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.

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.


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.


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.

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