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.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Merry Christmas, Sweetheart

One of the simple, every day things that I miss is bringing home surprises for Austin.  I enjoyed spending money on him because it didn't matter if it cost one dollar or fifty, he was always appreciative.  Even if it was a pack of gum or a jug of Sunny D, he'd grab me in a big hug and with that sweet smile of his, he'd thank me.  Now, he needs for nothing and the only thing I can buy him is flowers for his grave.  I go a step further and custom make each set for him, changing them with each season.

This time of year, as I'm checking off everyone else on my list, it's obvious someone very special isn't on it.  Our first Christmas without Austin was so very difficult and it added to the pain that we'd already bought presents for him that had to be returned.  Last year I changed our tradition of buying for a smaller child on the angel child and choosing a teen instead.  I try to imagine, though it is hard, what Austin would have wanted at that age and we give to someone in need in his memory. 

Another tradition we've had is to buy a special ornament each Christmas that represents some memory from that year.  As we're hanging them we are reminded of that moment or milestone, whether it was our first Christmas together, a vacation, or something symbolic for the boys, we remember.  Last year, I chose to purchase a memorial ornament for Austin and placed a photo of him placing the angel on the tree his last day with us.  We hang it towards the top so that when we glance upward, we remember that precious day.  I also placed an ornament at Austin's grave, a snowman playing baseball, so a piece of season could be shared with him there. 
   
This year, I again found an ornament with a baseball theme and the #1 on the award jug symbolizes how special he is to us - and always will be.  I spent my lunch hour placing new flowers and hanging his ornaments today.  It is certainly not a tradition I expected to add to our family but I do it to honor him.  Hopefully, he felt me there today and knows that no matter how very far away he is, he is always close in our hearts and minds, especially through the holidays.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Touching Tribute

Last night, Tim, Noah and I bundled up in multiple layers to attend our Downtown Christmas Celebration and Night Parade.  It's an annual tradition for our family to go the Christmas parade and we've been going for as long as I can remember.  Noah was especially excited this year, as he would be riding in the BDFD rescue boat and throwing out candy.  It was a blustery cold evening, spitting snow and rain in between gusts of wind, but he stayed nice and toasty by wearing his dad's bunker gear.  As he easily slipped into and fastened his dad's pants, I felt a little tug at my heart.  He's only 10 (nearly 11) and already fitting into Tim's gear.

It's a county practice that the two main cities take turns hosting the parade.  This year, it was Beaver Dam's turn, our hometown.  As the emergency lights flashed in the distance, signaling the start of the parade, I was reminded of the parade two years ago.  Having lost Austin just the week prior, we had no plans of attending.  Our emotions were still so raw and nobody felt like celebrating anything, much less the start of the Christmas season we knew Austin wouldn't be a part of.  A few hours before the parade, Tim received a phone call from someone urging us to go.  "Just be there for the beginning and if you can't stay, that's ok."

With that gentle push, we ventured out.  We bundled up, in part hoping to not be recognized by many people we knew.  We arrived late on purpose so that we could mix in with the crowd, just at the start of the parade.  As it was Beaver Dam's hosting year, the home department led the procession.  Not with tradition, sirens weren't screaming for attention to start the parade.  Instead, a tiny whisper of a Christmas song came from the truck's speaker.  Tim and I peeked around the crowd to see why the trucks were so silent when tears filled our eyes.

Losing Austin wasn't just felt by our family and friends but by many in the community, including in our second family - the fire department.  Both out of respect for the many years of service Tim had given, and in remembering Austin's short time on the department, the trucks were running silent in memory of him.  The lead truck, #24, Austin's favorite truck, carried a large banner that read, "In Loving Memory of Austin Blair, Unit #210."  I can still remember and feel the hush that went over the crowd, followed by supporting applause.  It was and always will be a parade and tribute we will never forget.

My eyes were again a little teary this year, recalling that sweet symbol of remembrance, and in seeing my other son growing up so quickly.  As Noah wore his dad's gear with pride, I realized how he was literally filling his dad's shoes and, in so many ways, his big brother's.  He's following in Austin's footsteps, both in support of the fire department, and in all the ways that made us love him so.  Perhaps Noah sat a little taller in the rescue boat because he was being hugged and held up by his guardian angel.  And I know Austin was holding all of us, proud that while carrying on our traditions, he is never forgotten.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

2 years gone but never forgotten


We miss you every moment, Austin.


graphics for moms

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving memories with Austin

When I sit back and remember past Thanksgivings with Austin the constant that comes to mind is his smiling face.  Whether he is a toddler sneaking treats from the table or a teen eager to see family, his smile was always present.

Austin was never happier when family was together and when you added food into the mix, it was the perfect day for him.  Thanksgiving held all of his favorites, from the dressing and desserts to getting to spend time with those he loved.  It was also the kickoff to the holiday season for us and he would begin anxiously counting down the days until Christmas.

I'm ever grateful that our last Thanksgiving with him is filled with amazing and wonderful memories.  It was absolutely the most perfect holiday weekend.  We will forever cherish that weekend and those precious moments with him.  What I remember most from that weekend is his sincere love of family and how happy his heart was to be around everyone.  Thanksgiving night at my Mom's he held Raven's babies and took dozens of pictures with his phone of them.  This was one of our last photos of him.

Below are some other photo memories of Thanksgivings past with Austin.....

Enjoying his Mamaw June's great cooking

I can still remember how proud he was to be in his first school play and how excited he was that I came to see him.  I think he may have had only one line but it was special to him and he loved dressing up as a pilgrim. 
And this was our last visit to the Shriner's Circus. 
Austin's first few visits to the circus was with us and his Mamaw & Papaw Evans. 
He looked forward to the show, the cotton candy and most of all the elephant rides!

  He is always in our minds, forever in our hearts. 
We'll miss him this Thanksgiving, our second without him.
Yet, anytime we're gathered as family I can just imagine him smiling down with
that beautiful face at us all.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Not just a T-shirt

From my blog "Finding Joy in Every Day"......

Our t-shirts arrived this week for the next fundraiser to support the Austin's Legacy Scholarship Fund. I had mixed emotions when they arrived. Working on this fund is a reminder of what we've lost but also a way for us to keep Austin's memory alive.


As I opened the cardboard boxes and pulled out the bright green shirts, it was a bit of a goose bump moment. To see his logo, which I created to honor him, in print and tangible was a little surreal. When we formed this scholarship fund, I knew I needed and wanted a logo but I struggled with how to capture the essence of Austin in a small frame. The idea just came to me one day and within moments I drew it out. To see it in physical form on these shirts was just a special moment because I could just feel the presence of Austin and knew he was proud of what we had accomplished.


Our pre-sales were a blessing and the amount collected was a strong indication of not only the success of this fundraiser but also the impact Austin made on so many lives. Being a cautious fundraiser, I even took a calculated risk and used part of the profits to buy stock. I'm happy to report that three days in, we've already sold a large portion.

In thanking my family for their help with the sales, I mentioned that with every shirt someone buys, it feels like a hug for my heart. For someone to take the time and effort to make the purchase, bring the money, and arrange for delivery, tells me they care...and that Austin meant something to them as well. The reaction when they receive it, surprises me at times. People are so excited and proud to get to wear it, eager to share the story of our son with others.

In addition, I've been touched by the stories from some friends, and even strangers, who have wanted a shirt. They'll fill my heart with joy by telling me of how they knew Austin, how he impacted their life and made a difference, or how the shirt blessed them in some way. I heard from a sweet friend today, who shared not just her memories of Austin but how the shirt really ministered to her in a time of need. As she let the worries of the world fill her mind, picking up the shirt and thinking about our son, reminded her of how short life is and what is really important the brief time we're here. She commented on how Austin lived his life for Jesus and served others and how much that touched her.

It reminded me to realize and remember how special these shirts really are. They are not just a t-shirt...they are a way to raise funds to help others who give....they are a way to honor an amazing young man who was an example of service and love...and they are a way to share not only his story but the message of God's love and what wonderful things can happen when you selflessly give.
 
If you would like to purchase a shirt, you can make a $15 donation on the PayPal link on this home page.  Send me a message with your address and requested size and I'll mail it to you. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

"I'm Here"

I am still so awestruck at what happened that I don't know if I can put my feelings into words! Anyone who knows me well at all, knows how special butterflies have become to me this past year, especially yellow ones.

A little over a year ago, I noticed how yellow butterflies seemed to follow me around. One day, on the way home from work, I was talking to Austin as I always do, and my truck was surrounded by them. They literally followed me home. Afterwards, I'd notice them in the most unexpected places and just somehow knew that it was Austin, telling me he loved me - telling me it would be ok, that he was happy- whatever the answer was I looked for that day.

This afternoon was absolutely beautiful and I decided to stop by Austin's grave. For whatever reason, I hadn't been there in several days. Lately, going there has just brought me more pain than comfort so I think subconsciously I had avoided visiting him. As I entered the cemetery, it was like a parade of butterflies led me to Austin. They danced and fluttered, by the dozens, guiding me to his stone. Once there, hundreds of butterflies bursted from the grass, swirled around me, and flew off into the field.

I've never been so overcome with a mixture of emotions. I felt Austin completely around me! It was amazing and though it lasted only a few moments, that will forever remain a treasured memory.

Shortly after, a vehicle pulled up near mine and so I made my way back to the truck. I don't like to stand and talk to him when there are strangers present - and I want to give whoever has arrived their own privacy to grieve. Surprisingly though, this woman spoke to me. I didn't know her but she knew of us and our family and she had just left visiting June's grave, which is next to Austin.

For the next thirty minutes we stood there crying, sharing stories of our children. She too, had lost a child, though she was grown when she passed. I found myself comforting her, although her loss had been longer ago than mine. As I left, I knew without a doubt those butterflies were Austin, giving me the boost he knew I'd need just moments later. God brought us together and allowed my spirits to be lifted so that I could help another mother who lost her child.

When I got home, I just had to read the post about "little yellow butterflies" again. As I searched his site and the title showed, I sat speechless, tears streaming down my face at the date. 8/27 - exactly one year ago is when I wrote it. I had no knowledge of that this morning or even when I thought of reading it again. That little "coincidence" just confirms all my thoughts and makes this goose bump moment all that more special and amazing.

Thank you, God, for letting me see, feel, and hear Austin today!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Mom Rocks!

I was cleaning out old emails the other day and found one from Austin when he was around 10, the same age as Noah now. Those little surprise finds, like notes from Heaven, are so comforting to the soul. They lift you up when you least expect it and sometimes when you need it most.

His email was short but sweet and I'll treasure it always:

"hay mom i love you and hope we can do something togather after work and i think your the best."

Reading that one line can bring back so many memories for me. For one, it makes me know how much loved me. Austin didn't just say it in an email, he told me daily. I can picture his sweet face, hugging me first thing in the morning, in the car, or greeting me when I arrived home. It was always followed with an "I love you, Mom".

When I read the line about doing something together I can recall so many happy moments of just Austin and me. We frequently had "Mom & Austin" days to do whatever - go to a movie, out to eat, or just for a drive. It didn't matter what we were doing, it was just fun to be together. That he thought so too and looked forward to it fills my soul with warmth and love.

And the last five words - "I think your the best"...what Mom doesn't want to hear that? What will always stick with me, even on days when he feels so far away, is that he didn't just love me, he liked me. He enjoyed hanging out with me. Heck, at times he even thought I was pretty cool!

It makes me think back to one of our favorite "Mom & Me" activities - Guitar Hero. Now, when I first bought the game for him, it wasn't meant to be for us to play together. When the game came out, like all kids his age, he had to have it. Austin had played it at friends houses and loving music anyway, it was a natural fit. I don't remember what holiday we bought it but it was hands down his favorite gift.

I was walking past his room one day while he was playing and began singing whatever song was on. He was surprised I knew the song, not realizing it was classic rock, one of my favorite genres. After awhile he jokingly said, "You should try this." I'm sure he thought it would be a good laugh at least. However, I surprised him (and myself) by doing pretty good, especially for a first attempt. And that is all it took to get me hooked.

It didn't take me long to get the hang of it and after awhile, I could easily beat his scores. I don't know if he liked that at first but he did say it was pretty cool his Mom could finally beat him in a video game. What he loved most though was using me as a secret weapon when friends or family came over.

Like him, nobody guessed a "Mom" would be good at Guitar Hero. He would play for awhile with friends and when I'd walk by, he'd say to them, "I bet you can't beat my Mom"...or do it as a full on joke, "Let's see if we can talk my Mom into trying it." Then, he'd set back and watch the expressions of his friends when I rocked it! I can still hear him laughing and see that full beautiful smile.

So many wonderful memories...all from a single line in an email. What touches me most is how he knows just when to nudge me or send me some small message from above, letting me know he still loves and thinks about his Mom.

Monday, July 19, 2010

1…2…

 

With both our children, Tim and I have used the “1…2…3” rule.  This means that if we reach 3, because the boys were doing something they shouldn’t, they would be disciplined.  Through the years, we rarely got to 3.

As I’ve written before, Austin was an exceptionally good child.  He was always mature for his age and never really got in trouble.  As a baby, his nickname was Smiley.  I don’t remember ever dealing with temper tantrums or the common misbehaviors of a toddler.

Once, Tim and I were on vacation and we stopped with Austin to grab a bite to eat.  He was small, maybe two or three, and we chose a relatively nice sit down restaurant.  As a mom, you tend to notice and be on alert for glances or whispers when you’re out with your children.  Upon walking in, I saw some common expressions parents get when bringing a young child to any place considered “adult only”.

We ordered and Austin colored or played quietly in his highchair, as he often did.  The food came and mid-meal an elderly couple came to our table.  She said, “I just have to comment about your son.”  I didn’t really know what to expect, as he’d been perfect the entire meal.  She continued, “I just wanted to commend you on how well-behaved he is.  We’ve watched him since you came in and he’s just been wonderful.  How old is he?”  Tim told her and the couple was shocked.  Austin always looked older than his age,because of his size,but her surprise was that he could sit so quietly and behave so well as young as he was.  It was a proud moment that stuck with me through the years but nothing uncommon for our little man.

As he grew, his good behavior continued.  I was never called to school to speak with his principal.  His report cards always showed high marks for conduct and many times his teachers would comment about how good he was.  I really could count on one hand the number of times we ever really had to discipline him and they were for common mistakes of a growing child, or a grade we weren’t quite pleased with.

However, Tim and I were remembering a story the other day of when Austin was little, probably around 5, and was acting up in church.  Of all places for a child to misbehave, for a parent, church is top of the list of where we don’t want that to happen.  Whatever it was Austin was doing, Tim had to begin counting in our pew.  Normally, it only took him saying, “1” and the behavior corrected.  That day though, he had to go all the way to 3. 

Austin hung his head and calmed down, knowing what he was to come.  The rest of the service he was good as usual.  As we walked to the truck, we began discussing where we would eat.  I had actually forgotten all about Tim going to 3 but Austin had not.  Holding Tim’s hand on the way, he stopped and looked up to him.  With a shaky voice and tears in his eyes, he said, “Dad, can I get my punishment now before we go to lunch so I won’t be sad when we eat?”

I can hardly think back on that moment and write this without tears in my own eyes.  I still see his sweet little face and remember how much that broke my heart that day.  How Tim did it, I don’t know, but he gave him a swat on the behind.  More than anything it was because we didn’t want Austin to think he could get out of punishments in his future.  I do recall Tim wiping away his own tears as he sat down at the wheel.  It was a tough love lesson for us all.  Thankfully it was the one and only time Austin had to ask for his own punishment

Not surprisingly, he was excellent the next Sunday at church!  And for that matter, the rest of his life.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Momma didn't raise no quitters...

Noah is away this week at 4H camp and I can't help but think back to Austin's first and only camp trip. He was the same age as Noah is now and had been fairly active in 4H all school year. When flyers came out for camp, Austin was excited and eager to go.

In those early years, Austin had been excited and eager about other adventures too, only to change his mind somewhere midstream. Like the Spanish after-school class he 'just had to be a part of' in grade school that he quit after a few sessions. "It's too many words, Mom!" he complained. (I was happy though he picked that back up as a class in High School, and he loved it!)

As he grew older, Tim and I tried to teach him how important it was to never quit. I wanted him to have the attitude that he could try anything but I wanted him to give 100% if he did.

I was hesitant to sign him up for camp, because he'd never been away from home that long, and it wasn't cheap for someone who liked to change their mind. We had many discussions about it and he understood that once we paid, we were all committed. As the paperwork and last minute reminders arrived, I tried to continually build him up and keep him interested about the trip.

Austin was excited about the classes he would get to take but nervous that he wouldn't know a lot of kids. I remember him scanning the crowd on camp day to see who he knew, much like Noah did on Tuesday. We were both relieved to see some familiar faces and he felt better as he loaded the bus. He was worried he would miss Mom & Dad and lingered a bit though before boarding, soaking up one last hug prior to heading out.

As I always have with both my boys, I tucked hidden notes for him to find during the week in each of his outfits. I also mailed letters ahead of time so he'd have a note on the first day of camp. But as a mom always does, I missed him greatly and worried about him all week. Austin was a lot like me, a little reserved until he got to know you. Once he did, you were welcomed with a big hug, laughter, and practical jokes. I hoped he would warm up to the other kids there and make new friends. Austin was never one to stay away from home for very long though, usually not more than one or two nights and that was with family. The difference at camp too meant he couldn't call and talk to us, something else he was used to doing daily.

Hours crept by awaiting the final camp day and I was among the first to arrive in the parking lot to meet the bus. How I hoped he'd come bouncing off the bus, excited, bursting with news about camp and ready to go again. It didn't quite happen that way. Austin was happy to see me but I could tell from his expression he did not have a great camp experience. He waited until we got to the truck but then proceeded to tell me about what he exactly he didn't like. And there was a lot!

Top of the list - the pool. Austin loved to swim but he said the pool had too much chlorine. Add to this he'd had some kind of allergic breakout to the grass or something and his legs were covered in tiny bumps. He said swimming each day was kind of like a hundred needles stabbing him in the legs. He could be dramatic when he needed to be...another skill he took after his mom..and he turned it on to retell his days at camp. Needless to say, next year when the 4H flyers came out, he did not bring one home!

I remember once Noah had wanted to sign up for something - fall ball or some kind of sport, but he was wavering on making up his mind. Austin told him something like, "Trust me, I remember camp, if you aren't sure, don't do it. Mom and Dad don't like quitters and if you sign up, you're stuck with it!" (Hopefully, Noah will have a better experience to share when I pick him up on Friday.)

While I'm sad that Austin didn't have great memories from camp I do know the lessons learned stayed with him through the years. It was a trait I admired about Austin as he grew older. He wasn't a quitter. He always gave 100%. And if he told you he would do something, you could count on it. ....And it only took a week at 4H camp to teach him!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

blue skies...smiling at me

Last night the family gathered for a backyard BBQ, just like we used to on Austin's birthday weekend. It would've been his 16th birthday and even though I worried it would be too hard; I knew it was something he would've wanted us to do.

I don't know if it was the many prayers said for us by family and friends, Austin looking down and blessing the night, or a mixture of both; but it was amazing. The entire day I was filled with his presence and a positive energy. I looked forward to family arriving and celebrating the life of such a special person.

The only thing that concerned me was the weather. I watched the forecast all week and Friday's forecast was full of rain - not just rain but thunderstorms. An 80% chance of heavy storms to be exact, right between 5-6 pm, which was when the party was scheduled to start.

The skies were gloomy most of the day and the deck got soaked a few times. I held off setting out any of the chairs or yard games, unsure of what the weather would do. And then, out of nowhere, the sky cleared and the sun came out shining right on time. It was as if Austin was smiling down on me - and the celebration. The entire night was beautiful and couldn't have been more perfect, as far as the weather was concerned.

Right as the family gathered on the deck, a tiny sprinkling of rain misted us from a clear sky above, just for a moment. Mom said it must've been tears of joy from Austin, seeing us all together to remember him. I could certainly feel him hugging us all, see his big bright smile, hear him laughing at the bad throws in cornhole or his uncle's bad jokes. He was all around us and it was wonderful.

It wasn't the Sweet 16 I dreamed for him. How I wish he had been there in person, so we could wish him Happy Birthday and shower him with presents and love. But, he made sure, as he always did, that we had a fantastic family time. And I know, without a doubt, he could feel the love we had for him, and always will have.

We'll never forget you, Austin. Keep smiling down on us, sweetie.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

BitterSweet 16

There used to be a television show that followed the planning for amazing and outrageous Sweet 16 parties. Tim and I certainly had many ideas to make Austin's 16th one that he'd never forget. It would've been filled with food, family, friends and fun. While this isn't the way I'd dreamed of celebrating this milestone, there isn't anything we could've planned that would top Heaven.

It hurts not having Austin here. It's a pain that is raw, constant. My heart wavers from breaking to being filled with pride in the memory of who he was. Selfishly, I wish to have him with me, to hug him and wish him Happy Birthday. And then my head reminds me that Austin could be in no better place on this special day - and every day.

So, now we're left with memories. We can remember Austin's birthdays from years past and know he was happy and loved. As easy as closing my eyes, I can go back through the years and see his face, smiling and excited, sweet and surprised. I can remember cooking his favorite meals and the simple private celebrations we would have on his birthday to the huge family parties the weekend that followed.

While we can't plan the 16th birthday party we'd always dreamed of for Austin, we can continue the tradition he gave us. Each year, his birthday request was to have a big family party in the backyard. He was never happier than when all the family was gathered. His birthday was an annual tradition and sometimes the only chance that year we were all together at once.

Hard as it will be to not have him here, we're keeping his memory alive by doing just that this weekend. There will be lots of family, hot potato salad, and cornhole games. It won't be the same but we'll carry on for him because that is exactly what he would have wanted us to do.

We may not see him in person but I know he'll be there. I can already picture his smile and hear that big laugh in the distance...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sometimes I Wonder...

Time doesn't heal the wounds of losing a child. The pain never goes away; you just learn to function and hide it better as the days go on.

As Austin's 16th birthday approaches, I'm flooded with memories of him and of dreams that will never be. So many milestones and moments we'll never get to share with him, now that he's gone.

The song, "Who you'd be today" seems to be running through my head both day and night. I've had so many dreams this week of Austin driving, of him having a baby of his own, of all the wishes I had for him. So sad that the only way I get to experience those special moments now are when I sleep.


The song really captures how it feels to lose someone so young,
so full of a future that ended too soon......

"Sunny days seem to hurt the most
Wear the pain like a heavy coat
I feel you everywhere I go
I see your smile, I see your face
I hear you laughing in the rain
Still can't believe you're gone

It ain't fair you died too young
Like a story that had just begun
The death tore the pages all away
God knows how I miss you
All the hell that I've been through
Just knowing no one could take your place

Sometimes I wonder who you'd be today

Would you see the world?
Would you chase your dreams?
Settle down with a family?
I wonder, what would you name your babies?
Some days the sky's so blue
I feel like I can talk to you
And I know it might sound crazy

Sunny days seem to hurt the most
I wear the pain like a heavy coat
The only thing that gives me hope
Is I know I'll see you again someday"

I miss my boy and I miss what could've been. Austin's future was so bright - so many endless possibilities - and I long for knowing who he would be as a young man and adult. While it hurts to wonder "Who he'd be today,"my heart is comforted in knowing who & how great he was.

We love and miss you, Austin.
Happy 16th Birthday in Heaven.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mamaw June's with Austin

One of the comforts in June passing was knowing who was meeting her at Heaven's gates. I know Austin was among the first to welcome her in. In fact, there were several moments in the past weeks at the hospital that I would feel his spirit, or smell his cologne, and know he was with her.

Her funeral today solidified my feelings...

June's funeral service was read from 2 Timothy, Chapter 4, on her pastor's own doing. When 2 Tim 4:7 was read, I knew it Austin letting us know his Mamaw is safe and well and with him. Tim, my mom, and I all shared a glance, followed by goosebumps and tears.

That was the same scripture used at Austin's funeral service 18 months ago. What a blessing it brought Tim & me to hear it again today.

"I have fought the good fight, I have completed the race, I have kept the faith."

The scripture meant so much to us that we had bookmarks made to give out to friends and family after his funeral. However, until this weekend we had no contact with Brother Calvert, the preacher June chose for her service. He actually wasn't her pastor, he was her sister's, and came to know June during her battle this past month.

I asked him, with a shaky voice, after the service if someone had requested that verse for him to share today. He said no and asked why and I was honored to share. Tim and I have no doubt it was Austin and God's doing. Austin knew that scripture would speak to us...of the thousands of scriptures that preacher could've chose, those words came upon his heart. And we know it was to tell us she was happy, healthy, and with her sweet grand baby.

Noah told me the night she passed that he bet Austin was already having her cook him some fried chicken, dumplins and mashed potatoes. He said, "I'm gonna miss her cookin but I'm glad Bubba has her there."

And I know he'll have a huge celebration next Thursday for his Sweet 16, with his Mamaw June right there by his side, as drives her on streets on gold!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Driving in Heaven

One of the biggest milestones I looked forward to with Austin was seeing him get his license. As his 16th birthday approaches, my heart can't help but be heavy with the sadness of knowing this can't be.

Austin was all boy from the very beginning and loved anything with wheels. As a toddler, I listened to him drive his little trucks around, all through the house, inside and out. He even had a rug in his bedroom that was a city scene full of roadways that twisted and turned. Hours would pass as he entertained himself in those tiny worlds, pretending he was in the driver's seat of various vehicles.

One of my favorite birthday memories for him was the year we bought him a mini Jeep. He was so excited, jumping up and down and then quickly grabbing his little girlfriend to go for a ride. That little jeep went many miles across our backyard and contained both real and imaginary friends in the passenger seat, depending on the day.

I'm sure Tim has more memories than me, of having Austin on his lap, as he let him "drive" on dirt roads in the strip pits. I have the memories of a happy little boy who would come bouncing in the house to tell me about it afterwards. As time went on, Tim let Austin sit solo in the driver's seat on those country dirt paths. Austin would come home bragging about how well he had done and Tim was always beaming in the background, nodding his head in agreement.

The past couple of years, we would let Austin move vehicles from our driveway to the yard. He would help his Mamaw's by backing their cars out of the driveway, if the space was too tight and made them uncomfortable. In the winter months, it was nothing to find him starting my truck in the morning to let it heat up and scraping my windows to clear them before I left.

I'm so grateful for the afternoon we spent, just he and I, driving in a parking lot not many weeks before he passed. He asked (and begged) me to let him drive every time we went anywhere. I tried to explain to him that a dirt road in the strip pits wasn't the same as a highway. It wasn't safe, yet alone legal. The pits weren't all that close either so it wasn't as easy as just driving him down there "on the way" to somewhere else.

However, one day, I broke and took him to the fire training center. There is a large gravel parking lot that is fenced in and only two giant buildings to avoid. I felt we were as safe as we could be so that I didn't have a stroke in the process! I remember his excitement and confidence when he realized what I was going to let him to do. I hadn't said anything prior to driving there and when we stopped, I parked and walked around to his side, waiting. His face lit up when he discovered I was letting him drive. You would've thought I just handed him a stack of money!

Austin impressed me from the start, seeming so grown-up in that moment. He knew exactly what to do and drove like a pro the entire time. I even had him drive in reverse and anything I threw his way, he was ready for. I was worried I'd be screaming the whole time but it was just the opposite. We both laughed that day about all the fun he would have when he turned 16 and could drive on a real road. Such a sweet memory for me now.

At only 14, Austin was already on the countdown to getting his license. He had his eye on his Dad's truck and hoped we'd pass it down to him. He would talk about how having his license would let him help us even more - he could go to the store, run errands, get a job. Just like him to think about how it would help others, never thinking about himself. ......So many dreams and plans.

But we'll never get to see those dreams become a reality now. And it hurts. It hurts every time I see one of his friends post on Facebook they got their permit. Every "sweet 16" celebration is a sad reminder of what didn't get to be.

My only happiness comes from the hope that he is celebrating this milestone in Heaven. My wish for him is that Austin is driving the golden highway with his Papaw and great-grandpas by his side. I can only imagine the fun he is having.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Prayers

Holidays are not the same when you've lost a child. There is an absence, an emptiness in your heart. There are certain days which are harder, obvious is your child's birthday and their angel date. However, the two holidays which celebrate being a parent, open the floodgates of memories too. So, on this Father's Day, I hold Tim extra close in my prayers.

There are certain men who I think are just born to be a Dad. I was blessed to find Tim, and I know my children were and are lucky to have him for their Dad. Him being a Dad, and the way he has cared for our boys, makes me love him even more.

Tim was so excited when I told him we were having a baby. I still remember like it was yesterday...although it was nearly 17 years ago.

I was watching my little sister, Raven, and for whatever reason decided to take the test with her there. A curious five year old and the science of a pregnancy test are not the best mixture though! She wanted to know why, and how, and what I was doing every step of the way.

I told her I was testing the toilet water. Moments later a big smile appeared on my face and tears filled my eyes. "What is it, Sissy?" she said, looking up to me. I told her it was good news and sent her to get her Uncle Timmy.

Tim says that she came running, blond ponytail flapping behind her, shouting excitedly, "Uncle Timmy, Uncle Timmy, your toilet water is clean!" And from that moment, our lives changed forever.

Tim was with me every step through the pregnancy. He talked to the baby several times a day, his head gently resting on my belly. And when they placed that new baby, our little boy, in his arms, Tim's heart was forever connected to Austin. True to life, Austin grabbed Tim's little finger. I knew in that snapshot of time that Austin would never want or need for anything, that his Dad would go above and beyond for him every day of his life.

And he did. Tim was there for Austin on every occasion, every ballgame, big days and everyday. They were best friends and both taught each other how to live and love a little better.

Tim was there for Austin's first breath, never leaving his side, as he welcomed him into this world. And Tim was again by Austin's side, with his last breath, as Austin's Heavenly father welcomed him into his.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Peace from Above

The night before Austin's visitation, I prayed for peace. Our emotions were so raw prior to that and I didn't know if or how we would get through the services.

A simple phone call would set off a roller coaster of emotions, so much so that we gave our phones to family members to just take messages. We didn't want to seem rude but it was just too hard to relive it over and over again with each new voice on the line.

We managed, for the most part, to do fairly well when visitors came to the house. I think it was a mixture of shock and the comforting distraction of being at home. I was worried though how we would handle the hours and overwhelming emotions that lay before us that week. So I prayed for peace.

At that point, we had no answers. When you lose a child, even with answers, it never seems right - or fair - or something you feel can completely wrap your mind around. It just doesn't make sense, life happens in a sequence and this type of loss is unexpected, unnatural. I didn't understand, certainly didn't agree, but I knew we needed God's help to get through.

Without realizing it, I began to pray from a scripture. Prior to that point, I don't know if I really even knew the true meaning of it. It wasn't until later, when I saw the scripture again in print, that I remembered it being my prayer.

It always amazes me when the scriptures you've read over time come out in true form. That you not only understand them - but you live them.

People commented on how calm I was during visitation and at the funeral. I'm sure some thought I was medicated to get through it. I didn't take so much as a Tylenol through that time though. Me "getting through" that time was all God. He gave me peace.

And it was a complete peace. I felt it wash over me as we entered the funeral home. I didn't understand. I still hurt and grieved for my child but I had peace. I knew where Austin was, I knew he was safe and happy and healthy and watching over us. It was a peace that passed all understanding. It was amazing and God is the only explanation.

That peace helped me get through the most difficult journey of burying my child. It is a journey no parent should ever have to make. The peace helped my family as well. They all looked to me and my emotions; I set the mood. My peace carried over to them.

It didn't stay forever. There were deep, dark days of painful grieving. There still is. But that peace was there when I needed it most. For two days I had a glimpse of what Heaven must be like. That peace was amazing - there really are no words. That peace still helps me because I know someday we'll all have that,,,forever.

"Then God will give you peace, a peace which is too wonderful to understand. That peace will keep your hearts and minds safe as you trust in Christ Jesus."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First Scholarship - FUNDED!

One of the fears you have after losing a child is that they will be forgotten. You think of them daily; sometimes it feels like every minute, but you worry that over time others will not remember them. Having them remembered keeps their spirit alive and lets you know your child made a difference in the lives of others and is missed.

When we made plans for our first fundraiser, I did worry for a moment about how we would feel if it wasn't a success. I prayed for a good turnout, both for the future of the scholarship, but also to honor Austin.

My goal was 16 teams, though I'm not sure why. I knew, for one, that it would mean we would be halfway to our first scholarship goal with that number of teams. For another, I knew it would show strong support for Austin and this project.

We've been in constant prayer in the forming of this scholarship fund. I have felt God's strength throughout and know that Austin has been smiling down on us to be successful.

The week of the event, I began praying for good weather, as the forecast seemed to change daily. I woke at 5 a.m. and immediately checked the radar. The weather was scheduled to be wonderful - full sunshine! I remember shortly after the tournament began I looked up to the sky, to say a special thank you and share the moment with Austin. ...Above me was a beautiful blue sky, wispy white clouds, and a shining sun. Perfect!

Teams started arriving as early at 10 a.m. and trickled in all the way to the last moment. Amazingly, we were at exactly 16 teams. It seemed everything was falling into place. The teams had a great time and the tournament ran smoothly.

I was touched by some specific teams and donors who made it out. Every team, every donation, was like a hug for my heart. The day was long and I was physically exhausted when arriving home that night but my heart was full and I was filled with excitement.

By the time all deposits are made, we'll be over $1200 in Austin's Fund. My goal was to award at least a $1000 scholarship each year. I am thrilled to have our first scholarship funded, almost a year in advance from our award date!

I know Austin is proud of the work we're doing. I can feel his love flowing down to us and imagine him smiling even brighter than usual in Heaven. Every dollar, every step, is all for him!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

To remember him...May 29th

In the first days, weeks, and months after Austin passed TIME was such an enemy. With every tick of the clock, it seemed he was slipping further and further away from us. Every night, around 10 pm, we would relive the events of his death. When the clock showed 11:13, it was as if he had just died, all over again. I wanted to stop time, to push pause and make the pain cease - or better yet, rewind to our last day with him and somehow change the outcome.

As time went on, the date of his passing became the reminder. On the 29th of each month, I was then brought back down into the deep abyss of painful flashbacks. And my heart, which I thought was already shattered, would break again into a million more pieces. Each month was a reminder of not only his death, but how long it had been since we'd seen our precious boy.

I don't dwell on a linger on the date of the 29th, as I did in the beginning. Now, on most months, it is just another day. Missing him never goes away, each day begins and ends with the painful awareness that Austin is not with us.

When we planned our first fundraiser for the scholarship fund, it was an obvious choice to pick the Saturday of the Strawberry Festival. It is normally the busiest day and the best time to set a tournament. From the beginning, I knew it was the 29th, but the significance of that date didn't hit me until later. May 29th also marked that Austin had been gone a year and a half.

I could have let that drag me down. It is so easy to give in to the depression that comes with losing a child. Time doesn't fix that pain, you just learn how to cope. You don't move on, you learn to move forward.

Instead, I chose to honor that time by using that date to remember him. We marked the first fundraiser for his scholarship fund on this date by playing his favorite game.

So many moments, I could imagine Austin smiling down on us. From the beautiful blue skies we were blessed with, to the record number of teams, I know he was both helping us and proud of what we accomplished. I'm sure he was out there rooting for certain teams, laughing at the bad shots, and soaking in the love that was shown for him.

And I know he was touched that we set aside this special day to remember and honor him. It was a day filled with joy as we shared Austin with so many. I hope his life was an inspiration to all of them, as much as it was and still is for us.

The donations raised yesterday allows us to fund a project that will not only remember Austin but impact the life of another deserving child. And that is everything Austin was about - helping others and lifting them up. I'm so glad he helped us yesterday - and I'm so proud to be his Mom!

Monday, May 24, 2010

family game day


When I look back on pictures of Austin from 2008, many things go through my mind. Immediately I'm taken back to that moment in time and I wish I could enter the photo just to see him again. I browse the snapshots and think of how it was our "last ___" with him. ....the last birthday Noah will have his big brother there, our last Easter with him, last family vacation...

In the beginning of 2008, I think I was subconciously gathering our family together more often. We were having more Sunday dinners and family breakfasts with the grandparents. More weekend road trips and mini vacations. I declined a lot of "extras" that year too, anything I thought took my time away from the boys. I felt the need to widdle life down and just enjoy schedule-free nights.

That year, I created the first "Family Game Day" from a copy of Noah's birthday theme that January. His friends, and the family there, had such fun having a variety of games to play. I thought it would be a great way for extended family to get together, a reunion of sorts. Instead of planning just a potluck meal, we made an entire day of it.

We rented out a local banquet room and designated each table with a different game. Whether you enjoyed Rook, Twister, Scrabble, or just being an observer, there was a table for everybody. It was held in March and the weather was still cool so it sort of forced everyone to commit to the day. Each family brought food - too much of course - and we snuggled in for a long day of family fun.

I remember Austin being so excited about the day, as he loved any chance to play games and be with family. He was a Rook playing fanatic and looked forward to a family tournament. Anytime I looked at him that day, he was smiling or laughing, so happy in the moment.

We all were. And he helped capture many of those moments. Several of the photos from that day were taken by him. I look at our family's smiles now and can imagine them looking at Austin. The light in their eyes shows the love they all had for him. How could we have ever imagined it would be our "last family day" like that with him?

We intended to get together over the summer but schedules get busy to match with vacation plans. Sadly, we wouldn't all be together as a group that big again until Austin's funeral.

I'm just so grateful that we did have that family game day. And that, on whatever level, my nesting instinct kicked in that year, and allowed us to have even more precious memories of time with Austin.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Dance

When you lose a child, you open yourself up to signs from them. As much as you know they are in a better place, you miss them with every breath - and you wish for just one more moment with them. Since Austin died, he has sent us many messages, always seeming to be at just the right moment.

I ran out to vote earlier and needed to stop by the store quickly on the way home. A few minutes later, I realized that I was on my way to his grave. I guess subconsciously I needed to visit him. Typically, I don't get a lot of comfort from being there. A mother never imagines she'll be visiting the grave of her child. It is surreal, foreign, wrong. I go through the motions. I clean his stone, straighten his flowers, fix the things I have control of. Today was different. Today I felt him there.

As I stepped out of my truck, I looked towards the golden field beside his stone. It bowed and whispered in the gentle Spring wind, almost dancing. It reminded me of a poem Austin had written several years ago, titled "The Field," and I wondered if it was a fraction of the beauty Austin sees daily now.

My stay was brief, as even though I felt the connection with him today, the reality of visiting his stone is still too much to bear for long. The cemetery was unusually busy as well and I prefer to be there alone. As I pulled out, I turned the volume up on the radio and was welcomed by another goose bump moment. One of my favorite songs began to play.

I was moved by the words of "The Dance" by Garth Brooks from the first time I heard it. When it released, I was just a kid, but the words were still powerful to me.

From the beginning, the song spoke to me in how I wanted to live my life. I even told my husband, then boyfriend, that if I should go before him, I wanted it played at my funeral.

To me, the song meant living your life to the fullest, with no regrets, and most of all, living in the moment. No looking back, no worrying about the future. Just to be.

Today, the words had such a new meaning. I could hear them being sung by my sweet little boy, telling me to listen....

Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared 'neath the stars alone
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you'd ever say goodbye


....and I could picture holding him as a baby, dancing under the stars and watching his amazement at the first time he noticed them. Thinking about how lucky we were to have him in our lives, how much of a treasure he was to us. And how we'd never imagined he'd be gone in an instant.

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance

Holding you I held everything
For a moment wasn't I a king
But if I'd only known how the king would fall
Hey who's to say you know I might have chanced it all

I wish things were different, wish he was still here, but it could have been so much worse. His death could have been painful, with a lengthy illness. And the pain from his loss is more than I have ever experienced. I've cried more tears in the past year and a half than in my entire life combined. The pain is tangible, all encompassing. I now know a heart literally can break from sadness. But I would NEVER trade this pain because it would mean never having Austin in my life. He is worth a lifetime of sadness from his loss for the fourteen years of happiness he gave us.


And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance

Yes my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain but I'd of had to miss the dance

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mother's Day Memories

As much as I'd like to fast forward through this weekend, there is no avoiding Mother's Day. It will always be a holiday that is especially hard for me, as I waver between remembering Austin and allowing Noah to celebrate the day.

You can't hear the word "mother" and not think of your kids. Now my happy memories and moments are flooded with the sadness of losing Austin. I guess it will always be that way, any memory bittersweet.

1998


Mother's Day memories with Austin include seeing him all dressed up for church, something he only did about three times a year - Easter, Christmas, and for me on Mother's Day. They include hand print keepsakes and sticky kisses as a toddler. And the hand-made cardboard cutouts from school, he'd proudly present, as if they were the most expensive piece of jewelry from a store. To me, they were priceless.
For obvious reasons, my last Mother's Day gift will always be special, but it was special then because it was truly from him. Austin knew what he wanted to buy before he went and used his own money to purchase it.
Austin was a great listener - something I miss so much. I mentioned in passing one day that I would like a tea kettle that whistled and that is what he bought me. It wasn't fancy or expensive...just perfect. That tea kettle remains on my stove and each time I see it, I am reminded of him.

2007

Mother's Day will never be the same be for me. There will always be an empty spot where a day of joy should be. You expect your children to outlive you. There is no greater loss for a mother than losing a child.

I miss my firstborn. My son. My friend.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Home sweet Home

Austin was always a good child. As a baby, he would stay so happy that we sometimes didn't know he was sick. As a toddler, I don't remember ever struggling with him to listen to me. As a young child, it was rare for Tim or me to have discipline him. He carried on the same character traits as a teenager. Austin was just a good kid - and he listened to his mom and dad.

His last day with us was no exception. As I've written before, it was a picture perfect day. He helped us beyond belief in decorating the house for the holidays, doing things before I even thought to ask him. He was wonderful to Noah that day, not even picking on him as they usually did. Austin was full of love that day and expressed it in every action.

I've struggled since his passing with my last words to him. A mother always wants her last words to be "I love you" but you never imagine they will be your last. I know I had told Austin "I love you" several times that day, it was nothing for us to hug and say those words frequently on a normal day. Tim and I were extra proud of him though that day for all his help and had both commented on his actions and how much we loved him.

My last words to him though were, "Be home before midnight."

The night he passed, it hit me that those were the last words I said to him. And it is something I think about every day. I replay those last moments with him over and over in my head.

Tim and I were in our room, resting from the busy day and watching the 10 o'clock news. Austin had already come in to tell us good-night awhile earlier. I expected he'd go to bed soon, as he had to be tired from our activities too.

Instead, he came to our door a little while later, jacket in hand, asking to ride his bike. I guessed he must have been on the phone with the neighbor and they wanted to go out for their nightly bike ride. Tim had already given him permission, meeting him the hallway but I overheard him say, "Ask Mom."

Austin didn't even have to ask; I had no problem with him going, especially considering all he had done that day. He lingered at the doorway and I said, "Yes." He answered with a big smile, a jump in his step, and a sweet "thank you." As was usual on the weekend, I said, "Be home before midnight," completely expecting him to obey.

Less than fifteen minutes later, we would be startled with a knock at the door and upon leaving our home, would find our world as we knew it upside down. What seemed to stretch on for hours, looking back, was not. At 11:15, sitting in the midst of chaos in the ER, my heart broke. The words a parent never wants to hear filled our ears and shattered us both.

In this past year and a half, anytime I think of that night, my last words to him come back to me. So many things I wish I could have said, had I known it would be our last conversation.

I've never doubted where Austin is. Knowing he is in Heaven has sometimes been the only thing that comforts me. As selfishly as I want him here, I know he is safe, I know he is happy and healthy, and in the most beautiful place I could ever imagine.

It hit me though this week, what a different meaning my last words to him could have. As a wife and mother, "Home" evokes feelings of comfort, safety, love and family. As a Christian, "Home" means so much more - it is where we are all meant to be in the end. "Home" is still comfort, safety, love and family but on an entirely different level and for eternity. Home is Heaven, hopefully for all of us.

In the end, just as he always did, Austin listened to his mom. He made it "home" before midnight...and I know he'll be the first to greet me when I make it there someday.

Monday, April 12, 2010

blessings from above

I don't even know how the idea of starting a scholarship foundation first entered my head but I like to think it was prompted with a little help from above.

When I designed our family's shirt for Relay last year, I specifically kept it "generic". My thinking was that I would like to use and wear these shirts whenever our family did something for the community so that Austin could be a part of any good we helped provide. After all, it is his spirit and kindness that inspires us each day to keep pushing forward.

The name "Austin's Legacy" just fell on me soon after he passed and instantly and it fit - it was everything I wanted to achieve in remembering him. At only 14, he truly did leave a legacy. He will forever be remembered for his heart and helping hand. It seems only natural that his foundation meant to help others and recognize those who volunteer would share that legacy.

The past few months I've really prayed about what direction to take, asking God to put people in my path to help. (And for Austin to help guide me in choosing the right things to honor him.) I've been amazed at how quickly things are falling together.

I received two phone calls in the same week, with ideas for fundraisers. The first being the Strawberry Festival, wanting to know if the firefighters were planning anything. After our meeting this month, it was decided that we would hold several activities Memorial Day weekend and all the proceeds would go to Austin's Legacy to help start our scholarship foundation. The next was from a friend, who was reading a magazine and said, "Hey, what do we need to raise money for in this county?...." I just sat there speechless for a few minutes. It was like it was just meant to be!

We're at work on both projects now, along with a possibility of a third sometime this summer. Austin would be so proud, especially because the firefighters and others he truly admired are stepping up to help.

I'm working now to form the board who will help lead and direct us, especially in choosing a scholarship winner each year. I'm hoping that those meant to be a part of this will fall into my path with blessings from above.

I'm excited to get this project off the ground and to have a wonderful way to remember my smiling, sweet boy. I hope his legacy continues to inspire and help other youth achieve their dreams.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Springtime brings so many memories of Austin, from our last year with him to the very beginning.

I think of baseball and the array of equipment that would meet me at the front door, in the back of my truck and across his bed. Looking back, I'm not quite sure how I fit his schedule into mine but we did it. It seemed I was always hauling a baseball bag, or RCs for a fundraiser, or making a second trip to Owensboro for new cleats and another glove.

I miss watching him practice and play and how he improved each season. I miss rooting for my sweet boy as he caught a fielder or hit a home run. I even miss fussing at him for the tenth time to pick up his bat, or ball, or glove that I stepped over coming into the house each afternoon.

As the vibrant grass peeks out of the ground with every sunbeam, I am reminded of Austin and his side job of mowing. I don't know that I'll ever hear the hum of a lawnmower again or smell the scent of freshly cut grass without thinking of him. He was so proud to have his regular customers and steady source of spending money.

When I think back to the early years and Springtime, I am reminded of my cute little man all dressed up for Easter. His dark eyes and satin black hair always looked so good next to the pastel colors of the holiday. I would often dress him in soft baby blue and yellow suits or short outfits, which would all end up with candy or dirt on them by the end of the weekend.

I can still picture him as a baby, sitting waist high in the tall stalks of bright green grass, finding a hidden egg and attempting to put it in his mouth. It was a real egg, hard boiled, but he didn't understand at that early age why there was a shell still attached!

Austin was never a fan of the majority of Easter candy so the bunny always brought him a movie. Toward the teenage years, he began to prefer white chocolate or regular, just like I did at his age.

Even up to his last Easter with us, he enjoyed coloring eggs. I would normally take the Friday before Easter off from work and by the time the boys got home, eggs would be cool and ready for decorating. We had some good times around the butcher block in the kitchen, dipping and dunking to create different designs.

What reminds me most of Austin this time of year though are the sunny faces of daffodils. Austin loved picking those flowers for me every year and I can't see them popping up in the fields without thinking about him. My mom has been a sweetheart, making sure I have had fresh ones for the house the past two weekends. Each time I pass by them, I smile, remembering his sweet face bringing them to me. From tiny hands, holding mostly the bud because he didn't quite know how to pick - to beautiful bouqets, at an age when I was sure he'd grown out wanting to.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

mirror image

Sometimes I catch myself staring at Noah because I see so much of Austin in him. It seems like every day he grows and his looks change more and more into his big brother's. Not only is his face and build changing to resemble Austin but his mannerisms too.

I'll see Noah from behind and his broadening shoulders will remind me of him. Or he'll walk down the deck and way he swings his arms or turns his head will make me think of Austin. Sometimes Noah's laugh will take me back to a moment with Austin. And of all the things he matches in his big brother, Noah's heart is certainly a mirror image.

Noah will say things way beyond his years, much like Austin did. He has such compassion for others and a sweetness that makes me proud to be his Mom. Just as his big brother did, Noah teaches me more most days that I do him.

I try to not compare him to Austin and I never verbalize how he reminds me of him, afraid it will sadden Noah or make him feel like I somehow don't love him just as much. If he grows up to shadow his big brother, he couldn't pick a better role model to follow.

I cannot imagine the loss Noah feels in not having Austin around. I know it is constant with Tim and me and I wonder how many times a day he is reminded of him too. There are obvious times I see the pain in his face but most of the time I am unsure how he remembers his brother. Noah was only eight years old when Austin passed and I worry that as he grows older his memories of Austin will fade. When he is grown, will he remember the details of his brother and the times they shared?

As much as this blog is healing for me and it introduces strangers to the amazing person Austin was, Noah is a big reason I continue to write. I write so that someday he'll have this collection of memories ensuring the spirit of his big brother is never lost.

family game night

We took Noah to the Family Game Night yesterday at his school. And of course as it is with any activity we do as a family, I am reminded of Austin and how much he is missed.

Game night isn't anything new to our family. We've played board games with the boys since they were little. I enjoyed teaching them the games that I grew up with like Candy land, Chutes and Ladders, and Hi-Ho Cherry-o. As they grew older, we enjoyed Sorry, Uno, and Clue. It was fun to watch the change in Austin as he grew, from only being happy if he won as a toddler to letting his little brother win as a teenager.

Austin's favorite board game was Chess, something I never quite mastered. He would pick on me that he knew something I didn't and even though he tried many times to teach me, I never made a very good opponent. Austin's favorite card game was Rook. He was disappointed that Noah wasn't quite old enough to play it though because he'd have to wait until we had company or were visiting his Mamaw B's house to play. It was nothing for us to waste a lazy Saturday playing Rook with the family, surrounded by yummy snacks and laughter.

We enjoy playing games so much that a few years ago we created "Family Game Day" and would rent out a local facility to spend the day playing various games and of course, eating lots of good food. It was a great way to spend a cold winter day. I have few pictures of Austin on our last family game day with him because he had the camera most of the time. Looking back, it was like he was trying to record snapshot moments to remember each of us.

In the summer, yard games were always present whenever our family gathered. Austin's loved playing horse shoes, washers, basketball, etc. His favorite was corn hole and he and his Dad made quite a team. He never did learn how to play badminton though, one of my favorite summer games. Being such a big boy, he tended to swat the racket and embed the birdie into his net with each swing.

With there being four of us, playing games was an easy fit, as we always had an even number of teams. The boys would verse Tim and me or they would partner up with mom or dad. It is hard now playing all those games we loved because his absence is visible in anything we do.

One of the things I miss the most when we gather to play games now is Austin's smile and laughter. He enjoyed just spending time together and you could see it in the twinkling of his eyes. It really didn't matter what we played, he just loved being together and enjoyed the company of family and friends.

If something funny happens at the table now, I still glance over to his empty chair, wishing he were there to share in the moment. I miss his laughter in the room and his sweet smile.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Austin's Legacy

We're still in the planning phase for Austin's scholarship foundation. I have so many ideas and plans and wish that everything were already complete. Sadly, I don't think we'll get it together for this graduating year. And on reflection, it may be something to roll out in 2012, which would have been the year Austin graduated high school.

What we know we want to do is to start a foundation that will award at least one scholarship annually. We've wavered between offering one or two, knowing for sure that one will based primarily on volunteerism. The other option is to do an athletic scholarship, since Austin was such a fan of sports. Both will be heavy on volunteer hours and that youth making a difference in our community. After all, that is what Austin was all about.

The first thing I need to secure of course, is money. We're tossing around ideas for a memorial baseball tournament, as that was Austin's favorite sport. I've tried since January to apply for the Pepsi Refresh project, which awards $5000 and up for various ideas. The site is so bogged down with applications though and they have a maximum entry of 1000 so I've been unsuccessful so far. I'm just putting this in God's hands and know that they starting money will come, if it is meant to be.

We'll also need to form a board of directors, who will help oversee this grant. And I know there are lots of legal issues to address, once the foundation is formed. ...which is why I said from the beginning, this is the part I wish was complete! There is just so much I want to do, to carry on Austin's memory and most importantly, his legacy. I can feel him smiling down on me though and that gives me motivation to push forward!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Missing my sweetheart

I hear footsteps in the night and awake, wondering if you are in the room watching over us as we sleep. I whisper "I love you" hoping you will hear me and feel how much we miss you still.

Even though so much time has passed, I still look behind me, expecting you to walk into the room. I catch myself wanting to pick up the phone and text you or watch you walk off the bus each afternoon. My mind knows your gone but my heart aches always for your presence.

There is just such a void in our family. We all put on masks of happiness, strength, and courage but underneath are each aching inside. Every activity, no matter the size, we are reminded of your absence. There are holes in each of our hearts, though they keep beating. I don't know that this will ever change.

I'm at the point where I can finally recognize other's pain within our family and friends. I see that even they deal with the loss every day. You were such an important person to so many people! Yet we sometimes hesitate to verbalize what we're going through, afraid we'll bring another down in what might be a random happy moment.

It is a tug-of-war, a constant wavering between a memory bringing joy and pain. We don't want to ever forget you but remembering you brings waves of both happiness and sadness to us all. I never knew one could experience such extreme emotions at the same time until losing you.

I long for the day that a memory will be nothing but warmth, capturing all of your sweet spirit, but I don't know if that is possible. My soul will continue to ache for you until we are connected again. As long as I'm on this earth, my soul is like a balloon, drifting above me, searching for you.

As Valentine's Day approaches, I am reminded of how much love you brought into our lives. There isn't a card that could express the love I have for you and how much happiness you brought me! I miss you with every breath.

Happy Hearts Day my sweet boy.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

To remember him....

Tim and I are in the beginning stages of forming a foundation to honor Austin's memory. We want to remember Austin's spirit and start a memorial scholarship fund that annually awards a youth, who is also active as a volunteer.

Anyone who knew my son at all, knows how much he loved to volunteer. His list of accomplishments were longer than his age! Austin was recognized a Top Youth Fundraiser for the American Cancer Society for several years, raising several thousand on his own for cancer research. He was an active Jr. Firefighter with the Beaver Dam volunteer fire department and working toward his certification. Austin lobbied for smoke free laws and dreamed of the day Kentuckians could breathe clean air. He was also extremely active through his local high school as a volunteer, helping a the local shelter, the library, and was selected to work in the ER at our area hospital. If there was a need, his hands were ready to help.

And while Austin was a Gifted student and very intelligent, he was all boy and a bit disorganized. As a result, his grades sometimes suffered. Not consistently being on the honor roll may have hindered Austin from applying for several scholarships, as so many are heavy on grade requirements. Grades will certainly be a consideration but the deciding factor for our scholarship will be volunteerism.

There is lots to be done and somedays it is a bit overwhelming but I know it will come together. I just feel called to do this and know Austin is smiling down on us and will, as he always did, be lending a hand.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mom likes me best

From the beginning of Noah's arrival, Austin made sure we did not forget about him.

We tried very hard to prepare him for being a big brother, complete with books and lots of talks, even a class at the hospital. However, the week Noah came home and all the visitors showed up, we must've not paid him the attention Austin felt he deserved. Austin climbed up onto the coffee table and very loudly exclaimed, "Hey! Don't forget about me!"

As the boys grew older it was a common joke for them to pick on each other about which child we loved more. If Noah got a bigger piece of cake or I let him go first, Austin would say, "Yeah, yeah. I know you like him more!"

We even found a shirt for Noah that said "Mom likes me best" and it got a few chuckles out of Austin when I brought it home. Noah certainly loved wearing and rubbing it in, as if the shirt proved something.

Sometimes I think Austin was a little more serious than joking when he'd comment. He was of course the oldest and Noah being the baby did get away with more. If Noah didn't get the punishment Austin felt the crime deserved, he used that excuse. And of course, when brothers fought, as all do, he'd say the famous line.

I do hope though that all in all he was kidding. It would break my heart, more than it already is with him gone, to think that on some level he really thought that to be true. As a mother, I don't know how you could pick between your children to which you loved more. The love I had for my boys was even but very different. I loved them individually for who they were and I was connected to both in other ways, such as Austin being my first and Noah being the baby.

I was probably harder on Austin because I was learning how to be a parent with him. If anything, he taught me how to be a better mom. Noah just lucked out coming along last.

But the bond that Austin and I had was unique. He was my first and that put a special hold on my heart. He was the first movement I ever felt, the first heartbeat I heard. The first time I heard the word "Mama" it came from him. Everything I experienced as a mom for the first time was with Austin. Because of that I loved him in a very special way.

And I always will.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Born a fireman....

Tim was elected Chief at the start of this year and I couldn't help but wish Austin had been there. I know he would have been so proud of his Dad and happy to be on a department under his leadership. I'm sure it was bittersweet for Tim as well. I know that everything he does for that department, he does it with Austin in mind. But I also know Austin is looking down and smiling on all the firefighters, especially his Dad, every day.

It was inevetible that Austin would share of love of the department just like his Dad. Before he was even born, his Dad began collecting fire trucks and other fire-related toys for him. Austin was riding in a firetruck before he could see over the dash. We dressed him in a dalmation outfit and he was in Cromwell's annual calendar picture on his first year. And in the early years, the majority of his birthday parties were at the fire truck, complete with a ride on top for all the guests.

I expected him to outgrow his love of fire trucks at some point, or at least for it to lose it's spark. However, Austin was just as excited as a first-timer each time he got to ride and explore the trucks. On road trips or vacations, it wasn't uncommon for us to stop so Tim and the boys could visit other departments and see other trucks.

Throughout grade school, Austin's papers would always include "firefighter" as the answer to what he wanted to be when he grew up. I'm sure it was among his proudest moments when he was finally able to join and become a Jr. Firefighter.
I know it was his Dad's.

As a mom, I was so nervous for him to join. Of course my main concern was him being injured but I also worried about him being accepted. It was as if he'd always been there though and I guess because, in a way, he had been. Austin carried the best qualities of every firefighter, even though he never went on an emergency run. Some people are just born to be a hero...and Austin certainly was.

I'm sure Tim treasures the memories they have together at the department. Tim was so proud to have Austin follow in his footsteps. I only wish they could've gone on an actual run together once, father and son.

Instead, Tim carries on the only way he knows how..trying to make Beaver Dam's fire department the best it can be and honoring Austin's legacy every step of the way.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Happy 1/2 Birthday, Austin

My birthdays just aren't the same with Austin gone. Then again, no holiday or even every day is either.

Austin's birthday was exactly six months after mine so he was always eager to celebrate his "Happy 1/2 Birthday" on my day. He wanted to grow up faster than he was already doing, ready for whatever adulthood had in store. The only thing that made him smile bigger than being older was growing taller!

When Austin was born and I was completing his baby book entries of height, weight, etc. I noticed how similiar he was to mine records. Aside from sharing 1/2 Birthdays, he was within ounces and inches of being just like me. And there were so many other things we shared.

Throughout his life, people often commented on how much he looked like me. Of course, to a teenage boy, this was not something he liked to hear. He shared my hair color, although his was a much deeper shade of black. And he had the same puppy dog eyes as a child that I was told allowed me to get my way, just as they helped him.

He also took after my personality, people often mistaking him as being shy. Of course, like his Mom, once you got to know him you learned that wasn't true. Austin could be funny, crazy and silly all rolled into one. He shared my love of the same books and music I enjoyed at his age, reading Edgar Allen Poe and rummaging through my 80s CDs.

And most of all, he shared my heart. From the moment I first heard his heartbeat, growing inside my belly, the rythym was connected to mine. And so, without him here, a hole exists in my heart now. I like to think he needed a piece of it, to remember me by.

Happy 1/2 Birthday, sweet boy. I miss you with every beat of my heart.
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