Austin's favorite number was 23.
I really don't know why, it just turned out to be his first jersey number in baseball and it stuck. From that point forward, he was always #23. He requested it for every team he played on throughout his life.
Austin had a closet full of shirts with the #23 on the back. Some were actual baseball uniform shirts, some were airbrushed shirts from vacations. We later realized that the year he was born, 1994, when added is 23.
Coincidentally, a movie came out in recent years about the number 23. It was a thriller and of course, Austin and I watched it together. We both got goosebumps during the movie as we started to realize other similarities with the number. We began to see it everywhere during the movie and right afterwards. At one point, Noah came through the room, wearing one of Austin's old jerseys, with a big blazing #23 on the back and we both jumped off the couch!
This past weekend, we went on our first trip without Austin. It was unbelievably hard and yet somehow, we still managed to have a decent time. (More than anything I think we enjoyed having exclusive, uninterrupted time together.) However, there wasn't a moment he wasn't on our minds.
I thought of Austin during the drive and remembered how he loved riding shotgun on trips, counting down Waffle Houses, and random car games that we'd play. If we found or saw something new, I thought of him and what he would think or feel about it. As I took pictures, I thought of him and the fact that these are memories we now have where he wasn't present, at least not physically. There was an emptiness wherever we were on the trip, because he was not there.
However, as always, Austin showed his presence to us during the trip. Maybe it was a funny memory, that we all were able to share, and bring him closer to us. Or, it was finally using the travel blanket and pillow he bought for me last summer. As I snuggled under it on the way home, I could almost feel him, wrapping his arms around me. Or, it was the many signs of #23 we saw along the drive through the Natural Bridge park. The first day we laughed at the sign, thinking that was an odd amount for a speed limit. Moments later, it hit me what that number represented, and so each time we saw the speed limit sign, Austin was there.
It is so hard moving forward without him by my side. I long to see him again, to talk to him, to touch him and watch him grow. It breaks my heart that this isn't possible; however, I hold on to memories and the precious times when he comes back to us in spirit. Knowing he is there, at least in some form, helps me make it through another day.