Monday, September 27, 2010


“No one knows why I’m traveling.” “No one knows that I am on my way to see my son who died this morning, to make arrangements for his funeral and burial.” “No one knows why I’m shopping. That it's for clothes to bury my son in.” These are the thoughts that ran through my mind as I walked through public places both on the day Austin died and throughout the following days.This is not something you blurt out to others, to those waiting on you or holding the door for you. 
On the day of Austin’s accident, as I was traveling from Massachusetts to New York, I had to stop a couple times at the rest areas (too much coffee). As I entered the rest area I thought, “No one has any idea... They do not realize that I am on my way to bury my son that was just killed in a motorcycle accident.” I have no idea how I looked to others. I have no idea how my tone of voice was or my body language or posture. I was just going through the motions, feeling like I was in a dream.
Once we got to NY, I had many errands to run and things to take care of. Since we were having an open casket I needed a long-sleeve shirt to cover Austin's scraped up arms. I already had a short sleeve button-up shirt, one of my favorites, for him to wear, but still had to find long sleeves to be worn under it. Like all of my boys, Austin did not own a long sleeve tee.  I invited my best friend to join me on this hunt and off we went. One problem, it was the end of June and stores were stocked with short sleeve summer shirts, not long sleeve ones. We visited a couple different stores, asking the assistants, “Do you have any men’s long-sleeve t’s, size medium?” They were all extremely helpful, having no idea why we needed this shirt. Thankfully, no one asked.

Three weeks after Austin’s accident I went to Target to pick-up last minute supplies for my 12 year-old son's week at camp. (This was the first time I had been in Target since Austin's funeral.) I stopped by the toiletry section, picked up the few things I needed from there, continued past the cleaning section that had laundry detergent and house cleaning supplies, then slowly walked by the home decorating section, looking at the framed pictures, candles, and other home accessories. All of a sudden I started to panic, my chest got a little tight, tears started coming to my eyes and all I could think was, “I need to get out of this store! But I can’t leave because I have to get more things for my middle son. He’s leaving tomorrow so I have no choice. OK, just breathe, deep breaths, walk on to the next aisles. I can do this. Stay focused, get what I need, and get out. Man, people must think I’m weird…”
What caused this panic feeling that came on with no warning? I figured it out immediately. That’s why I knew I just needed to move on through the home decorating aisles and not go back to any of the areas I had just been in or passed. A few weeks prior to his accident Austin had moved into a new apartment. I had planned on surprising him and had started putting together a house-warming package with goodies that 21-year old males would not realize they needed when they first moved into a place of their own. Items such as toilet paper, paper towel, tissues, cleaning supplies (even if he wouldn’t use those as often as I would), dish soap, dish cloths and towels, bath towels and wash cloths, soap, tooth paste, razors, deodorant…you get the idea. I was also planning on taking him shopping the next time I was in NY to buy him other "apartment things" he needed or wanted: pictures for the walls, dishes, pots & pans.... As I walked by all these areas in Target, for just a moment, I thought, “Oh, Austin would like this…” and then it hit me, “I never got to finish that package. I never got to send it to Austin. He never got to enjoy it… and never will.” That’s where the panic came from. That's why I must have been a sight to anyone walking by.
Mother riding on a city bus
Kids are yelling kicking up a fuss
Everybody’s staring not knowing what she’s going through
Somebody said “don’t you even care?
Do you let ‘em do that everywhere?”
She slowly turned around, looked up and stared
She said “Please forgive them
But they’ve been up all night
Their father struggled but he finally lost his fight
He went to heaven
In the middle of the night
So please forgive my children”

(They don’t understand)
Everybody’s busy with their own situation
Everybody’s lost in their own little world
Bottled up, hurry it up trying to make a dream come true
(They don’t understand)
Everybody’s living like there ain’t no tomorrow
Maybe we should stop and take a little time
Cause you never really know what your neighbor’s going through
(They don’t understand)
- Lyrics from “They Don’t Understand”, by Sawyer Brown

Ever since Austin’s accident I have looked at people I meet or pass through a different set of eyes, often wondering, “Are they struggling with something that none of us have any idea about?" Maybe they've lost someone close to them; maybe their husband or wife just left them; perhaps one of their kids is having problems or their parent, child, spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend or best friend is very sick. The stories that have been shared, from people I have known for quite a while or for a short time, have amazed me. I never would have guessed that they were struggling or had endured a sadness or tragedy in the past. After all, they look good and act normal.
When I was at this past Saturday’s youth football game I had no interaction with the other team's players or spectators. But as I walked across the fields, looking at the different people, I wondered, “How many are, right now, grieving for the 17-year old boy that was killed just the day before?" Although the family was able to mourn at home, how many others (friends and classmates and parents of friends) had to continue their day, with a heaviness and sadness in their hearts? Most of us would never know by just looking at them or speaking with them.
“…help me to never judge another until I have walked two miles in his moccasins.” Author unknown
How many times do I talk to someone who is suffering and have no idea they're going through such pain? How many times do I comment on how I met someone who was rather grumpy, only to find out later that they were dealing with some type of issue? Sometimes I may never be priviledged to that information… but they're still suffering all the same. Would I treat them differently? Would my words be kinder and more sensitive? Would I see them in a different light?
“Instead of putting others in their place, try putting yourself in their place.”Author unknown

1 comment:

  1. So honest and so true.....thanks, Lori, for helping all of us to remember a very valuable lesson....almost everyone we run into anywhere we go is likely going through something or getting over something painful or about to go through it and is not even yet aware of what's ahead. Let us be more kind in our thoughts, words and deeds, treating others as we would want to be treated. Although I didn't know Austin, other than through my kids, it sounds to me like he was a young man who had already made it his mission to live by the golden rule and to carry out God's second great command which is to "love others".