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, May 31, 2009

sharing laughter

Tim and I went to see Jeff Dunham this weekend. He is a ventriloquist/comedian and not someone we would have even known, were it not for Austin.

I remember a little over a year ago, Austin coming home from school with a giant smile and excited persistence that I log onto the internet. He took me to "Youtube", a website where you can view videos and clips from every day people to celebrities. He wanted me to see "Achmed" - one of Jeff's puppets.

When Austin enjoyed something, he did it whole-heartily and loved to share whatever it was with others. He knew Tim and I would find Jeff funny and we did. From then on, anytime he was on tv, Austin recorded him so we could watch it together.

The tickets for the show came on sale several months ago and I wondered, hesitated in buying them, because I didn't know if it would be too hard. Everything there would be a reminder of Austin. He knew Jeff's material word for word and could do a pretty good impression of Achmed. But I took a leap and purchased them anyway, thinking we could probably use a laugh by then.

I didn't realize at the time that the show would be close to 6 months to the day that we lost Austin. It isn't really something you count down -or up to. The "anniversaries" don't get any easier with time. If anything, it is harder, hurts more because you are no longer numb from the shock. You ache for time to go back because you've never been away from them this long.

And so, I worried about this weekend. It was filled with reminders of Austin, both with our annual trip to the zoo and then Jeff's concert, but they were good memories. Memories are all we have now and it helps to remember, to focus on the good times.

We laughed more last night at that show than we have in a long time. Every joke, every line, brought back memories of our special guy. I could almost see him broad smile, head back and belting out that great laugh that filled a room. We've spent so much of the past six months, filled with tears and sadness, some days it has consumed us. There still isn't a day that I don't cry. I don't know that there will ever be a day that I don't.

But it was good for a night to laugh and enjoy the moment. It is what Austin would have wanted.

Friday, May 29, 2009

our annual zoo trip

We're thinking about going to zoo tomorrow. It is a subject I've rather avoided, changed the subject, or found an excuse why we couldn't go for the past few weeks. Funny how I functioned through some of the past holidays, days you'd expect to be hard, and then something like this is so overwhelming.

The zoo has been an annual family trip from Austin's first year with us. Actually, we went nearly every year as a child with my mom and step-dad. Our family has just grown and changed over the years and now includes our children.

Those zoo trips were always something that Austin looked forward to. He loved animals but it was more about spending the day with the family for him. The bigger our group, the happier he was. The day always ended at the park, with a full picnic and time to play.

There were a couple of trips we made just Tim, me and the boys. Once it was a Mother's Day surprise for me, followed by a picnic. It was a wonderful day, taking our own pace, stopping for as long at activities or animals as we wanted, since there wasn't a group waiting. One year, we squeezed in a visit to the St. Louis zoo while attending a family wedding. It was much larger than we were used to and the boys were thrilled at all the attractions.

But our big family trips were always special too. We've watched our kids grow up there, too small to see over the fences and riding in strollers, to big enough to push the next generation up the hills. Austin enjoyed seeing Bryanna experience the zoo on our last trip. She was old enough to enjoy it and be excited seeing the animals. Both my sisters and their kids made that trip and it was nice all being together. We watched our kids run the hills, yell about this animal or that, just as we did many years ago. And as was tradition, we stopped for family photos. The photo below is one of my favorites.

Our last zoo trip family photo

It will be hard walking those hills again without Austin, just as any activity is. But we go on, with heavy hearts, beating with a memory of him.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

school days

The countdown for summer break is on and I often wonder how this school year would have been for Austin.

Austin was excited to be a freshman and looked forward to high school. I feel like he barely got started and then he was gone. It hurts to think about all the school memories I won't have of him, all that he didn't get to do. So, I focus on the happy memories I have of his school days.

He was so ready for school, the night before his first day of preschool, that he put his shoes and backpack on and headed for the front door, in his underwear. The second day, he came home saying he was done, as he already knew his ABC's.

Austin was most excited about riding the bus and didn't understand why it didn't arrive the first several days. I vividly remember waiting for him at the bus stop in my mom's driveway the first day it did. He sat in a green lawn chair, so happy to be "big" and so anxious to ride. I wiped away my tears as he skipped onto the bus, little hand waving to me from the window above.

He went to preschool for speech and it frustrated him that he couldn't say the words like he knew they were supposed to be. Austin was smart and learned so quickly. He probably grew tired of preschool because he really did know a great deal before ever going. He did enjoy being with the other children though.

Throughout school, he did well. He was frequently on the honor roll, received numerous awards and was selected as a gifted student. His conduct was always wonderful and never once was I called from school for a behavior problem. In fact, Austin was chosen to be a Natural Helper in middle school. He was voted by his classmates as someone who was a role model and a friend they knew they could talk to.

In the Gifted Program, he often got to attend college classes at Western and OCC. Science was his favorite subject and he'd stand so proud, walking to the lab. He couldn't wait until he really was old enough to attend college. I often wonder what he would have majored in - what he would have been when he grew up.

Last week, I received a call from the high school. They had awards that transferred from last year for CATS testing. Austin scored proficient or distinguished in all of his tests. Tim picked the certificates up and they are on my countertop. I so wish he were here so I could hug and congratulate him, to let him know how proud we are. How proud of him we've always been...and always will be, in every aspect of his life. I hope he knows.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fishin' trips

I was thinking this weekend about last Memorial Day. Tim, the boys, and I spent the day fishing and enjoyed a picnic. It was one of our favorite things to do.

Of course, on any fishing trip I spent way more time taking photos than casting a line. I loved watching the boys interact with their Dad. It thrilled me to see their excitement when they caught a fish. Last year, Austin was convinced he'd caught the prize fish but instead pulled up a turtle. Later a fish (or probably a turtle) broke his Dad's pole. He looked to Tim's reaction, to see whether he should laugh or cry. As with all our fishing trips, it ended in laughter.

I remember one of Austin's first "real" fishing trips. Tim started taking him to the lake when he was only one but it was several years before he understood it. In the early days, Tim wouldn't understand why it was more fun for him to run around and throw rocks in the lake than sit and fish! He was about three or four when he finally got the hang of it and had enough patience to sit for a bit. Austin was so proud, going to the store to pick out his own pole and tackle box. He had his own little chair, a miniature version like his Dad's, and sat right beside him at the edge of the lake. At the end of the day, he wrapped his arms around his Dad's leg (which was at his level) and said in a big voice, "Thanks, Dad. This was the best day of my life!" I captured the photo and it is still hanging on bedroom wall.

One of the funniest fishing trips I remember was back to same lake, several years later. Austin was old enough at this point to bait his own hook, cast a line, and really get into the art of fishing. Sadly, there was a young kid beside us who had not quite mastered it. He would catch a fish, shove it in a Wal-Mart bag, step on the fish to rip the hook out, and then jump on it if it started to flounder. Austin didn't know how to react to this - actually none of us did. Tim tried to stop him and teach him what to do but later he'd resort back to his strange behavior. I have to say in the moment, it was quite disturbing. However, later we recalled the day and laughed about it. Austin would say it freaked him out and he didn't know if he ever wanted to fish again! He did though and nearly every trip after that we'd have to remind him of the fish stomper boy.

I'm glad I spent so much time taking pictures instead of fishing, as I can now look back and recall sweet memories. Moments of time that show him from a toddler, barely big enough to hold the pole; to nearly a young man, taller than his Dad. All great memories that we'll carry with us, the next time we head out to the lake.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Summertime Memories

Some of my favorite summer memories with Austin....

baby toes in dirt for the first time
Popsicles and sticky fingers
catching lightning bugs
blowing bubbles
backyard camping trips
exploring ant hills
late nights and sleeping in
fun in the treehouse
learning to swim
smores and weenie roasts
chasing butterflies
picking dandelions for mom
splashing in the pool
grilling kabobs
dinners on the deck
yard games
drive-in movies
burgers in the "middle of nowhere"
impromptu fishing trips
nature walks
visiting the zoo
picnic lunches on blankets
cruisin with the top down
fireworks on his birthday
star gazing
homeade ice cream
lazy summer days

sweet surprises

This weekend, our family team had several fundraisers for Relay. We held them during the Strawberry Festival in our hometown. There was a great turnout for both, raising over $600 for the American Cancer Society.

One of the fundraisers was a cornhole tournament, as that was one of Austin's favorite games. The other was a Wii tournament. Of course, everything we do is to honor Austin's memory; however, we were pleasantly surprised to see the festival brochures printed "In memory of Austin Blair" this year.

Tim and I had lunch earlier in the month at a local cafe and noticed the brochures at the register. I just happened to glance at the front cover and see my baby's name displayed. We both left the restaurant teary-eyed. We had no idea they were going to do that and it surprised us both.

Memorial Day, we got a phone call asking us to be at the stage around 5 p.m. Noah, Tim and I showed up, along with some other family members. They called us to the stage and presented us with a plaque, from the Strawberry Festival, remembering and honoring Austin. They talked about his service to his community and how the community's loss was Heaven's gain. It was beautiful and we felt blessed accepting the plaque on his behalf. I am still so amazed at the number of lives he touched.

Friday night, I was again surprised by one of Austin's friends. A boy was headed my direction from the crowd and I figured he was going to ask a question or purchase something. Instead, he bent down and hugged me. I didn't recognize him at first. The kid that grew up playing baseball with Austin was towering over me, nearly grown, with the muscles of a football player and gently hugged me. He asked how I was doing and showed me a temporary tattoo he'd just had put on his arm. It was Austin's initials. He said he'd have a real one in six months, when he became old enough.

I think about Austin's friends a lot. I know they are hurting. I hear from some of them through Myspace, some through their parents and some through chance encounters like last night. When I was their age, I never lost anyone close to me, much less someone so young. It is something that we as adults struggle to understand and cope with everyday so I can't imagine how they handle it. It touches me though that he made such an impact in their lives and that he is still missed by them.

We went into the holiday expecting it to be very difficult - and there were moments that were hard, there were tears that were shed. However, I can say I have been blessed and touched by these sweet surprises this weekend as we and others remembered Austin and his life.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Proud Moments

I think people often hesitate talking to us about Austin. Sometimes I can tell they want to but are afraid it will upset us. Even if tears fall, we enjoy talking about him. A parent's biggest fear is that their child will be forgotten. Hearing stories from others, or just knowing he is still remembered, helps us so much.

The proudest moments are when someone has a compliment to share about our son. I know Austin was great but it is always nice to hear it from others. Those moments are true and I never grow tired of them!

I had someone stop me the other day, while we were at a roadblock for Relay. He commented about how much he misses him, even though they weren't that close. He then said, "Austin was the type of kid who always had a smile and kind word for you. He was never rude and always stopped to say hello, even if he didn't know you well." He later went on to say he could only be that way because of parents, which is a nice compliment, but we can't take all the credit for who Austin was.

I later heard from someone who commented on how much they missed him stopping by. I didn't even know that he visited them regularly but they lived on his way to a yard that he mowed. She said how much they enjoyed his visits and how he always left them laughing.

Austin was naturally kind and was born with such a good heart. I like to think we helped instill that in him but some people are just born pure like that, meant to make a difference. I love hearing stories from others because it gives me a piece of him that I might not otherwise know. It also helps to know that he is missed by many, not just close friends and family. He made such a difference, touched so many lives. Every story makes us that much prouder we were blessed to be his parents.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Still Inspiring Us

I attended my first Relay last night without Austin. I knew it was going to be hard and it wasn't something I looked forward to. Austin was a part of Relay from the very beginning and I couldn't imagine being at one without him. This event was not our hometown so I only had to attend the beginning. As much as it hurt, I still needed to be there to thank my volunteers and talk with survivors about our programs that are there to help them.

Somehow, I made it through. I like to think he was helping a little from above. Whenever I would pause and think about him or get teary-eyed, someone would come up and give me the hug I needed. It was like they just knew. In some way, he was still there, smiling down on the event and helping Mom get through it.

Austin was only 3 years old at his first Relay so he basically grew up on the track. He loved being there and on our family team. As he grew older, he became my late night buddy. I've covered between five and seven Relays a year, sometimes traveling to several in one night. Most of my counties were about an hour away from each other so he would ride with me to keep me awake.

He loved attending other Relays, to meet other people and see what goodies the teams had to sell. His pockets would always be full of dollars as we started our way around the track and empty by the time we headed back to the car. I loved the one on one time it gave us, as managing Relay For Life events did keep me away from home a lot. Several nights through the week, I wouldn't arrive home until he and Noah were in bed. I feel guilty I missed out on so many nights but I know he understood. At least I was working those hours for a worthy organization and not climbing the corporate ladder.

We enjoyed the rides from county to county and the later it got, the crazier we were. We'd drink sweet tea and Mountain Dew and crank up the radio to stay awake until we reached our next destination. It gave us time to talk and spend time with each other. I also knew it was teaching him valuable lessons of giving back. I've raised both my boys to volunteer, to lend a hand, to help someone when they need it most. Relay is a wonderful example of the good that can be accomplished when communities come together. It was certainly a lesson he took to heart and for that I am proud.

As I've mentioned before, he became our Team Captain when he was nine years old. Back then, I normally had multiple Relays in one night. He would be a little disappointed he couldn't be my travel buddy, as he had to stay and "man the camp" at home but he was happy to do it. I was proud of him though for taking the lead role and ensuring our family did their part, even when I couldn't be there. Last year, I switched roles in the organization and was no longer responsible for Relay events. It was the first year I truly got to enjoy Relay as a participant and spend the entire night at my home Relay with my favorite Team Captain.

It was a crazy night, as torrential rains hit hours before the event. We were chaotically switched to an elementary school gym and our campsites shrunk drastically. The plans we'd make to decorate were cut short but we made due. Our campsite theme was "Happy New Year" and we'd spent the weeks before building New York skyscrapers (which were ruined in the rain) and a working ball to drop at midnight. Austin was behind the scenes on all of it, drawing out the idea months in advance. We didn't get to win Best Campsite as he'd hoped but we did win "Best Team Costumes". That wasn't even something we were trying for, our family just had fun dressing up! It wasn't our typical Relay but it was a good night. Austin was there til the end and we were one of the few teams still in the stands at Closing Ceremonies. As we walked out, he was brimming with ideas for this year's event. I was ready to put my feet up and rest from the night but he was ready to go, yet again!

I hesitated this year, not knowing whether or not to go forward with a team. In the end, I knew as hard as it would be, Austin would have wanted it. Noah has jumped right in his brother's footsteps and taken charge. I see so much of the good that was Austin shining through his little brother. I think it has been healing for our family to have this activity to do in his memory. It will be hard and I know many tears will be shed next month when we take the track but again, I know he'll be smiling down on us and helping us through it. We're proud to share the legacy that Austin left behind.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

a piece of him

Surprising to some, I guess, but Tim and I both recently got memorial tattoos for Austin.

I've known for months that I wanted one and even had in my mind even what it looked like. As the days neared to Mother's Day, I was determined to get it even more. My sister, Wendy, drew out the idea for me so I had something to go by.

I knew I wanted angel wings because I know Austin is in Heaven. I remember the day that Austin decided to become a Christian. He'd been asking questions for awhile and I prayed for him every night to come to that decision. He was young though and so we had him talk to Brother Armstrong prior to going forward. The choice was his and we never pressured him or made him feel like it was something he should do. He came upon it on his own, by his own heart, and that makes me even prouder. It was one of my favorite moments as a Mom to see him accept Christ and be baptized.

I knew I wanted to incorporate his unit number, as it was special to him. Austin was so proud to be a Jr Firefighter and he loved having his own unit number. I was so honored and touched when they retired the number after he passed. This means, that nobody else will ever have or use #210 on the radio. People who don't know will ask why I have the number 210 on my leg. And I will beam proudly as I get to share a piece of the difference that my child made while on this earth. It is impossible to describe Austin in one word but that number shares so much.

I knew I wanted it to be on my lower leg because then it could be seen more. Some people say "they wear their heart on their sleeve"...I get to wear mine on my leg. Getting the tattoo was very personal and I mainly did it because I now have a piece of him, always with me. When I am sad, I can look down and see it and think of him. The angel wings remind me of his presence, always with me even if I can't see him. The number makes me smile, thinking of all the accomplishments he made in his young life. It inspires me to do a 1/4 of what he did while here.

Tim's is beautiful. My sister drew it also. She incorporated a cross with flames to represent the firefighter, blue because it was one of Austin's favorite colors, and again his unit number. I know it has as much meaning to Tim as mine does for me. I love looking at them both and can only imagine what Austin might be thinking. I'm sure he thought it pretty cool that his parents are sporting tattoos...for him. It is just a piece of what we continue to do every day in his memory. We will continue to tell his story and keep his wonderful spirit alive. It is what gives us purpose each day.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Blessed Mom

Today has been one of the hardest since Austin's been gone. All weekend I've just been flooded with memories of him, which is never bad, but it is just hard knowing I would face this Mother's Day without him.

He was my first Mother's Day. Actually, I was pregnant with him in May and longed for July to be here so I could hold him. I prayed every day to have a happy, healthy baby. I would sit in the rocking chair in his nursery, reading to him through my belly. I read to him as if he were with me, for I knew he could hear me. Sometimes I sang to him or just talked to him about the life we would have. When we shared these moments together, I could feel a difference in his movements. I could hardly wait to become a Mom. And I was so blessed with his arrival on the 8th of July.

I've often wondered why childbirth is so painful. I think it is God's way of preparing us for the many forms of pain we'll deal with as a mother. As a mom you deal with sleep deprivation from long nights with a crying newborn or a sick child. You deal with sore arms, shoulders and hips from picking up and carrying your children from infant to toddler.You deal with headaches and upset stomachs as you worry and pray over your children's safety and health. You deal with heartache when they are hurting and you can't make them better.

Childbirth was certainly more physical pain than I expected. Yet I've always been amazed with how quickly it ends. You go from the most intense pain you can imagine to bliss in an instant. The moment that new pink baby is placed your arms, any pain you bore is forgotten.

I remember holding this tiny miracle, placing my finger in his little hand and looking down into his eyes. I was hooked forever, my heart melted, and he became my entire world. Instantly, I was in love with someone I just met. I think this is where the term "love at first sight" came from. I think a mother shares a unique bond with her child because she feels them growing inside her month after month. There is no comparison to the first time you feel your baby kick or flutter - or the first time you heard their heart beat. You feel life within you and you bring that life into this world.

The first thing I did when we brought Austin home was to take him into his nursery. He was instantly calmed and together we sat in the rocking chair, the same rocking chair that soothed me as a child. I whispered down to him, kissing him and telling him how happy I was to be his Mom. I whispered prayers down to him and thankfulness up to God, for bringing this joy into my life. I felt so blessed that day, as I closed my eyes and envisioned our lives together. He was certainly more than I could have ever imagined. I wish I could have had more time but I consider myself so blessed for every moment that we shared.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Looking Up

The last few months Austin was here, I would often find myself staring at him. It was amazing to me how much he was growing. It seemed like overnight, my "baby" was gone and in it's place this teenager, who was really turning into a young man, was before me.

I sometimes remarked that an alien had taken over his body, as his feet hung off his bed. His legs, so long they spanned our living room floor, seemed to be growing before my eyes. Almost daily he would outgrow shirts, pants, and shoes. When we went shoe shopping last fall, he was in the highest size most stores carried. I wondered what we would do next year, if his feet even held out that long.

Austin was always a big boy. It tickled me at pediatriican visits when they would tell me he was over the charts on heigth, as if I could place a book on his head to slow him down. In grade school, he battled his weight at times, but always slimmed back down in the Spring when baseball season rolled around. For many years though, he still kept chubby checks - which he hated and I loved. And then instantly it seemed, they were gone and looking back at me, or rather down at me, was this young man.

He loved that he was growing taller than everyone in the family. I can remember when he was still shorter than me (and yet only about 9 or 10) and every day he would measure to see if he'd passed me up. It didn't take long and his next conquest was to pass his Dad. It was funny to look at Austin, towering over Tim the past year or so. Not only his height but his build, his frame, just shadowed over Tim. At only 14, I know Tim worried about the day that Austin was too big for him to handle. In fact, when it came to wrestling, Austin already had him beat.

As I've written before and with anyone who knew Austin, his age never slowed him down. I think the fact that his body size matched his confidence, helped him in getting his foot in the door. People didn't look at him like a kid. He was respected, admired and acknowledged. It is why we chose the scripture from the book of Timothy for his monument. It encompasses who he was. From the inside out, he was someone who others looked up to.

"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

I would give anything to look up into those soft, big brown eyes, so sweet they would melt your heart. I long for one of those bear hugs from big arms that circled my shoulders. It was so nice to look up and meet his smile, usually followed by a hearty laugh. It's funny. He isn't here with us but we're still looking up. We look up to the clouds or a beautiful sunrise and whisper hello. We look up to the heavens and talk to him, wondering what miracles and beauty he sees now. And we look up to the legacy that he left behind. It is what gives us hope, what keeps us moving forward, for that is just what Austin would have wanted.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

True Love

Either Austin never got truly "girl crazy" or he hid it well from Mom. I don't know of him having a steady girlfriend this past year. However, after hearing some comments from girls at his service and since, I think he had many who were willing!

I can remember Austin's first crush. Back then, he didn't hide anything. He LOVED Sarah and told me every day he was going to marry her. (This was back when he was about three years old.) I remember him telling me the first time he wanted to marry her. He stopped himself, wondering how I would respond. He said sweetly, "I would marry you instead Mom but Dad already has." He carried this crush for a couple of years and they remained friends until the end.

In grade school, he had a few girlfriends - that I know of. (I probably asked too many questions and embarrassed him with my comments so I know he didn't tell me everything.) I do remember one girl who he was "dating" around Valentine's Day. I thought it was sweet that he asked to go to the store to purchase her something. I was most impressed with the suggestions he gave his Dad upon returning. He let Tim know what he should and shouldn't be doing for me for the romantic day. In fact, Austin frequently gave Tim tips when it came to that! He had a keen sense of what women were feeling and what they might like.

I think he was quite the matchmaker too. Austin would often tell me about friends he would fix up at school. It surprised me a bit because he could sometimes come across as shy; however, I guess he had more guts than many of his friends, since he was doing all the work!

Our last day together, I remember telling him what a good husband and father he was going to make some day. I was so impressed with his patience as he untangled Christmas lights and put together yard decorations. I watched him interacting with Noah and thought that day what a good Dad he would make. He was growing up to be such a special young man.

It hurts my heart that I will never get to see him on that first "real date" and most of all that he never experienced true love. I wished for him to find that happiness someday, to have someone like Tim and I have each other. I imagined him growing up and getting married, having children of his own. I guess the only comfort in knowing he won't have that is that he never had to deal with heartache, which also comes with love.

And then again, with a teenage boy, who knows how many girlfriends he really had. We were never able to find his class ring, which makes me sometimes wonder if he'd given it someone special. If so, that girl was lucky to have Austin in her life, if only for a short time. I know I am thankful for every moment he was in my life and for all the love he showed me.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Vacation of a Lifetime

Our family was blessed to take a Disney cruise in 2006. Tim and I decided to take the boys on the anniversary of our wreck, as a nicer way to remember that date. After all the kids (and we) had been through the prior year, it was just the vacation we needed.

I'm saddened knowing this was Austin's first and last "major vacation" but what a special one to have as your only memory! It was his first and only trip on an airplane. He was so excited to go on the trip that he stayed up nearly all night at the hotel talking. We gave the kids their own cameras and he used most of his film taking photos from the plane, loving how the scenery went from miniature houses to clouds. When he exited the plane, he said "this is the best vacation ever" - and it hadn't even started yet!

Disney really spoils you with excellent customer service. We never lifted a finger the entire trip. The boys were surprised with gift bags from "Mickey Mouse" when we made it to our cabin. Austin was most impressed though with the quality of the food. From the cruise on, my cooking was never on the same level as what "Disney" offered! He loved being able to order anything off the menu without having to worry about the cost (because it was all inclusive)...and even order seconds if you wanted. Every night before we went to bed, we'd order room service. Warm chocolate chip cookies and milk or pizza or grilled cheese. It was nice to tuck into bed with a yummy treat, a favorite movie, and let the waves rock you to sleep.

Austin was 11 when we took the trip and I was a little concerned that he would think Disney too childish; however, he thoroughly loved it. I think he enjoyed watching Noah's excitement in meeting the characters. Whenever he would see someone, he'd shout for Noah to run to them for a picture. No matter what age you are, the cruise made you feel younger and happier anyway. He enjoyed going into the pre-teen section where he could play video games, explore parts of the ship and hang with kids his age. However, he enjoyed being with us and never strayed from us for very long. That surprised me, as I figured at his age, he'd not want to be seen hanging with Mom and Dad but he seemed content that way.

He loved watching the sunsets at sea or just sitting on our balcony and looking for dolphins. The first night was a little rough on Austin, as he was slow to find his sea legs. I don't know if it was motion sickness or just the result of an extra long day but he was glad to finally his bed.

This cruise was the first experience of the ocean for all three of my guys. I looked forward to us docking at the private beach, Castaway Cay, so I could witness the first time their toes touched sand and sea. We instantly hit the ocean and tried our first attempt of snorkeling. It was quickly apparent this was NOT the idea of a fun activity for Austin and Noah! They were both scared and wouldn't even really attempt to try it. Austin decided it was safer on the beach and was eager to call babsitting duty for Noah. He played in the shallow area with Noah on floats and helped to build a sandcastle while Tim and I explored the ocean floor.

With all the great memories of the trip, I have to say my favorite was watching fireworks at sea. I can't say I looked at many of the fireworks however, as seeing the light and excitement in my children's eyes was by far a better show. At one point, Austin leaned over to hug me and said, "this is so great!" And I agreed. I will never forget that trip or those special moments, seeing them experience such magic. I'm sorry he won't be with us for future vacations but I am so thankful we took that wonderful trip and know we will always have those memories.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Our home will never be the same, now that Austin is gone. There is an emptiness, a sadness that lingers. I've rearranged furniture, purchased new items, thrown out some things but something is always missing. I thought changing things would make coming home easier, because it would be different; however, it wouldn't matter where we lived, Austin would still not be there.

I miss the way my home used to be. I'm homesick for that warm, familiar feeling you get when you walk through the door. No matter how long you've been gone, a home is meant to welcome and comfort you when you come back. I miss being greeted at the driveway with my smiling boy, towering over me and eager to help.

I miss walking over shoes, two times the size of mine, to get through the doorway because he'd tossed them off as soon as he walked in the house. I miss fussing over whatever mess had been left behind from their whirlwind trip down the hall as they came home from school. And I miss picking up that mess of empty coke cans, snack wrappers, homework papers and backpacks as I grumbled under my breath.

I miss hearing about the excitement of the day, complaints about the bus ride home, and even the tattling of whatever Noah did that afternoon. I miss his laugh as he retold me a funny story that happened in class or a joke he heard. I miss seeing his eyes roll or his eyes light up as he realized whatever I was making for dinner.

I long most for that hello hug I would receive as soon as I arrived home. He was sometimes so excited to see me, reminding me of an eager puppy when the family comes home. His face would light up and he'd be at the door watching me pull in, usually talking to me on the phone at the same time. There was rarely ever a day that he didn't open my door for me and reach in to hug me, with one long arm circling my neck. Then, later when I was in the house and settled, he would often again hug my neck or place his hand on my back and softly say, "Love You". When I pull into the driveway now, nobody is there to welcome me. Instead, I go inside and wait for a bus to arrive and drop off my other son, who I know is faced with the same saddening reality.

I am so homesick for the old, familiar comfort that used to be our home. I know it will never be that way again so now I'm homesick for where Austin is, where my final home will be. As a mother, I'm torn at two doorsteps, wanting so much to be with both of my children. I know Austin is in the safest, most beautiful and peaceful home a parent could want for their child. It just hurts that he is no longer with us. I'm homesick for the every day memories we shared.
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