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.