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, November 28, 2011

Reverse Shopping Spree

From Joyful Challenge:

Our shopping this weekend didn't include fighting crowds and hunting for deals, but instead involved hiding them. We didn't stand in line, scour the ads, and struggle with strangers but rather snuck, searched, and whispered through the store. The kids chose to do "acts of kindness" by attaching money to gifts and tucking them secretly back on the shelves. While we didn't stay to see the reactions, we hope children will grab items wanting them, as they often do, and be surprised. It was one of the best shopping trips I can ever remember during such a normally chaotic holiday experience.

Sharing with the kids the "free drink" idea, they quickly asked if they could do the same and that started our Kindness "Reverse-Shopping" Spree. Handing them change and a sheet of labels, we set off. Soaking in the meaning of the labels, which said, "This random act of kindness was done in memory of Austin Blair (7/8/94 – 11/29/08). Pay it forward." they were both silent for a moment and then touched to get to be a part of this project.

Instantly, they began spurting off ideas of things we could do to make a difference in someone's day. We soon ended up at a local store with a plan and two very excited kids.  Each of them had a few one dollar bills and began the search for toys in that amount so whatever child found it would be able to get it for free. Sadly, in today's economy, there aren't a great deal of choices in this category but I think the kids did a wonderful job.

Noah found a firefighter coloring book, which reminded him of Austin and how much he loved the fire department. Attaching the dollar to the back, I was glad I captured the sweet innocence with my phone. He then located a container of play-do, something he still loves to play with even at his age. Tucking them both so that the dollars were hidden, Tina began her hunt.

She was able to find a toy firetruck as well. It was the only truck in the mixture of rubber ducks. Bringing the box toward the front and at a kid's eye level, she squeezed the truck in among the yellow birds. I can only imagine how happy a little child will be when they spy it and their chubby little hand grabs it off the shelf.

Tina then headed for the baby food aisle, saying how hard it might be for someone this time of year. Hoping a single mom or struggling family might happen upon the food, she attached a dollar with a label, making it free.

Both kids said after each one, "Wow, this feels good," and "I wish I could see who gets it," or "I hope it goes to someone who really needs it." They were both truly touched by the acts and honored to do something in Austin's memory.

Noah, remembering he had a five dollar bill in his pocket, asked if we could make one last stop at the shoes. He wanted to gift a free pair to a child who may need it. Finding just the right pair, he hid the money inside with a smile.

On the way home, we made a few more secret stops the kids requested, each one a hug to my heart.

While we miss Austin every day, holidays are the hardest, especially this weekend with his angel-versary approaching. However, I know Austin was with us every step of this shopping spree and so very proud of his little brother and cousin. I could feel his sweet spirit surrounding us and am thankful for each treasured moment. I hope Austin's spirit lives on and touches each family finding these hidden surprises.

Just the act certainly blessed each of us.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Family Day

Today was bittersweet.  We had a very large family gathering; and of course, anytime we're all together like that there is an obvious absence.  Austin loved being with family, whether it was one or two or a huge crowd.  In fact, our first  "Family Game Day" was held our last year with him.  Maybe that's what makes days like together so hard, and so special, all at the same time.  They remind of Austin and swell our hearts with memories, as well as fill our eyes with tears from the loss; but they also push us to stay together and there's an ever-lingering presence, as we know he's watching over us proudly.

If Austin were here today, he'd been among the first to go help set up, with his strong arms and back lifting tables and chairs to prepare the room.  The many trips I made to my truck, loading and unloading, would have certainly been decreased as he'd been right there without me asking.  Upon anyone pulling into the drive, he would've met them at their door, ready to give those giant bear hugs and then haul anything in they might need.  He would've snuck bites of food from any dish that came in which contained something he liked.  And he would've gotten away with it, as all he'd have to do is break out his smile or puppy dog eyes. 

There'd been a Rook game started before everyone even had a chance to sit down.  All the babies in the room would've had a constant sitter, as I know he'd have had a lap full or been chasing them in the yard.  That beautiful big laugh would've been heard a dozen times through the course of the day.  He'd of challenged every willing body to a cornhole game outside, smiling whether he won or lost.  He would've made old friends with any new face, listening to the stories from the grown-ups table or patiently playing a game with the kids.

And yet, in so many ways I felt him today...from the beautiful painted skys that greeted me good morning and said the lingering hugs by family or the smiles on their faces as they arrived...from the butterfly balloons hung by the front gate to guide those traveling long distances the warmth and joy of laughs and love throughout the day.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This We Do In Memory of You

Since losing Austin, we've started the tradition of "Random Acts of Kindness" on his angel-versary, November 29th.   Last year, I asked others to join in his memory. So many messages of support and sharing their acts came through via email and on his Facebook group, Remembering Austin. It was a wonderful way to remember such a beautiful soul.

Austin's legacy will always be his warm smile, loving hugs, and helping hands. That's what Austin was all about. I have so many cards and letters from those who knew and loved him, sharing small and simple, but powerful, moments they remember and treasure him for.  Because November 29th is such a tragic reminder for us, it is how we've chosen to get through it. Helping strangers has lifted our broken spirits.

With each random act, it's as if Austin's spirit carries on and it blesses our family. Because of that, I've decided to dedicate this entire month to my precious boy and will be striving to perform random acts of kindness every single day. It's the only way I know to get through a seemingly impossible time. Each day, each thankful moment, every act of kindness, will be a tribute to Austin, the life he led, and the inspiration of hoping to be a fraction of who he was. I hope you'll join me...

Choose to pause and be thankful each day of November. Perform an act of kindness (every day), or just on November 29. Smile at a stranger. Buy someone a cup of coffee. Volunteer. Make a donation to the Austin's Legacy scholarship fund, or your favorite charity. Buy lunch for the person behind you in line. Visit a friend. Send a card to a soldier. Adopt a family for Christmas. Hug somebody. Pay it forward. Do it in memory of the legacy Austin left behind! 

Please share it with us - send us a message, an email, or post it on his Facebook page.  Follow the stories from this month on my other blog, Joyful Challenge.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Class of 2012

Today is hard for me sweet boy...
because I think about what should have been.

Today would have been your first day as a Senior.
What excitement there would be, nervous anticipation, opportunities...

I can only imagine how tall you'd be, standing in front of our tree to take your picture. 
So many dreams, hopes and plans cut short.

We miss you so.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Shaving in Heaven?

The mailbox is an unexpected source of pain after losing a child.  At first, it contains cards of prayers and sympathy; but then, it contains mail - for your child.  You expect it at first but figure after time, mailing lists will be updated and it will cease.  What hurts is when you open the mailbox and are unprepared for something addressed to the one you love who is no longer here.

This afternoon, Noah checked the mail.  Normally, Tim or I do this task, as we've somewhat sheltered him from any surprises.  Not thinking it was Austin's "birthday week" and mail could potentially come, I let him go.  He came back in saying, "Bubba got mail."  I froze - uncertain of what it would be and how he would react.

Sighing in preparation, I reached out to him to take the stack of papers.  On top was a large cardboard box, addressed to Austin.  Inside...a razor.  It was an advertisement/sales piece, I guess, containing a free razor and coupons. 

I'm not sure how or why this would be sent to a soon to be 17 year old.  Maybe Gillette is targeting young?  Perhaps it is a mailing list from the extreme couping I once did (that Austin loved so much!).  Once I knew Noah was ok and out of the room, I chuckled.  (Through grief, you learn to either laugh or cry in these moments, and most of the time, I choose the happier option.) 

I thought back to my sweet boy, who at only 14, was already sprouting peach fuzz on his upper lip.  Remembering, I could see him bending his lip down over his teeth and inspecting the growth in the mirror.  He was so proud of his moustache and already competing with his dad, who's sported a "Tom Selleck" since I've known him.

Seeing the razor, I imagined how excited Austin might be, had he checked the mail today.  This was a task he did daily, coming off the bus.  Shortly after opening the mailbox, I'm certain my phone would've rang or he'd come barreling into the house to announce his find.  This would surely be a sign he was a grown man and he'd brag about it for days.  And, I would've probably added to the fun by wrapping shaving cream as a gift for him on Friday at his birthday party.

Effortlessly, I could take these "moments that could have been" and let it sink me.  Depression is so easy to give into, to just let go and give up.  But, that's not what my boy would want and it's certainly no honor to him.  Instead, I choose JOY...I choose happiness, even through tears...I choose laughter.  I choose to remember Austin and the joy he brought to my life daily, the happiness he still brings me - as well as the laughter, even from a razor in a cardboard mailer.

Friday, February 11, 2011

To Honor You

from a Compassionate Friends newsletter....

To honor you, I get up every day and take a breath.
And start another day without you in it.
To honor you, I laugh and live with those who knew your smile.
And the way your eyes twinkled with mischief and secret knowledge.
To honor you, I take the time to appreciate everyone I love,
I know now there is no guarantee of days or hours spent in their presence.
To honor you, I listen to music you would have liked,
And sing at the top of my lungs, with the windows rolled down.
To honor you, I take chances, say what I feel, hold nothing back,
risk making a fool of myself, dance every dance.
You were my light, my heart, my gift of love, from the very highest source.
So everyday, I vow to make a difference, share a smile, live, laugh and love.
Now I life for us both, so all I do, I do to honor you.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dancing in Heaven...

It's Homecoming night and online are dozens of posts of girls in pretty dresses and young men wearing ties.  I can't help but wonder how handsome you would've looked tonight.  Would you have had a smiling girl on your arm?  You'd be driving by now and this might have been your first big date.

As much as it breaks my heart, I close my eyes and can't help but imagine this night.  You'd be laughing nervously and growing impatient by the hundreds of pictures I'd want to take.  I would've been so tickled to see you in a tie.  You never were one to dress up, even wearing jeans to church.  To please me you'd wear a sweater but you'd tug and pull at it the whole hour and be out of it before you made it through the door once home.  In fact, the photo below is about the only picture I have of you in a tie....

I can imagine the rules and checklists and dad talk that Tim would've given you tonight.  You'd go through the motions with him to make sure the truck was safe and ready to drive.  I can see you nodding your head and softly saying, "I know" to everything he'd tell you.  Perhaps I'd have to break in at some point to give you some relief, using the excuse that you'd be late.

I'm sure there would've been lots of nervous moments tonight, if taking a girl to your first dance.  You'd have made me proud with your manners when meeting her parents.  As you opened the doors for her, she'd of felt like the most special girl in the world - and she would have been to have you as a date.  Maybe you'd get the nerve up to go out on the dance floor with her and have your first dance.

And Tim and I would have waited at home nervously until we heard you pull back into the drive.  I can see you walking back into the house with that beautiful smile on your face.  Your dad would pick on you until your face turned red and then maybe the next morning you'd share some details with me.

Sadly, this movie in my mind is just that, only an imagined dream of what could have been.  As much as I try not to, it is hard on nights like this to not wonder what if.  As much as it hurts, I can't help but wish for those lost moments that never were.  The only thing that eases the pain is reminding myself of where you are and that no Homecoming could compare to dancing in Heaven. 
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