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, September 30, 2009

Homecoming Party

John 3:16 was probably the first bible verse I memorized, as is the case for most children. I'll admit that as a child, I really didn't fully grasp the meaning. Honestly, the verse didn't have the same impact and meaning to me as it does now that I've lost Austin.

I left Austin's grave one day deep in prayer, searching for help and hope and answers. For whatever reason, that simple scripture entered my mind. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." For the first time I realized all that God had done for us - for me. I realized what a true sacrifice it was. And I realized that he truly did understand my pain. It spoke volumes to me.

Only someone who has a lost a child can really understand the depth of grief and pain you experience. It is unlike any other loss you will face, there are no words. I thought back to the early days, once the shock had passed, when I felt so alone crying in Austin's bed. I screamed and cried and prayed and felt nobody heard me. I felt God had left me. But this verse made me realize how much he was there and has been there for me throughout. He knowingly sent his child to die, fully aware of the pain it would cause them both, to save the world. That is amazing love!

And as much as this new found realization has helped me the past few weeks, it doesn't make the pain of losing Austin go away. It still hurts with every breath and I still miss him every moment. I don't understand (or even agree) that Austin had to leave so soon. But I trust that God had a plan in it and I have to believe there was a good purpose to Austin passing so young.

I remember saying to someone early on how much I prayed the night we lost Austin. I never prayed harder, more deeply, urgently, sincerely than that night. I didn't understand why he didn't hear me, why my prayers weren't answered. And they said, "Do you ever think that God could have been using Austin in your life to strengthen your faith?" I had to turn away from that for some time. I still struggle with it. Sometimes it makes me angry, to think that I had to lose my child to become closer to God.

I still don't know the true reason(s) and won't until my time here is done but I feel God and Austin pushing me forward. I have to hope that his legacy is meant to inspire and lead MANY to Christ, whether to strengthen what was already there or to bring those lost to him. What a wonderful legacy that would be!

As I've shared before, Austin became a Christian very early in life. He was proud to be a Christian and loved God. I can't think of any better tribute to him than to lead others down that path. I know nothing would make him prouder.

Austin loved to throw a good party. He enjoyed nothing more than to have friends and family over. He'd be first at the door, to open it with a wide smile that greeted you hello and welcomed you in. It was followed by those wonderful hugs only he could give. I know that when my time on Earth ends, he'll be the first to greet me with open arms. And I can't wait for that day. I know he'll be there for each of us he loved so much, happy to welcome us home.

If you don't know God and how powerful his love can be, I encourage you to find him. Open your heart and ask him in. You don't have to pray any special prayer or say a certain scripture, just confess your sins and ask God to take control of your life. Doing so will change you forever! And when your days on Earth are through, you'll see my smiling boy on the other side, with his arms open and ready to welcome you in. I know he is anxiously at Heaven's door, planning one terrific homecoming party for us all. I hope you accept his invitation!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Enough

I ponder a lot about whether I was "enough" for Austin. When you lose someone so close to you, especially a child, you second guess every moment. Was I kind enough, did I teach him enough, tell him "I love you" enough?

You wish for just one more day, one more minute, with the one you love and miss. I regret any missed moments with him knowing now how little time I had. You can't be with your child every minute of every day but I look back now and am sad for any days I missed.

Most of those missed moments were because of my job. Managing Relay events for over a decade, I was on the road quite a bit. The job required frequent travel, sometimes overnight, and I was gone from home more than I preferred. Many nights of the week I didn't make it home until the kids were already in bed. I missed dinner, homework, and just the quality moments of the day. And as much as I tried to rearrange schedules, there were games and other events that I either missed or only saw a part of because of meetings for work.

Sometimes the guilt from that falls heavy on my shoulders but I feel like Austin was proud of what I did. I certainly wasn't burning the midnight oil to climb the corporate ladder. Success in my career was never my focus and the traveling I did was for a purpose. I hope that the moments I missed were balanced by the work I was doing. I know that Austin was passionate about Relay and finding a cure for cancer. In the papers and stories I've read he wrote about me and my job, I feel understood - and approved. I hope.

While I wasn't always there, I tried to make the most of every moment. Whether it was a quick story at bedtime, a phone call on a long ride home, or funny text messages back and forth, I tried to connect with him each day. And when we got the chance, Mom & Austin days were always a great way to fill back up on our time meter and be together. I treasure every moment that I ever spent with Austin.

I guess I will always wonder though if it was enough.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

class of 2012

We were given Austin's yearbook this week. I don't even know if I have the words to express what feelings came over me, holding it in my hands.

As I looked down at the front cover and read "Class of 2012," I realized it was yet another milestone of his that we will miss. The tribute page to him, and another child gone too soon, was beautiful but the rest of the book just brings me sadness to look through it. Each page is filled with moments and memories that Austin didn't get to be a part of. The happy smiles of his classmates and friends, just bring me tears because my heart aches for the missing photos of Austin.

I look through the book and wonder how his high school years would've been. What would have been his favorite class? teacher? memories? What moments would we have been proud of for him - would he have excelled in school or with sports? Who would he have taken to his first school dance, his first date? How handsome would he have been in cap and gown, ready for the next chapter in his life. And then, so many thoughts of his future and what he would have chosen to be. As much as I know I shouldn't sit and dwell on these thoughts, a mother can't help but do so. I had the same wishes and dreams for him when he was here and it is hard to let them go now that he is gone. His future is not what I had hoped for, or at least the timing of it.

I graduated with the mother of the other son who passed last year from Austin's school. He died in a motorcycle wreck just two months before Austin. Strangely enough, the boys grew up together. For a couple of years they were neighbors. I remember Austin going over to his house to play and the boys playing together in Austin's tree house. Who would have ever thought that seven years later I would reconnect with his mother because we both lost our sons? It is just such an odd coincidence. As I've mentioned before, I am finding more and more of my graduating class who've suffered, or are currently in pain, from the loss of a child.

When we graduated all those years ago, our minds were filled with dreams of the life we would have. All of us were so ready to take on the world, to be grown-ups and all that it brings - jobs, marriage, families. None of us envisioned this sadness and pain we would all someday face. It just shows me how little control we have in our futures, how short and sweet life is, and how much we should treasure every single moment.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

painful pauses

There isn't a moment that Austin isn't on my mind, in some way. As with my heartbeat, it is always there, lingering in the background. Some days are harder, some minutes unbearable, and others are just the every day numbing pain you learn to live with.

First thing in the morning and last thing at night, are two of the hardest times in any given day for me. In the morning, as I walk past his closed door to wake up Noah for school, I am instantly reminded. It is a pause in my day, from the very beginning. A reminder of our loss. Abrupt and painful, it hits me, forcing me to remember and start the waking nightmare I live each day all over again.

It was a daily routine to open his door first. Actually, we woke Austin up 30 minutes before, allowing him to have time to shower and Noah to sleep a little longer. Never did I wake up Noah before Austin though. So, walking past Austin's door without being able to open it and find him sleeping, arms and legs dangling to the floor, isn't normal. Such a simple, every day activity, a habit, a way of life, that is forever ripped from me.

I often watched him sleeping, as it was about the only chance I got to really look at him. He was changing so much; especially the past couple of years, transforming into a man before my eyes. During the day, if he caught me looking, he would turn away -or walk away! - and comment in some funny or snide remark that it wasn't polite to stare.

Waking him up got easier with his age, instead of harder as I'd expected. He used to sleep so soundly we'd joke that a train could drive through his room and wouldn't wake him. Later, all I had to do was say his name and he was up. Of course the running joke then was how long he took a shower. We seriously think he found a way to go back to sleep standing up, shower running. As the only woman in the house, he exceeded me on shower time by a long shot.

And my day ends, just as it begins. Yet another pause, a rude reminder of my loss. My last moments each night were hugging and kissing my boys. It often happened a couple of times, as we would kiss the boys good-night on our way to bed and inevitably they would follow us, or come back to our room to say something.

Almost every night before I closed my eyes, Austin was there at my side, leaning over to kiss me good-night. Actually, he would appear at our doorway, lingering to make sure we hadn't already fallen asleep. If we answered him, he would say good-night again and "I love you" to us both. He'd then come into the room and kiss and hug Tim. He'd tease me, acting like he was walking out without doing the same. I'd have to fuss and yell, he would laugh, and circle our bed, coming to my side. My last memory of Austin each night would be of him bending down, wrapping his one arm around me, and hugging me good-night.

But those moments are now just memories. Unwelcome pauses in my life. Painful reminders of a life lost.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

where time stood still

Labor Day weekend 2008 was anything but ordinary and everything perfect. Of course, it holds extra special meaning because it was our last with Austin; however, even on that day, we commented on how wonderful it was. Just an average, lazy summer day that became so much more.

For whatever reason, we didn't have big plans approaching that holiday weekend. Often it is on those long weekends that we tackle household projects, like staining the deck, because we need the extra day off to accomplish it. I don't remember much about the weekend, but that morning of Labor Day, we woke up with no specific plans and ended up in a place where time stands still.

Somehow, I had learned about Pine Knob and we decided that the weather was a perfect day for a drive and picnic. The boys had no idea where we were going and they always loved surprise road trips. We hit the parkway heading toward Elizabethtown and they were both at a loss, for it was a route we didn't frequently take.

With today's technology, it was hard to keep many things secret, especially with Austin. If he got any hints that would lead to a clue, he'd text friends to find out answers. I don't think he ever figured out where we were going though as we weren't really sure either until we arrived.

The town of Pine Knob appeared to have been frozen in time. Maybe it was the time of day we arrived or because it was a holiday, but the town was empty. The picturesque white-washed homes, church, and school house lined the lonely gravel road as if created for a movie set and abandoned.

A wooden bridge that arched over the creek was the first place we pulled aside after eating. This bridge was unnecessary that day, as the water was so low in many areas you could just walk across the creek bed. We all took our shoes off and plunged into the crisp, cool water sliding our toes over smooth stones.

At the foot of the bridge was a dirt path that winded up, leading to natural steps made by large rocks jutting out of the hill. It is this location where we all stopped for photos. The picture of Austin below was taken on this day and is one of our favorites of him. He enjoyed the peacefulness of the place, the natural beauty, and the many different shapes and sizes of rocks found along the trip. This is also one of the photos that we chose for his monument. Tim and the boys ventured farther up the hill but didn't explore too much, afraid to leave Mom too far behind. With my knee, I don't get too adventurous in areas unknown, but I was perfectly content meandering through the creek and snapping photos. I remember how silent it was in that place; even nature seemed to be a little lazier that day, as if all the earth were at peace and resting.

Once they made their way back down the hill, we drove to the old school house and church and peeked inside windows. We tried to imagine how life would have been back then, with everyone in the same classroom, no matter the age. I later found out that my grandmother grew up in that area, which the boys and I found interesting. The boys wondered if grandma had walked those same paths on her way to school or played in the same creek.

The Pine Knob outdoor theatre is along the route and while snooping, we noticed the many picnic tables so it made an easy choice for our picnic spot. I remember the weather being unbelievably perfect that day, a cool breeze blowing through the shade trees. The smells of summer blending in with the early stages of fall mingled in the air. We shared simple sandwiches and chips, with a side of laughter and togetherness.

We loved viewing the creek that winded through the town and water trickle from the sides of hills, as it was reminiscent of the mountains. There was even a spout stuck into the side of one, where a natural spring spilled out water so clear and fresh. The boys were hesitant to taste it but surprised after doing so.

The entire morning was completely unscheduled and we lingered as long as we wanted at any given spot. Later that afternoon, while driving with no purpose, we ended up visiting Rough river, which the boys enjoyed. After a day of adventure and exploring, we were all ready for a refreshing plunge in the water. The afternoon was spent chasing each other at the beach and splashing around.

Our entire day was unplanned and unscheduled with new and exciting activities. Such a simple holiday, filled with precious memories. I imagined Pine Knob as a little piece of Heaven and like to think that Austin now lives among beauty and peace such as was found on that perfect summer day.
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