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.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

9 months

It is unimaginable that 9 months have passed without Austin by my side. They say your life changes when you have a child. I know for sure that ours changed for the better when we had Austin. However, I never thought I'd have to experience life without my children. It is unreal. Life is not the same.

I can't say the phrase "9 months" without thinking of being pregnant with him. I've always loved to journal and I treasure everything I've written regarding Austin now. I recently pulled out my pregnancy journals and was shocked to find out the date I learned I was pregnant with him was November 29. How strange that this date would be the most blessed and joyous of days in one point of my life and the most horrid date later in my life.

Throughout my journal, I write about how hard it was to wait for Austin to arrive. In these past 9 months, I've spent the time wishing he was here; that it never happened, and that he'll walk back through the door. Back then, I prayed for a safe, healthy and happy baby. Now, I pray to understand what happened, hope that Austin did have a happy life and to know that he is at peace.

the little yellow butterfly

"We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever."

I have always enjoyed watching butterflies but they seem to be a little more special these days. Lately, I feel like I'm being followed by a little yellow butterfly. And whether there is really any connection, it makes me think of Austin, and I smile.

I've noticed that this little yellow butterfly seems to always flutter by whenever I am down. It flitters around me when I'm visiting Austin's grave. It floats in front of my truck on my lonely drive home from work each afternoon. It dances in the yard as I walk back from checking the mail and waiting for Noah to arrive on the bus.

This little butterfly always seems to know just when to appear. Instantly, I am lifted up and put at ease, if only for a moment. It makes me feel like Austin is there, checking in, hugging me with his sweet spirit.

"Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."

Yellow was one of Austin's favorite colors. Yellow looked great on him, a contrast to his pitch black hair. One of his favorite shirts was a yellow t-shirt advertising an ice cream shop in Evansville. He won it at a Otters game and wore it so much it went from vibrant yellow to a pale, muted color. And the color just represents his presence - yellow is sunny and cheerful, yellow is friendly, yellow is warm. All of those are who Austin was.

I was surprised to learn this week that a butterfly's life is a short one. For most, butterflies live less than a week. The fact that I've seen a little yellow butterfly so often made this new found knowledge all the more special.

"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

unexpected angels

Looking back, we have experienced many children's deaths through the years. Maybe more than most? Maybe I'm just more in-tuned to them now? Or, maybe all of those precious souls were put in our path for what we would someday face.

One of my best friends from school was pregnant the same time I was with Austin. Sadly, she lost her baby. We grew apart after that, mostly my doing. I felt guilty because my child lived and I feared that every birthday he had was a reminder to her of what she lost. I missed her over the years and longed for the friendship we once had. We talked occasionally if we saw each other out but the connection was broken. However, when I lost Austin, she was right there. And she seems to know just when I need to hear from her now, as a message will be in my inbox from her, just checking in on me.

Shockingly, several of my classmates from high school have lost children. In my graduating class, I can think of at least five classmates who've suffered this loss. One lives down the street from me, in my same neighborhood, and experienced this horror just a few short years ago. Another, who's son was a friend and neighbor to Austin when he was around five years old, passed just a few months before Austin. And while I was in the midst of this pain, yet another classmate's beautiful daughter left this earth, also too soon. None of us would have ever imagined we'd be connected in this way when we graduated together.

Austin's babysitter when he was a toddler, passed away while giving birth to her baby. I think she was the first child's funeral we attended. They were friends of our family and Tim worked with her dad. Tim recently reconnected with him, I'm sure because he needed to talk to someone who knew what he was going through.

In my job, I've also been blessed with friendships from couples who also have experienced this great loss. Some of them I knew about before losing Austin and were an inspiration to me even then. Some of them, have come forward with their story, now that they know I'm walking this painful journey too. They all somehow know just when to call, when to hug, when to check in. They are ones whom you don't have to fake an "I'm good, how are you" to, as they know.

And just a couple of months prior to losing Austin, I was in one of my all-time favorite plays, "Steel Magnolias". In the story, one of the main characters loses her daughter. I formed so many wonderful friendships with those women during the course of that season. Strangely, those lines I had memorized and rehearsed so often, came back to me during the funeral. They were a comfort to me, as was seeing all the ladies come as group and surround me in one big hug at the service. Never would I have imagined that any of us would experience a loss similar to what we shared in that performance.

All of these relationships have been tremendous strength for me through these past eight months. While I would give anything not to have the connection - or rather reason for us meeting, I can't deny their power, or wish their friendships away. Each of them came into my life when I needed them most and many have continued to be a source of inspiration, motivation, and peace to me. They are like my angels, appearing to me along this path, each leaving an impact in my life and making me better because of it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

the starfish

The Starfish

Once upon a time there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer.

He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day and began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn't dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer he called out, "Good morning! What are you doing?"

The young man paused, looked up and replied, "Throwing starfish in the ocean."

"I guess I should have asked, why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?"

"The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die."

"But, young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!"

The young man listened politely, then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said-

"It made a difference for that one."


I have always enjoyed this story and have used it in classes, as part of a volunteer thank you, etc. For some reason, I was reminded of the story today and how it captures a large part

of who Austin was.

Austin was with us only 14 short years but he made such a difference to so many in that time. And like the boy in the story, there wasn’t one specific amazing accomplishment he made. He didn’t receive any awards, wasn’t made famous by his acts of kindness, but he did make a difference. Austin made this world a better place and to the people he touched,

it was special and amazing.

We all have that gift. Each of us can make a difference every day. It doesn’t have to be tremendous; it doesn’t even have to be something everyone knows about.

The every day, sometimes anonymous acts, Austin gave the world are the ones I hear from others that meant the most.

Find your starfish – and throw it in for Austin.

gone too soon

We signed Noah up for basketball last night. It is the first sport he has been interested in since losing Austin.

Both my boys have always loved baseball but Noah wouldn't even talk about it this last Spring. When I mentioned fall ball, he just shook his head. He finally told me that he didn't know if he will ever be able to play baseball again because it reminds him too much of Austin. That makes me so sad for many reasons and I hope it is a phase that will pass. My hope is that someday memories are not so painful but joyous reminders of him.

Austin never played basketball so I didn't think this sport would be painful for any of us. He did coach Upward with his dad one year but that was held at our church. This league is being played and coached by the high school. I don't know if I didn't realize that when Noah first mentioned or if I just pushed the thoughts aside. However, walking into the high school last night, it was obvious that this wouldn't be easy for Tim or me.

As we entered the doors, I realized that I hadn't been in that school since losing Austin. My last memory is of picking him up early from school in November, to take him to an appointment. That desk is the same spot we had to walk up to last night to sign Noah up for ball.

I've learned to "check my emotions at the door" and have become fairly good at hiding the pain, when needed. Noah didn't need to see me break down (or anyone there for that matter) and so I had to be strong. What I wanted to do was turn around and go back to my truck, but Noah needed this, so I stayed. Tim was rather quiet throughout the practice and though he said nothing until we were home in bed, I figured he was going through the same emotions.

For me, it wasn't of the memories of high school with Austin that hurt because he wasn't a student there long enough to create many. He started his freshman year last August so he was there just three short months. What hurt the most was the thoughts of what was lost, what could have been. I was hit with memories from my high school years and what Austin didn't get to experience. Teenage boys walked past, finishing up from practice or an after school activity, and my eyes followed them, wishing Austin was among the pack. My heart cried last night for the memories we didn't get to make with him.

It still amazes me what triggers grief. It is the simple, little things - the every day moments and memories - that hurt the most. Holidays and anniversaries are obvious and you brace yourself for the pain. But what is harder is moments like last night that you don't expect. Life goes on, even though inside you are screaming for it to stop. Every day is one more sunrise, one more sunset, that you did not get to experience with the loved one you lost. You miss what you had, think back on memories you shared, but it is a different pain to reflect on what you never got to do with them. "What could have been" hurts your soul.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

school days memories

The start of the school season is approaching and I'm reminded of Austin's absence.

I so enjoyed shopping with and for my boys for school. With Austin, it was about the only time in the school year I was able to be an active participant, it sometimes seemed. As a teenager, he didn't disclose much of his school days to me. However, at the start of the school year, he was always willing and eager for me to shop with him. He trusted my opinion about clothes and appreciated me helping him organize his supplies.

Austin didn't take after his mom in the organizational arena. This often got on my nerves, as I couldn't understand how you could lose and need a new pencil every day or forget an assignment. Looking back though, I chuckle about it. That is who Austin was and I wouldn't have changed him for anything. Besides, I did a lot of bargain hunting for school supplies so I had an endless amount of pencils anyway!

I enjoyed purchasing everything on his list and a few extra surprises along the way. We'd sit down a couple nights before school was to begin and pack everything into his backpack. Last year, he was determined to be more organized moving into high school. I bought him an expandable filing contraption to hold assignments for each of his classes. We picked different color folders and notebooks for each subject to help him remember and stay on top of things. He was excited about the new school year, and while I don't know that it made a huge difference, I could see a change in how he kept up with assignments. Plus, it made me still feel like I was needed, even though my baby was starting high school.

We had a fun time school shopping last year too. Of course, he had outgrown everything over the summer. I think he grew inches overnight! He went up an entire size in shoes too, wearing the largest size most stores carried. We joked about having to borrow shoes from Shaq or some other basketball star, or special ordering some online the next year.

Tim doesn't really get the need for kids to have certain brands or styles. He thinks it is silly to have more than one pair of shoes (really that is more towards me) or pay over a certain amount on jeans. Most of it, he does in fun; however, I don't think Austin ever really knew how to take him. Would he really be upset if he bought these jeans that were $50? They both got a kick out of picking at each other. Austin would bump the price up, just to see Tim's reaction. Tim would say, "You seriously aren't wearing those jeans, are you? I mean, I have some with holes in them for free at the house." And I think Austin picked out a specific pair, complete with sharpie drawings, on purpose just to pick at Tim last year.

I was impressed with Austin though for being price-conscious. He kept up with what he was spending from store to store. If I suggested something, he'd say it was too much, or shrug it off as it he wasn't interested. Only after I told him it was ok, would he go ahead and purchase it. And he didn't buy anything particularly expensive. That is just how Austin was. He shared comments with Noah too while shopping, letting him know he if he was spending too much, wasting money, or making a fashion mistake!

As I was buying school shoes for Noah last weekend, I was reminded of that. Last year, Noah had wanted these shoes with drawings or something on them (just because he thought it was cool). Austin proceeded to lecture him though about being fake. He said, "Those are skater shoes and you aren't a skater. Don't be fake." Noah could have really cared less and wasn't trying to be someone he wasn't but Austin didn't want him getting a reputation, I guess. I laugh about it now remembering the two of them in the store.

It hurts, seeing a new school year approach, and knowing my guy won't be joining his classmates. Austin would have been a sophomore this year. He had planned to drop band and join the football team. He would have been on the countdown for getting his license and taking over his dad's truck. So many dreams I had for him, so many memories cut short.

I miss him. Every moment.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I wish...

I wish....
to see your face just one more time.
to hear your laugh.
to see your smile.
to feel your arm around my neck.
I wish...
I learned to play chess with you.
we never argued about chores.
I tried those new recipes for dinner.
we took that trip to New York.
I wish...
I could hear about your day.
we could go for a drive, with the music turned up.
I was shopping for school clothes and bigger shoes for you.
you were here to take the last of the cash from my purse.
I wish...
I had hugged you harder that last day.
told I loved you, just one more time.
looked into those eyes and held onto that sparkle.
soaked up those moments, even more.
I wait...
to see your face again.
to hear you laugh.
to see you smile.
to feel your arm around my neck.
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