeah" for yes and "Mine" for EVERYTHING! You're very independent. You don't like us to help you do anything. The other night the pillows for the couch were on the floor. You picked them up and situated them just so and crawled on to lie down. Unsatisfied, you went to your room, got your Barney blanket, came back to the couch and were asleep within 5 minutes!

May 26, 1997 - You're learning to bargain. When you want something you hold your thumb and first finger up about an inch apart to show "a little bit" - how can I resist?

Dec 22, 1997 - You are talking so good & have such cute sayings. You will say something and I'll ask you what. You say, "nevermind, I talkin' myself!" Whenever you're mad you say, "Okay - I whippa your butt. Turn around!" You say "I Wub You" all the time and use it to your advantage. Your made up word for something if you are mad or joking is "Bingaball"

March 24, 1998 - Yesterday we were in the car and Daddy was playing with you. All of the sudden you yelled out, "you're getting on my nervous!"

Dec 98 - The other day Daddy was doing something w/you where you needed to say please. He asked you for the magic word and you said, "Abrakadabra!"

March 99 - At supper, I asked if you liked what we eating. You looked at me like I was stupid and said, "I'm eating, aren't I?"

May 99 - You started playing Tball & Dad is the Asst Coach. The first time you made it to first base, you turned to me in the bleachers and said, "See Mom, told you I could do it!"

Sept 99 -The other day you went to catch a butterfly. You paused and said, "I better not, it might have cavities. I asked what that was and you said, "It's where you foam at the mouth & don't know what is going on"...You meant rabies - maybe you weren't yet ready for Ole' Yeller!

Nov 99 - The other day you were picking on your Dad. You sang, "Mommy & Daddy sitting in a tree, HIJKLMNOP"

I miss that sweet little guy, my little Blair Bear....and the wonderful young man he turned into. How he blessed our lives!

Monday, March 9, 2009

God's garden

These past few Spring-like days, have made me think so much of Austin.

I think Spring may have been his favorite time of year. He hated being stuck in the house and loved the warmer, longer days of Spring. It was an opportunity for him to ride his bike, play basketball and visit his friends.

There is a basket behind my side door that is still filled with his baseball glove and other sport equipment. It doesn't seem right that he won't be here to use them this season. And I just can't make myself move them from their spot.

Spring also means the grass will begin growing, which again reminds me of him. He would be excited that his mowing...or rather "money season" was beginning. He mowed several yards in the neighborhood last year and enjoyed having the extra cash. People probably think we spoiled Austin with the latest gadgets (like PSPs and MP4s) but he usually paid for them with his money. Sometimes, if he saved extra hard and long for something, we would kick in and help. I thought it was a good lesson for him, to learn to save for something he wanted and to see the value of hard work. He also appreciated what he purchased more and took care of it, because he realized how expensive it was.

Spring Break is approaching and the house will certainly be quieter without Austin here. We usually spent the break being lazy and sleeping late in the beginning and then spring cleaning towards the end. He enjoyed working out in the shed with his Dad, pulling out accessories we'd be using for the season. Sometimes we'd take trips to the mountains, or just small fishing trips and picnics. Whatever we did, it was together as a family.

This year, there are only three of us. And that number seems so strange to us, not what we're used to, not normal. We're trying to face it with braveness but there is a sadness in all our hearts. As we see the flowers grow and life begin in the world again, we are reminded of the precious life that left us too soon. He was like a flower, not fully bloomed. I can only imagine what an addition he has made to God's garden.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Helping from Beyond

When you lose a child, your biggest fear is that they will be forgotten. It fills your spirit to hear stories about them from others, no matter how simple. You want to know your child made a difference to others, that he touched their life, that he was important to more than just you.

I want to share a story I recently received from a friend. She is the mother of one of Austin's school friends.

"A while back I was running late for work, I work in Owensboro and I always take 231. I was in a hurry and kept telling myself that I needed to be careful because it was raining. I always set the GPS to know what time I will arrive to be sure to be punctual. The GPS had me arriving almost 15 min. late, at 7:15 am.

I got to the four lanes and saw the road to your old house...I thought about Austin. I got to thinking about him and my son and things they said or did. I passed by Goshen and my thoughts were just engulfed about him. I went to grab my cigarettes and it was a weird they like shifted over to the side where I could not reach them.

I felt this "presence" ...I felt the words come over me like they were spilling out over me.."please don't smoke"....weird huh? I knew Austin was with me. At first it freaked me out...then I said out loud, "Austin are you with me?" On the radio the song said "I am here for you... I asked are you here to get me to work safely? I looked at my GPS the time of arrival switched to 6:59 am. It stayed that way all the way to work. I was kind of shook up experiencing that thinking was that real or am I crazy? Looking back I think it was him. I just thought you needed to know that Austin is there...and being Austin he still helps everyone."

The story says it all. To know that my son is still reaching others, still making a difference, there are no words. My spirit is blessed with this knowledge! Austin was and IS such an amazing young man!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Past, Present and Future

Austin didn't pass in the natural order of things. Parents expect to go before their children. In fact, I used to tell the boys to love each other, because someday each other would be all they had. I wanted them to treasure their relationships as brothers. I assumed, someday when they were grown and Tim and I passed, they would have each other to get through it. They would have each other for their adult-hood.

It is said that when a child loses a sibling, they lose their past, present, and their future. My heart aches for Noah, knowing this is reality for him now.

All of Noah's past, everything he has a memory of, includes Austin. Each moment, tradition, vacation, every memory of his past, has Austin woven through it. When your "normal" is ripped out from under you, how do you go on? Everything Noah knew, he shared it with Austin. Simple, every day activities, his normal life, is now changed - forever.

Mornings with the boys were chaotic before school but fun. Austin would give Noah advice on his clothes and hair, sometimes nicely, sometimes picking on him. We'd spend time watching the morning news and then would move to the table about 15 minutes before the bus would run. During this time, we'd study for tests for the day. Sometimes we'd share a quick breakfast. Sometimes we'd play a quick game or just chat. If the weather was warm, the boys and their Dad would play a few rounds of basketball, waiting on the bus. Now, when the big yellow bus arrives, Noah has to enter it alone. His routine, his past - and present - has changed.

Afternoons, Noah is again reminded of the void as he enters the bus. Austin was always on the bus with him before and together they would ride home. My boys are the last off the bus so I'm sure there were moments, inside jokes, routines that they shared that are not lost.

Noah and Austin probably had more quality time with each other each day than we did with them, at least on a school night. Austin watched Noah in the afternoons until Tim or I would get home. He helped Noah with his homework and fed him a snack. They watched tv together or played video games. They shared these moments that even Tim and I weren't a part of it. Special moments each day, that are different now. Now, I try and rearrange my schedule to be home when Noah gets off the bus, or he goes to the after school program.

Evenings, I think are sometimes the hardest. I know they are for me and so I guess the same is for Noah. Our "routine" is gone. Austin isn't there to help with dinner and pick at me over what we're having. He isn't there to play with Noah while I cook, to ride bikes outside or play games or wrestle on the floor. Austin isn't there to spend those moments together in each others room before bed. Sometimes Austin would sleep in Noah's room, on the bottom bunk. I remember late night talks with my sister, so I can imagine the silence Noah now feels.

And so, every day, Noah faces this new world like a big, beautiful puzzle that is missing a center piece. He can no longer look forward to sharing secrets, playing in the afternoons, and just spending time together. He no longer has a dependable fan in the stands of his ball games. He no longer has a buddy to beat in the newest video game. His future is different, changed without his permission.

His future won't include helping each other with girlfriends. He won't have his big brother to look up to, to copy and imitate. Any of his "firsts", he won't have Austin there to share it with. As he grows older, he will have nobody to vent to over his parents, or to help care for them as we age. His future wife will never meet Austin, his children will not know their Uncle. His future has changed, the chapters of his life, seemingly from a different book now.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Guardian Angel

Although Austin was only 14 when he passed, Tim and I had talked before about what it would be like to be grandparents. Austin was growing so fast and we knew he'd be an adult, and we hoped married with kids, before we knew it.

I did dream of what his children would be like someday – and still do, now of what I’ve lost. Austin was the best of Tim, so I knew he would be a great father and I longed for that future family. I imagined holidays with a handful of happy grandchildren. Maybe that seems like a strange thing for woman in her 30s but I did. And I know there is a chance I’ll still have them someday through Noah. However, I can’t help but feel a void for my family tree branch that has been broken.

Our last day together, I even commented to Austin what a good Dad he'd be someday. He was putting together the lawn decorations and had such patience with them. The same was true for the trees. He put the entire kid's tree, lights and all together, without once getting upset. (I've heard it said your true character comes out when untangling Christmas lights!)

Austin loved babies too, which I think was unusual for a teenage boy. Actually, he loved my sister Raven's babies. Austin was instantly connected to Bryanna, her little girl. He was mad the night I went to the hospital, when Raven went in labor, because I didn't take him with me. A lot of it probably has to do with the fact that he and Raven were so close. She was young when I had Austin so they were more like brother and sister than aunt/nephew in the beginning.

He never gave up a chance to hold Bryanna or her son, Allen, and was among the first of the kids to hold her babies when they were born. As Bryanna got older, she grew very fond of Austin and the feeling was mutual. He loved her and would scoop her up at any family gathering. She is sometimes finicky about who can hold her, as she is stubbornly independent; however, she never rejected Austin. She'd smile and open up her arms, reaching for him.

When I went through Austin's cell phone, after he passed, I was surprised that the majority of photos on it were of Bryanna and Allen. Thanksgiving Day Austin had taken several photos of him holding Bryanna and of Allen in his baby seat. The last photo on the slideshow is of Austin and Bryanna on that day.

I hope they knew how much he loved them and I'm sad that they won't know him growing up. I know though their mom will make sure he is not forgotten with them. Somehow, I think Raven's babies and Austin still share a connection. They say babies can sense and see things we can't. A few weeks ago, Bryanna logged into Austin's account on our home computer. I don't even know his password but somehow she got in. This weekend, she again tried to log in. She is only a little over one year old but she was at the computer and trying to log in. My sister says she is also now interested in fire trucks, which was certainly Austin's favorite.

When I hold Allen, he often smiles and laughs, but sometimes looking over my shoulder. It is like he sees something, or someone, over me. I can move him and watch his eyes keep hold on whatever it is. Perhaps it is all coincidence, perhaps not. Who can say for sure? I have no doubt though that Austin is and always will be their guardian angel.

I like to think he can be nearer to us when he wants, like our family day yesterday. Regardless, I know he is watching over them and all of us every day.
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