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.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Happy Birthday in Heaven

It’s hard to imagine that you're not here with us on your special day.
We’re still trying to cope with why God took you away.

But some things just aren’t meant for us to understand.
So we’ll focus on our memories of you and know it is God’s plan.

You were so special and your life was such a gift to us each year.
We hope you know how much we truly loved you, dear.

Fifteen years ago, you came into our lives and filled each day with laughter and joy.
We are so proud to call you “Son” – you were a terrific boy!

So quickly you grew from a baby, to boy, to young man, growing taller each day.
We loved to watch you excel in school and to cheer you on in the sports you’d play.

We were honored to see you lend a helping hand, whenever you saw a need.
A caring big brother, mentor, fundraiser and junior firefighter – you did so many good deeds!

Life isn’t the same without you here; we miss you with every beat of our hearts.
It is hard not having you with us and being so far apart.

But we feel your presence daily and see you smiling down from Heaven above.
You continue to inspire, to touch so many, we all can feel your love.

Your life was a legacy, and to keep your memory alive we will proudly share your story.
We know you’re spending this birthday in Heaven and you deserve that honor and glory.

We hope God knows how special an angel he’s chosen in bringing you there.
Happy 15th Birthday, Austin. We love and miss you, “Blair Bear”.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

14th Birthday

It is so hard to write about this birthday, because it was our last one with him. And, thinking back, it was really quite a simple party.

Austin didn't want a big party that year because we were leaving for Florida a few days after. He wanted the money we normally spent on the party and presents for the trip. In fact, that is all he asked for from family. One of the few photos I have of that day, is of him with a big, full smile, holding a handful of cash.
I did manage to sneak in a few surprises that day. He was shocked to have presents to open, because as his mom I just couldn't not get him something. I'd purchased him some cool new shirts and hats to wear while on our trip. I remember that Tim had put the tent up that week so the boys could camp out and play. We had also built a fire pit and that evening all the kids enjoyed making s'mores and roasting hot dogs. I also bought him one of his favorite cakes - strawberry cheesecake blizzard cake from Dairy Queen.

It was just a small, intimate party with close family. Knowing what I do now, part of me wishes it had been a huge celebration; however, in looking back at his past birthdays, I think it was just as he would have wanted. He was excited about going to Florida, so close to his birthday, and for all the plans we had for the trip. It was a wonderful vacation and will always hold special memories, mostly because it was our last.

There isn't much else to recap his 14th year, as much as I've written the past few months. Sadly, he didn't get to enjoy many months of being 14, as he passed away just four months later.

I had so many wishes for him, as he blew those candles out last year. I always wished for health and happiness for my boy's when they did so. He was just beginning a new chapter in his life, starting high school the next month. Austin was full of dreams and plans, ready to soak up all that life had to offer. I'm so sorry that he didn't get the chance to do more but I also know he couldn't be in a better place. He will always be young, he will always be healthy and happy and enjoying life - just in a different world.

Monday, July 6, 2009

13th Birthday

Austin's 13th birthday was the year of "Big Sexy!" He would be shaking his head and his face would be red, as I know he would not enjoy me saying that.

However, that was the theme our family used to pick on him that summer. As I wrote before, he had changed, nearly overnight from a cute little boy into this handsome young man. Family, who hadn't seen him in a couple months were so surprised by the transformation.

One of his favorite colognes was Axe and he received many cans of it that year, each with us singing him the theme song from their commercial. (It is all about being sexy and picking up girls, which just validated our theme!)

I expected him to want to move to only a friend party or to go out to eat and do some type of activity for his first "teenage party" but he still wanted a family party. We did a cupcake cake that year, in the shape of a ball glove and his favorite, homemade ice cream. He wanted money, of course, for his birthday. I didn't feel right not having something for him to open though so I bought him 13 random gifts, wrapped and taped them all together. They contained sunflower seeds, a music cd, a watch, etc. Just simple things but I just didn't feel right with him only opening cards!

He used the money from his party to purchase an xbox 360. Our gift was to pay any extra he needed, pay for the live subscription and any accessories. He loved that video system! I remember watching him play, complete with the ear piece, yelling at the tv. And we would laugh at his reactions, as he played with his friends, from various towns and states.

We also had a small dinner for him that year, on the actual day of his birthday. Austin's birthday nearly always fell in the middle of the week, so the family parties were held on the weekend. Our tradition though was to make their favorite dinner and watch movies on their actual birthday. That year, he wanted to grill kabobs (and squash!) and have his grandparents over. It was a nice evening on the deck.

A house was being built that summer right behind us. As a result, a large dirt hill was created from them leveling the site. Austin and all the neighborhood kids had a lot of fun on that hill. They climbed it, rolled down it, took their bikes on it, etc. In the winter, when we had a snow, it turned into a sleigh riding machine. That was a nice change for the boys, as living in a city subdivision, hills are not common!

We had a family "Game Day" that spring and rented out a local banquet hall. The idea came from Noah's past birthday theme and everyone really enjoyed it. We brought a variety of board games, card games and even hooked up a video game system for the kids. It was a chance for distant family to come together, sort of a family reunion. Austin had a great time, as he was always a big fan of games, specifically Rook. He enjoyed watching the adults play and was thrilled when he got to join in.

For spring break that year, we went back to the Smoky Mountains. This time, we decided to stay in a hotel and do more of the touristy things. Austin enjoyed Wonder Works the most, as it was full of science, how things worked, experiments, etc. We also went into North Carolina that year and explored new parts of the mountain we hadn't in the past.

May 2008, Austin graduated 8th grade. He had again done well in school and was looking forward to the summer and entering high school that fall.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

12th Birthday

Austin broke tradition this year and had two parties.

His 12th birthday for family was much like the ones before and after. We had all the family over for a big cookout and pool party, complete with yard games.
However, as he'd just graduated 6th grade and was moving into middle school, he decided he wanted to invite several friends over for an additional party and sleep over. It was certainly an experience, having a dozen 12-13 year-olds in the house! They pigged out on pizza and cokes, stayed up all night playing video games, and were sprawled out all over the house deep in sleep when the sun came up the next day.

One of his favorite gifts that year was a trip to Cincinnati with Tim, his best friend Blake and his dad. Blake wasn't able to spend the night with Austin, so he surprised him the next weekend with this gift. They went to see a Reds game and Austin had the time of his life. The ticket stubs for that game are still hanging on a memory board in his room.

We found the Evansville Otters that year too and it was a good 2nd choice, as it was closer and cheaper than Cincinnati. We went to see them play a couple of times a season and enjoyed the family outing. Nearly every game, Austin would get picked for the contests they had on the field. One game, he won free pizza at local restaurant close to the ballpark. After eating there, Turoni's became our favorite 'after-game' spot.

Austin played fall ball for the first time that season. We enjoyed the cooler weather but weren't prepared for the games that required blankets and extra hot chocolate! He had a good time though playing during a time of year when he hadn't before.

Austin started middle school that year. It was a big change from elementary school but he loved it. He liked the break of changing classes and teachers. He loved playing in the band. He was selected that year to be a "Natural Helper" which was voted on by his peers. Being chosen meant he was voted as being someone his friends could count on, a good role model and someone they could trust. The reward was a weekend retreat at Pennyrile camp. We were very proud of him.

For fall break that year, we went to Cave City and slept in a wig-wam. The boys thought it was really neat to sleep in the Indian hut. We visited the typical tourist attractions in the area that week but the wig-wam was the highlight of the trip.

Austin really enjoyed deer hunting with his Dad that year. He was getting older and able to understand it more - and sit still that long. It was good bonding for them too.

I remember that one of his favorite Christmas presents that year was something I had managed to get nearly for free. It was a shower radio and he thought it was the coolest thing ever. Austin enjoyed taking showers and loved listening to music so it was the best of both worlds. It was both a radio and a cd player so he could even choose the tunes. Of course, it created a monster as 45 minute showers began as a result. We would joke that he figured out a way to go to sleep standing up because it took him so long each morning.

I also remember Valentine's Day the year he was 12. We decided to celebrate at home, with the boys. I made their favorite meal, fettuccine Alfredo, complete with my best china and candlelight. They felt very special, sharing that dinner with us that night. They actually returned the favor for us on our anniversary a few months later. The boys set the table, lit the candles, cooked our dinner and waited on us, as if we were guests in their restaurant. It was very sweet.

Austin grew so fast that year. He went from pre-teen to full blown teenager the next summer. I think he grew a foot in the time between. He was always mature but we saw such changes in him after that. His appearance made a drastic change that year as 12 was the last of the baby face. By the next summer, he was a young man.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

11th Birthday

2005 was a scary year for Austin. A few months before he turned 11, Tim and I were in a serious motorcycle accident. We were in the hospital for weeks and it took several months after to recover.

I don't know if I could have made it through that time without Austin. He was such a tremendous help and so mature through it all. I can only imagine how scared he was and how alone he felt at times. In reading his papers about it, I can tell it made a difference in how he felt about us. He realized at a very young age how short life is, how precious every moment is with those you love, and to never take a day for granted.

I am a big believer that things happen for a reason. That wreck was horrible and extremely hard on our family but it strengthened us so much. It brought us closer to each other and to God. It changed all of us, for the better. And looking at where we are today, I can say God had a plan in all of it.

I have so many photos and memories of that year because of what happened. It was a big wake up call for Tim and me and we spent that entire summer making the most of every moment. We took some type of trip or did a family activity every weekend. And I am so grateful we did.

My mom purchased a trampoline for the boys, while I was still confined to the hospital bed. She thought it might give them an activity to do, when I needed a bit of a break. It was great fun for them and they enjoyed playing on it all summer. Our house was the hot spot for all the neighborhood kids that year!

Austin's 11th birthday was of course, at our house. We had just had a deck put in so he was happy to show it off and host the party from a higher view. He had a Crocodile Hunter cake and the guests enjoyed both the pool and trampoline that year. Many of Austin's gifts that year were video games, as he was heavy into playing at that age. He also still enjoyed WWE and received a backpack and clothing with the logo for his 6th grade year.

We spent a lot of time fishing that summer and visited both Diamond and Kentucky lake. Ky Lake was our biggest trip of the year, as we spent a week there. Austin enjoyed the Land Between the Lakes park and exploring nature. We had a picnic each day, at a different scenic area.

Thanksgiving weekend we took the boys to the Circus and splurged to get front row seats. They had a wonderful time, watching the acrobats and animals. We spoiled them the whole night, standing in line to see the bear, ate tons of cotton candy and popcorn and rode the elephant.

That Christmas, was a magical one, maybe because we realized how lucky we were to be together. We spent it making cookies and gifts for others, making homemade cards to send to family, and snuggling by the fire.

We started the tradition that year of putting up an additional tree in the house. It was called the "Kid's Tree" and was an old-fashioned tree decorated with pine cones, paper streamers and other homemade items. The star was made by tracing both Austin's and Noah's hands, cutting them like snowflakes and fanning them out. We placed the tree in our kitchen.

That tree had such special meaning last year because it was the one Austin put together by himself, to surprise us, the day he passed.

Friday, July 3, 2009

10th birthday

Austin's 10th birthday was again outside, in our backyard. It was full of family, homemade ice cream, and a big cake decorated in race cars.
After the party, Tim brought the fire truck to the house so all the guests could ride around the block on top. Of course, that brought kids out from all the houses, which he offered a ride to as well. I'm sure Austin felt like the coolest kid in the neighborhood that day!

I don't remember what presents he got or what the "theme" was, if there was any at all. I do remember though, very clearly, standing in the living room with him after it was over. He hugged both Tim and me and said "thank you" and that it was "the best birthday ever" which just made both our days. It wasn't extravagant, flashy or expensive. It was simple, family and togetherness. And I loved him for enjoying those parts of it most.
From the photos, I see presents of spy kits, model airplanes, and science books. These were all big interests of Austin at this age. He loved his great Aunt Becky because she was interested in all the same things. He would call her to talk about rocks, some cool experiment he'd found, and looked forward to the trips he took to spend with her at her house.

Austin was active in church at this age and enjoyed Wednesday night missions. He also sang in the choir and we loved watching him in the church performances.

We visited Beech Bend the year Austin was 10, with his brother and cousins. He was still young enough at that time to kick back and be a kid. I remember him really enjoying the water park that year, before he became self conscious of going shirtless!

We also had a good time in St. Louis, while attending my cousin's wedding, the next spring. Austin loved the St. Louis zoo, as it was much bigger than he was used to. He really liked the big bug exhibit they had that year.

There was a big snow that winter and Austin had a great time, sleigh riding with his brother and dad at my mom's farm. It reminded me of the winters I enjoyed as a child. We had a good time creating snow angels, having a snow ball fight and eating snow cream.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

9th Birthday

Austins' 9th birthday party was held at our new house - and the home we live in today. From this birthday on, he chose to have the party at the house, in our backyard and invite only family. I thought that was a huge testament to who he was.

Throughout his life, family was important to him. He loved his friends but so enjoyed these parties to celebrate with those closest to him. Each year I expected him to outgrow this "phase" but he never did. And I'm glad.

We had his party on the weekend of the 4th because the next week he was going away to 4H camp. As an added bonus, he got to have fireworks after his party. It was a tradition we carried on in future years.

As a joke, we wrapped a toaster as his "big gift" that year. I often wrapped presents in boxes of other things so he didn't think it would really be a toaster, until he pulled it out. His expression was priceless. He didn't quite know what to do or say but being the sweetheart he was, he just said thanks. His dad then told him to close his eyes and set the big box in front of him, containing the basketball goal he'd wanted. And he was thrilled.

That basketball goal was one of the best gifts we ever purchased him because it gave us so much family bonding time. Especially between Austin and Tim, because they played nearly every morning before school and every evening as Tim arrived home.

Fall break of that year, we took our first family vacation. It was a trip to the Smoky Mountains and we spent a week in a cabin way up on a hill.

It was the longest drive the boys had ever been on (over 5 hours). We packed lots of activities for them to do in the car. They had fun playing road games, sightseeing and having fun in the backseat. It was a much more pleasant trip than I expected.

Austin fell asleep on the way and woke up just in time to see the mountains in the horizon. That was the best part of my trip - to see his face light up.

The boys loved the cabin and Austin was a big fan of the hot tub out on the deck. He also enjoyed sneaking out each morning to fish with Tim. (Noah was only 3 and so he slept in with Mom.) While on the trip, we visited the mountains, Cades Cove, Ripley's Aquarium and the Comedy Barn. It was a wonderful first family vacation full of great memories.

Age 9 was 4th grade and Ms. Henderson, one of Austin's favorite teachers. As always, he did well in school. He scored in the top 5% on his tests, made the all-A honor roll, got Perfect Attendance, and was awarded as the Super Student. He was also selected to be a "Gifted Student" that year. We were proud of him because 4th grade was a rough transition, moving into more difficult homework and portfolio assignments.

Age 9 was also the year Austin took over as Team Captain for our team. He was featured in a story in the Times-News (which is posted earlier in this blog). He raised over $1000 that year on his own and it was the start of continued passion for him.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

8th bday

Austin's baby book stopped after year 7 so it may be the last "accurate account" of his birthdays in this 'year in review' series!

I do remember writing the last remark in his baby book and sobbing because it meant my little boy was growing up. I always meant to add in letters or updates each year but time slipped away and I didn't. How I wish I'd taken the extra time to record each year after but I will always treasure the book and everything it did capture. Now, I'll depend on memory and photographs to recall each year.
Austin's 8th party was held at our county park. It was an "Old Fashioned Picnic" theme and Austin requested all his favorite foods from family. Mamaw June made fried chicken and each family member brought a side item.

I remember my Grandma forgot to bring the potato salad and living nearly an hour away, we just had to do without it. Of course, we had more than enough food but Austin picked on her, as did we all, throughout the day.

Austin was getting good at riding his bike and that is one of the reasons for having the party at the park. He and the other kids rode around the bike trail, while the adults played washers and horse shoes.

At the end, we had homemade ice cream and a big cake, decorated with a baseball theme. It was a great day to spend with the family, while celebrating Austin's birthday.

I remember that our gift to him that year was money to decorate his new room. We also purchased a new bed for him, which he loved. It was a bunk bed on top, couch on the bottom, that could fold out to be a bed for company. He felt so big, having that new bed and a real couch in his room. He spent the money on posters, bedding, rugs and accessories to deck his new room out that year.

That summer was his last season of Little League so it was a big sign of how much he'd grown. He continued playing 3rd base that year and had another successful season. He looked forward to playing in the "big leagues" the next year.

September 29, 2002, is a date I will always remember because it was the day Austin was baptised. He was only eight and had not even turned eight when he began asking questions. We read the bible, talked about what it meant to be a Christian, and prayed. Brother Armstrong even came to our house to meet with him, to make sure he was truly ready.

On that Sunday morning, he proudly wore a t-shirt, with a message about Jesus' love and officially became a Christian and member of our church. It was one of my proudest moments as mother.

That Christmas was also memorable because it was the year he quit believing in Santa. Of course, it broke my heart, because it meant he really was growing up. He did a great job though of playing along for Noah's sake, which pleased Tim and me.

I think he expected the big "Santa surprises" to stop for him, since he'd made the announcement to us. I often wondered too, if he made it considering that Tim had recently lost his job. He was always in tuned to what we were going through, whether we told him or not.

However, we still managed to shock him with the gift he'd been wishing for all year - an XBox. We hooked it up the night before in the entertainment center and didn't wrap it, attach a bow or anything. At the end, we were going to have him get something off the tv and see if he noticed. Instead, half way through opening presents it caught his eye. I can still recall that big surprise smile and laugh as he realized what he'd been given.

Eight years old was the transition from little boy to pre-teen. It was a changing year, with us moving to a new home and the decisions he made that fall and winter. I fondly recall that sweet little boy, with the chubby cheeks and the heart of gold. He grew taller, his face changed in the coming years, but his heart remained the same.

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