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...