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.