I'm flooded with bittersweet memories this morning as I pack and prepare for Relay. It seems so unreal that our team has done this, without him.
I didn't know if our team would even come together this year. As much as I wanted to, I knew it was going to be hard. Austin had such a passion for Relay and he was always the one to get us motivated. Could we do this without him? Would the memories hurt too much?
Instead I found it healing. Each act, each fundraiser, each meeting, kept him connected with our family. We honored him through our actions. People stopped me during the roadblocks to comment on my son. They recognized him at a community festival, at which we held fundraisers. He was remembered!
Now, I'm surrounded by bags, boxes and baskets, looking over my shoulder for my big guy who would typically carry it all out to the car for me. Because our team is mostly women and Tim always has to work, Austin was our arms and legs at Relay. You didn't even have to ask; if he saw one of carrying something, he was there, lifting it out of your arms to help.
Last night, we would have stayed up late together, trying to advance our sleep schedule. We would have made last minute plans and decisions, ensured everything was packed and ready. Instead, it was a relatively quiet night. Thunderstorms took out our power so we sat in the candlelight, playing board games and watching a movie on my laptop.
As I'm doing with Noah, I would have let him sleep in this morning so he would feel like staying awake all night tonight. Really though, it is not necessary to alter a teenager's sleep schedule. When aren't they able to stay awake all night? Austin was always the one who held out the longest at Relay. I don't know that there was ever a year he fell asleep. Instead, he'd be there laughing, helping, enjoying the night and pushing us along with him.
And so, I find myself in unfamiliar territory. The first Relay event without him. Instead, we have a spirit stick made from his baseball bat and fire department caution tape to remember him. We have a banner, in loving memory of him. Our team will all be wearing t-shirts, remembering him and recognizing the legacy he left behind.
Everything we do tonight, as has been the way all season, will be to remember him and his passion. Our team, "Austin's Legacy," will be recognized as a Silver team, meaning that together we were able to raise over $5000 to help fund a cure. It is the most our team has ever raised. We did it all for Austin. I know he is smiling down on us, with that sweet smile I can still close my eyes and see. I hope we've made him proud.