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.

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!
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