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.