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.

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.

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