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.

Friday, November 27, 2009

remembering our last day

When we awoke on November 29, 2008, little did we know our lives would change forever.

That day was one of our best - and absolutely the worst day - ever.

In the beginning, that Saturday was the perfect family day. We woke to beautiful weather, especially for November, and immediately set to decorating our house for the holidays. It was an annual tradition to decorate Thanksgiving weekend.

Christmas songs filled the air, from our outside sound system. Tim and Noah went to the roof to put up lights and Austin and me decorated the rest of the outside. I remember how everyone was in such a good mood -and even that day I paused several times, counting my blessings for such wonderful memories. Austin and Noah got along perfectly that day and even wrestled outside in the yard, tickling each other. I remember commenting, "wow. what a great family day!"

As I finished up outside, Austin came in and began to decorate the inside of the house. He'd never done this before and actually in the past kind of groaned about decorating. He would poke fun of my traditions and how I had to take pictures of every special ornament and person hanging it. But that day, he loved it.

He put up the "kids tree," which goes in our kitchen, and has all their homemade ornaments by himself. He surprised us with it when we came in from a quick trip to the store with last minute supplies. He had left it bare, except for the lights, so that Noah could help hang the ornaments. I was so touched at the gesture and we spent the next hour or so pulling out each memory. The kids would comment about what grade they were in when they made this one or how much they liked that one. The last to go on was the "star" which we made from cut-outs of their hand prints a few years back.

Afterwards, I was tired from our long day and asked to put off the big tree until Sunday. Austin wouldn't have it. "It is tradition, Mom. We have to do it all tonight." And so we did. And it was wonderful.

He had grown so much the last few years - well over 6 feet tall, size 13 shoes and all. We laughed because he took over so many of his Dad's jobs that day, wrapping the ribbon around the tree and placing the angel on top - barefooted. Tim always had to get a chair and Austin loved that he could place the angel on it without one. Placing that angel, is one of the last photos I have of Austin.

Austin was so sweet throughout the tree decorating. He let Noah hang any ornaments he wanted without a fuss. He posed for pictures without poking fun. He even commented on what ornaments he'd always loved. I could tell then he was enjoying the moments; but looking back, it seemed as if his soul was soaking up those memories, knowing they'd be his last with us.

So many memories, simple moments, that day that are now priceless.We ended the evening by going together, just he and I, to get Subway sandwiches (his fave) and watched a Christmas movie as a family. Again, it was the picture perfect day.

If only we could have tucked the boys in the bed that evening and life would go on as we knew and loved it. Instead, just a few short hours of watching my sweet little man, nearly grown, place that angel on the tree, he would himself join the angels. And so, that is why our last perfect day is also our worst nightmare come true.

It is unbelievable that he has been gone from us a year. I don't know how we've managed to get through these days without him - or how we'll face this anniversary. We try to remain strong, with the knowledge that our good-bye is not forever but it still hurts. We miss him every moment.

Tomorrow, we will try to remember the gift Austin gave us his last day. He wanted so much to leave us with a beautifully decorated house for Christmas. We haven't been able to keep the tradition of doing it all in one day, as opening those boxes of memories have just been so hard. Instead, we finished the outside last weekend, in between the tears. Tomorrow, we will remember and honor him by finishing the inside, hard as it will be. The tree, especially that angel, will always hold special memories because of his last gift to us. And as much as we wish he could be here with us, a part of him always remains, as his spirit lives on in our hearts.

Monday, November 23, 2009

our last Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was the last holiday spent with our sweet boy. Never could we imagine we would lose him two days later.

We began our holiday visits the weekend before, going to my Grandma Coons' house. Austin called her "Nanny" and always enjoyed visiting there. He did request on our drive over that he not sit at the kids table this year, which I'm glad I allowed now. He enjoyed sitting with the adults and having real conversations.

I remember listening to him interact with the kids while we were setting the table and thinking how much he'd grown and matured. He was correcting something the had done but in a nice way. In the past, it would have started a fight but they listened to him. Austin also enjoyed time with his great-Aunt Becky, who shared of love of sports and baseball cards with him.

We spent most of the day there, sneaking out that evening for a holiday movie with just the four of us that evening. It was a wonderful family day.

Thanksgiving day was spent between Austin's two Mamaw's. He loved visiting both, for different reasons. Austin has always been close to June because he spent so much time with her as a toddler. For a couple years, we lived very close to June and she babysat him daily. With my mom, Austin was her first grandbaby and so he was special to her for that. She also babysat Austin and watched him after school for several years, until we moved.

He loved visiting his Mamaw June and spending time with his cousins. From an early age he loved staying the night with Bub, Tamara, and Andrew. They all shared a love of wrestling and video games and always had a great time together. Austin also loved his Mamaw June's cooking. He loved her fried chicken, ham and dumplings the most.

Austin loved spending time at Mamaw B's for many reasons. Most of all he loved spending time with her but he also enjoyed the farm. He loved the animals, riding four wheelers, and exploring the woods, just as I did growing up there. He loved spending the day there playing board games, especially Rook. He loved family breakfasts that we would have, complete with country ham, bacon and biscuits and gravy. Anything Mamaw B or Papaw Carl made was wonderful and my cooking never compared! He especially loved Papaw's vegetable soup and grill bags, Mamaw's baked steak and mashed potatoes and dumplings too.

I remember last Thanksgiving as being a wonderful day of food and family. Austin enjoyed all the usuals - turkey, dressing, dumplings, pumpkin pie but what I remember most is his smile and happiness in spending time with family. One of my last memories of the day is of him holding my sister's babies. He loved them both so much and filled his phone with pictures of them and of him holding them.

We ended the night at home, just the four of us, watching holiday movies and making plans for the upcoming season. It was a perfect holiday full of wonderful memories.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

teenage memories

These are the hardest memories because they are the most recent. These moments are what we miss most of our sweet boy....

I remember how unorganized you were and how that made no sense to a Mom who schedules everything. I miss laughing about having to remind you what you went in the other room for, as if you were an elderly grandpa....and those last minute trips to the school to bring you whatever you forgot...and how we'd fuss about your messy room until you'd break down and clean it top to bottom, only to fall back to old habits within a few days.

I remember buying you your first cell phone and how thrilled you were. I think it was permanently attached to you from that point forward. I miss funny texts in the middle of the day, our afternoon chats on my drive home from work, and hearing the random ring tones you found.

I remember the day you joined the fire department and how happy you were. I miss picking on you about only wearing fire shirts after that, as it seemed that became your uniform of choice. I miss seeing your excitement when you got to spend time down there and I even miss arguing with you over texts when it was time to for you to come home.

I remember wondering every day if this would be the last day you would hug me without asking. I expected you to shy away from it as you got older but thankfully you never did. I held on to each one though and soaked them up, just in case. It didn't matter if it was a one arm hug on the way out of the truck or a full hug that welcomed home each day, they were all special because you gave them willingly. Those wonderful hugs may be one of the things I miss most.

I remember family game days and how much you loved playing Rook. I miss your laughter during these games and how you'd pick on whoever was playing at the table. We haven't played the game since you left, because it just isn't the same without you there.

I remember breaking up wrestling matches constantly between you, your Dad, and Noah. I knew that something was about to be broken in the house or someone would leave the floor crying. I remember how little you were when these matches started..when you'd hang from Dad's neck and try to pull him down with all your strength. And I was amazed at the change when you outgrew your Dad and were able to get the best of him on most days. I miss the laughter in our living room floor from those moments.

I remember your love of food and miss cooking for you. I loved making the meals you enjoyed most and seeing your smile when you smelled what I had cooking. I remember how you'd look at me for approval when we were eating out, before you ordered. You were like me, in that you enjoyed trying new dishes. Usually, I splurged and let you order whatever you wanted and you'd savor every bite. I miss spending time with you in the kitchen and taking you out to new restaurants.

I remember your love of music and how I was proud you appreciated all types. I tried to expose you to all genres from an early age. You were a great musician, playing multiple instruments and loved being in the band. You enjoyed listening to country, Christian, and some Top 40. Your favorite though, I think, was 80s hair bands, which I loved too. You raided my cd collection and fell in love with AC/DC. I miss going through my old favorites and sharing them with you. I miss driving nowhere with the windows down and the radio up jamming together.

I remember how helpful you were. As a toddler, you enjoyed helping me because it was something new and it made you feel big. After our wreck, you helped in the beginning out of necessity but I think you realized then how much of a difference it made. In the end, you helped because you wanted to and I rarely had to ask. If you saw me carrying something, you lifted it out of my arms. If you noticed the trash was full, you emptied it. If your dad was working on a project, you were right by his side. I miss coming home to see your smiling face in the driveway, so happy to see me and help me inside. Whenever I find myself needing to reach something or with my arms full, I look over my shoulder, wishing you were there.

We miss you so very much.

Friday, November 20, 2009

precious years

More memories of Austin that warm my heart...

I remember Austin being so tired from school as a little boy, that he fell asleep at the table, in the middle of dinner. And I remember letting his head stay in the mashed potatoes long enough to take a photo.

I remember the first time Austin learned to ride a bike and how wobbly he started out. He practiced in our backyard because the grass provided better cushioning than gravel. And I can still see his big smile when he finally got the bike straightened out and peddled on his own.

I remember taking Austin to college campuses for "Super Saturdays" where he got to choose classes to attend because of his Gifted scores in school. He always chose the science-based classes and loved being in the big labs.

I remember Austin's love of rocks starting early and simple - with gravel. He would play in the driveway with his cars and wrestlers for hours. He would find a rock that looked cool or special and tuck it into his pocket. I was forever finding rocks in my washer.

I remember simple, sweet moments with Austin, in my bed or his, lying on our backs and reading a book. I began reading to him while he was still in my belly; in a rocking chair as he fell asleep in his baby bed, on the foot of his bed as a toddler, and then letting him read to me as grew older. In his teens, I remember sharing books. He would read books that were my favorite growing up and he would pass along a book that he found and knew I'd enjoy too.

I remember baking with Austin at the holidays, or anytime of the year. Even before he could reach the stove, he loved to cook. Whether it was cutting out cookies or mushing up meatloaf, he enjoyed being in the kitchen with me.

I remember watching Austin drive the lawnmower around the backyard for the first time. He wasn't mowing, just driving, but he loved it and I guess it made him feel big to be allowed.

I remember warm sunny days and fishing trips. This was really more a "boy's trip" but I came along for food support and to sneak photos when they weren't looking. I remember Austin's first trips to fish and how he'd rather spend the time throwing rocks in the water than his line.

toddler years memories

More memories and moments with my sweet boy, in those early years...

I remember how you memorized the cases to all your favorite Disney movies years before you could read. We could pull the videos out and you would match them by placing back into their cases. (And these were old VHS days when there were no pictures on the tape!)

I also remember how much you loved repetition of your favorite shows. We watched Barney and Disney sing-a-longs a million times!

I remember how fiercely independent you were from the very beginning. Once you learned how to do something, you did it yourself. You loved fixing your own snacks - I guess it made you feel big to pull it out of the frig, heat it up in the microwave, etc.

I remember your first prayers and how much you enjoyed saying them at dinner. You would grab our hands, close your eyes, and say, "God great. God good. Thank you food. Amen!" As you grew a little older, your prayers grew in length because you would thank God for EVERYTHING on your plate and anything that surrounded it.

I remember how imaginative you were, acting out characters from books and movies. You always wanted to be "just like Dad" and would pretend to be a firefighter and EMT, and whatever job Tim had at the time.

I remember how cute your speech was at this age, before you were in school and frustrated by the difference. I loved how you'd use big words like "Knucklehead" and "Turkey Lips" to poke fun at us. My favorite saying of yours has always been, "You're getting on my nervous!" when you would get mad.

I remember your excitement in seeing something new at this age. I can close my eyes and see you squatting on chubby legs, amazed at discovering an ant hill. Whatever the experience, my joy always came from watching your reactions in those moments.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

misc memories...the first year

Just remembering some favorite moments with my sweet boy....

I remember....

bringing you home from the hospital, going into your nursery, and rocking you in the chair that my grandmother rocked me in. It was our first moment alone in our home together. I read to you the book I'd read aloud so often while you were still in my belly, "Love you forever" and dreamed of our future together.

I remember...

how good you were as a baby, never being a cryer or whiner, instead always smiling. In fact, there were times we found you had ear infections at a well-child checkup because you never complained. When you did fuss from needing a diaper change, you stopped the instant I carried you into the nursery, because you knew you would soon be dry.

I remember...

family snuggle time in the mornings after you would wake. You rarely woke us up by crying but would instead by singing, cooing, talking or laughing. As you grew, you would pull yourself up and peek into our room from your baby bed. You knew that Daddy would come get you and the three of us would enjoy special moments to start our day. We'd read and sing, tickle and play, and just enjoy you at this precious age.

I remember...

thanking God every day for the gift he'd given us through you. Every "first" moment I got to experience with you was such a blessing. I treasured your first smile, laugh, words, and first steps. I felt so blessed to be a mom to such a wonderful little boy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

And God Said


I said, "God, I hurt."
And God said, "I know."
I said, "God, I cry a lot."
And God said, "That's why I gave you tears."
I said, "God, I'm so depressed."
And God said, "That is why I gave you sunshine."
I said, "God, life is so hard."
And God said, "That is why I gave you loved ones."
I said "God, My loved one died."
And God said, "So did mine."
I said, "God it's such a loss."
And God said, "I saw mine nailed to the Cross."
I said, "But God, your loved one lives."
And God said, "So does yours."
I said "God, where are they now?"
And God said, "Mine is on my right and yours is in the light."
I said, "God, it hurts."
And God said, "I know."

sent to me from a sweet friend, who is walking this grief-stricken path of losing a child
(by Emily Kalb, St, Joseph Parish in Jasper, IN(from the Criterian))

Knowing Austin is by God's side is what brings us comfort in our loss. I can only imagine what beauty he sees and the good he is doing. We know that someday we'll be together again...for eternity.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Austin's final gift

November is hard for us. Each day on the calendar moves us one day closer to the nightmare that became our lives one year ago. Each day, forces us to replay the horrific details of the night we lost our precious boy. It doesn't help that each day also draws us closer to the holidays. At a time when most families are cheerfully decorating and planning parties, we are reminded of the one who won't be with us for the season and the emptiness that leaves us with.

Part of me would like to just turn the pages until I reach January and forget the upcoming dates. Sometimes, I feel like ignoring the holidays this year because my heart is breaking and I can't imagine a holiday season without Austin. But then I think back to our last day together and can't help but think Austin wanted to ensure our celebration of season for years to come.

I often wonder if somehow Austin knew, if his soul was aware, he was going home that night. As I've written about "Our Last Perfect Day" and I think back to how at peace he was, I can't help but feel that is true. What I know for sure is that Austin thoroughly enjoyed his last day on this Earth celebrating the upcoming holidays with his family.

His last day was spent decorating our home inside and out for the holidays. I was so impressed with how helpful he was that day and how much I could tell he enjoyed it. As a teenager, I expected him to shrug off this yearly tradition at some point. However, this day, it was almost as if it was his mission to ensure we completed everything. While Tim was on the roof hanging lights, he would be in the yard setting up the deer and other decorations. And while we made a last minute trip to the store for supplies, he surprised us by putting together the kid's tree we display in our dining room.

Evening was approaching and I was tired from a long weekend. What I wanted to do was go to bed and complete the decorating in the morning but Austin insisted we do it that night. He was adamant that we put up our large tree in the family room, complete with taking time for pictures as we hung our individual ornaments. He said to me, "This is tradition, Mom. We always do it all in one day." And last year, as he hung ornaments or arranged them on the table for Noah, he would comment about each one. He remembered stories of why we bought it, where we were visiting, which ones were his favorite, and so on.

At the time, I thought it was so sweet and treasured it, thankful that he hadn't outgrown it, and proud that he enjoyed my sappy traditions. I never imagined I would look back and treasure it because it was our last with him. I can close my eyes and see his soul smiling that night, sitting on the couch with his Dad. I remember his laugh and his sweet, gentle spirit. He was so kind to Noah, allowing him to take over many parts of the decorating. There were no arguments about who got to hang which ornament. Austin gladly sat back and soaked up the moments of watching Noah do it. The entire day could not have been more perfect. They are wonderful memories that I will remember and cherish forever.

That tree and decorations brought us such comfort last year, as they were Austin's final gift to us. He would leave us just a few short hours of placing the angel on top of our tree. As the holidays approach this year, I am filled with painful emotions. Yet, I am reminded of Austin's last gift and know that as hard as it will be to pull out those memories and relive moments of the past, it is what Austin wanted. His final gift will come back to us each Christmas season and because of that his spirit and love for us lives on.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Cord

We are connected,
My child and I,
by An invisible cord
Not seen by the eye.
It's not like the cord
That connects us 'til birth
This cord can't been seen
By any on Earth.
This cord does it's work
Right from the start.
It binds us together
Attached to my heart.
I know that it's there
Though no one can see
The invisible cord
From my child to me.
The strength of this cord
Is hard to describe.
It can't be destroyed
It can't be denied.
It's stronger than any cord
Man could create
It withstands the test
Can hold any weight.
And though you are gone,
Though you're not here with me,
The cord is still there
But no one can see.
It pulls at my heart
I am bruised...I am sore,
But this cord is my lifeline
As never before.
I am thankful that God
Connects us this way
A mother and child
Death can't take it away!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


It still seems that our family has been living in some nightmare this past year. To think that we are nearing the anniversary of losing our precious boy, is almost too much to bear. My thoughts of the past year are of all the memories we made that didn't include Austin. It just isn't right, there is a hole in our family. Our hearts are broken but still beating.

Even though Austin isn't here physically, a part of him is always with us. He is forever on our minds, on good days and on bad, in sad moments, and the few happy ones we have had. And we like to hope that pieces of him are all around us and that he is here in spirit. We've seen and felt too many signs not to know this is true.

Still, I long for just a moment more with him. I walk into a room and wish he'll be in there. I hear footsteps behind me and hope I'll turn around and see his smiling face. I long for his laugh and the joy he filled our home with. I miss his strong arms, that would offer help to me daily and fill me with warmth from hugs. My soul seems to constantly be searching for the link that was Austin.

Every parent thinks their child is amazing. Austin was that - and more. I can't help but feel the world suffered just a big a loss as we did last November. He had such potential and I can only imagine what he would have accomplished as an adult. I am still in awe of all he did as child! I'd give anything to have him still be here with us but I'm so thankful and grateful for the 14 years we had. Austin blessed our lives in every way possible.
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