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 good-bye...to 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 in....to the warmth and joy of laughs and love throughout the day.