Saturday, October 30, 2010


"Don't be mad if I cry. It just hurts so bad sometimes. 'Cause every day, it's sinking in, and I have to say good-bye all over again." - Lyrics from Matthew West "Save a Place for Me

This morning, as I was getting ready for the day, a very heavy and sad feeling washed over me. The reality that Austin is gone is sinking in a little more and there is a heaviness that accompanies it. Tears that had subsided, for a while, have returned, especially when I'm alone and driving.

The weeks following Austin's death I was unable to drive, especially when I was alone, without the tears flowing. The past few weeks I'd suddenly realize, as I got out of the car, that there'd been no tears and if I had thought about Austin while driving, it brought a smile. But that was before a few days ago, when the "driving" tears returned. The minute I'm in the car my mind goes to Austin, to how much I miss him. It's as if when I turn the key in the ignition it not only starts my car, but also the tears. I'm not sure why it's hitting me like this again, especially today, but if I was to venture a guess I would say, maybe it's...

... the change in season and knowing how much Austin loved fall.

... the festive spirit and fun parties that I know Austin would have been part of. I can see his mischievous smile and hear his relaxed laughter, as he chats it up with everyone.

... the fact that we've been making plans for Thanksgiving and have decided not to come back to NY that week-end. It will be strange to not be surrounded by family, which I always look forward to, especially at the holidays. I have always thought of the holidays as being a time to gather with your family. I can smell the the turkey baking and the warmth of whose ever home we are gathering in. I can hear the laughter and enjoy catching up on life with everyone. Something about the thought cooking a big Thanksgiving dinner for only four people does not bring on a festive feeling. I wonder what we'll do all day. Will Austin's absence be more noticeable? Will the day come and go and not  really feel like Thanksgiving at all? They say the first holidays spent without the person we've lost is always very difficult. But I wonder if it will be even more so because the entire way we usually celebrate it will be different.

... because I have been focusing on others dealing with difficult situations and now have a lull, so my thoughts go back to missing Austin.

... because the struggles that are happening to others is reminding me of how short life really is.

I don't know the exact reason, but I do know that I'm tired of the heaviness. I'm tired of wishng this had all been a very, very bad dream and that it will end soon. I know it's isn't a dream and that reality is what hurts so much. I know that the sadness will not end soon, and that in order to truly heal this is what I must endure.

In a way, I am thankful, that this is a gradual process. As I think back over the past four months of the sadness I have felt, I can't fathom how it would have been if all the reality that has been slowly sinking in, and all the feelings that came with it, had arrived all at once. I think I would have felt as though an enormous boulder had been dropped on me and I couldn't move. So, in a way, I guess it is good that grieving is a process and not a one-time event. The pain, otherwise, would be unbearable.

"When someone you love dies you don't lose them all at once. You lose them in pieces, over time." -From the movie "Simon Birch"

"I don't believe our minds would be capable of absorbing this loss all at once, and so we part with our loved ones a little bit at a time. After we have gone through this painful period of separating, our relationship with the departed one can become whole again. We come to a point when we realize that we have only lost the physical presence of the beloved. We know beyond a doubt that the bond of the loved that is shared will never be lost." - Ann Dawson A Season of Grief

There are days when I want to yell, "Stop this roller-coaster, I want to get off. I'm tired of this ride. Let me get on a different one." But I know I have no choice. This is the ride that I am on, like it or not. And so, if I have to be on this ride, I'm thankful that it's not always bumpy, that sometimes it smooths out and gives me a chance to catch my breath and regroup. It is by experiencing the full ride, with both ups and downs, that I will eventually arrive at a place where I will have a greater peace, even while still missing Austin (because I know that I will always miss him, even if the feelings are different).

"We are healed of a suffering only be experiencing it to the full." -Marcel Proust

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Laughter - It's Good for the Soul

Have you ever listened to a baby laugh?  It warms you from the inside and only takes a few seconds before you begin laughing yourself. You can’t help it – it’s contagious.

I remember Austin as a baby. He had the best laugh and shared it with us daily. Funny thing, as he grew he continued to bless us daily with these wonderful laughs. They were easy and natural and you found you just had to join him. This is one of the things I miss so very much – the laughter and joy he brought whenever he was around. (OK, he did drive me crazy at times – but that’s what made me love him even more. And then we’d laugh about how crazy he drove me…sometimes I think he did it on purpose...or maybe how crazy I drove him.)

Being Blessed by Laughter

“The person who can bring the spirit of laughter into a room is indeed blessed.” – Bennett Cerf

This past Memorial Day, we were visiting family and friends in New York. The morning we were leaving we were enjoying breakfast with our family, including Austin, and a couple of good friends. Every time I walked by the table where Austin, Jon, and Chad sat I couldn’t help but smile and be warmed from the laughter that came from all three of them. This was a common occurrence when they were together, just sitting around the table laughing at themselves and life in general. As I passed by I thought, “I love watching Austin, laughing and enjoying life! I miss that when we’re back in Massachusetts and he’s here in New York.” Soon after, I hugged Austin goodbye and said we’d see him this summer. That was the last time I got to see and hug Austin. That was one of the last physical and visual memories I have of him and am thankful for it.

Laughter Strengthens

“Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” – Bill Cosby

So many have commented, on how strong I have been during this awful time, that I think it’s time to let you in on my secret. You see, besides my faith and the strong personality God gave me, I have laughter. (I have also learned not to take life too, too seriously – it’s too short for that.) At times, life is going to be difficult. I wish it wasn’t, but it is. I tell my boys, if we didn’t feel pain and sadness then we couldn’t experience happiness. You can’t feel one, and not the other. If you can’t feel pain, then you can’t feel happiness. If you can’t cry, then you can’t truly laugh. They go hand-in-hand. Remember…”I could have missed the pain, but I’d of had to miss the dance!” (Garth Brooks, “The Dance”)

Laughter Keeps You Going

“Laughter, and the broader category of humor, are key elements in helping us go on with our life after a loss.” – Allen Klein

On the day of Austin’s accident friends and family stopped by and I remember thinking, “People don’t know what to do. They’re wondering… Is it ok to laugh? Do I need to be serious? What do I say?” Inside I was screaming – “Please, talk. Please, laugh as we remember Austin. Please break this silence – if Austin was here right now and it was someone else we were mourning, Austin would be making a comment and it would make me laugh, even if it was me swatting him telling him to stop it, but inside chuckling and smirking.” Mind you, Austin would not be being disrespectful; he would just be doing life. This is how I felt the days after Austin’s death and all the days since. Yes, I am sadder than I have ever been. Yes, I miss him every day and think of him every day. But yes, it’s ok to laugh. Even more importantly, it’s good to laugh, every day. It’s healing to the soul.


“I always knew looking back on my tears would bring me laughter, but I never knew looking back on my laughter would make me cry.” – Cat Stevens

An ironic thing happened when I was starting to write this blog. For the past few days there have not been as many tears when I think of Austin. I thought, “Hmm, I wonder if I’ve turned a corner in my grieving. If the memories I have of Austin smiling and laughing will make me smile now, rather than cry.” Woops – that didn’t last long. All of a sudden the tears came back and it seemed like every corner I turned or window I looked in reminded me of Austin. I was in TJ Maxx walking by the winter apparel, and immediately thought about last year when I went shopping with Austin for a winter coat – he was so excited when he found one he loved – and he looked so cute in it.

When I took my car in for an oil change and tune-up I saw the automotive store across the street, which reminded me of the weekend Austin came to visit. He spent most of his time wokring on his car brakes and after we made three trips to the automotive store it was ready for a test drive. Cruising along, chatting away, we heard “clunk”. “Oh no, that didn’t sound good.” We stopped and Austin took a look. Something hadn’t been tightened down tight on part of one of the brakes (I don’t know the specifics; just know it had to do with the brakes). Austin had had Weston help tighten everything up and I’m thinking something didn’t get tightened quite tight enough. We laughed – what else could you do? We ate lunch, drove back to the house, laughing nervously, thankful when we pulled in the driveway safely and Austin could make the minor “adjustments”.

So much for “turning the corner”. Tears, not smiles, accompanied those thoughts, all day, with me thinking the entire time, “I really need a good laugh. It’s ok to be sad, but if I could just lighten it with a little laughter, it will be so much better.”  Then, voila! I open the mailbox and there’s the Brian Regan cd (a very funny comedian) I’d ordered. I popped it in my computer and started laughing. Even though I’d heard some of the routine before, I laughed, all while thinking, “I can just hear Austin laughing. Because he would be, if he was here!” The laughter warmed my heart and dried my eyes, some. I am so thankful for the gift of laughter…

Embrace Laughter

“Laughter need not be cut out of anything, since it improves everything.” – James Thurber

On the day of Austin’s accident, while we were driving to NY, I was chatting with my brother. He said something, to which I replied, “OK, thanks a lot, now I’m mad!” (I was just kidding. I really wasn’t mad at what he’d said.) He laughed and proudly stated, “Good, now you won’t be as sad. You know, you can’t feel two emotions at one time.” Hmmm... Someday, I will let him know that he is wrong. You can feel two emotions at one time – one just takes the backseat to the other for a while.  When I’m having a rough day, I like to let Laughter take the front seat for a bit. I know the sadness will still be there, because I am so very sad that Austin is not here, but it’s ok to have happiness too. It’s ok to laugh. You need to laugh.

As I was thinking about the gift of laughter and how Austin was so blessed with it, and in turn blessed us, I decided to Google “laughter”.  According to “The Benefit of Laughter – How Laughter Can Reduce Stress and Increase Health” website ( /laughter.htm ):


Reduces the level of stress hormones and increases the number of antibody – producing cells which allows us to have fewer effects of stress – no wonder Austin was so laid back, even when stressed!

Provides a physical and emotional release – further proof of Austin’s easy-going nature.

…Exercises the diaphragm, abs, shoulders, and heart – so that’s Austin’s secret for a flat stomach…

…Distracts us. It takes the focus away from anger, guilt, stress, and negative emotions – Thus the reason why laughter was so welcomed while we were grieving – and still is today.

Gives us a more lighthearted perspective and helps us view evens as “challenges”, thereby making them less threatening and more positive – no wonder Austin let so many things role off his shoulders. His famous words, “Don’t worry about it…”

Connects us with others. It’s contagious. By elevating the mood around you, you can reduce others’ stress level, and your own. – No wonder people liked to be around Austin.

So you see, whether it's a light chuckle or a hold your stomach laugh., laughter is good for you. So go ahead...

Laugh Until You Cry
A couple weeks ago, a few of us went out to dinner. The women in the group got chatting, and we seemed to move from one thing to the next that made us laugh. The more we laughed, the more we laughed. There was one point when I had tears in my eyes (from laughing) and my stomach literally hurt. The more I laughed, the more it hurt.

While laughing, did I still miss Austin? Absolutely! Was there still a sadness in me? Absolutely! Was laughing refreshing to the soul? Absolutely! Would Austin have been laughing with us, if he had been there? Absolutely!

“Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you all. If you can only remember me with tears, then don’t remember me at all.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Funny thing, every time I remember Austin, he’s either smiling or laughing. He definitely knew how to laugh…why don’t we all follow his footsteps…because, laughter, after all, is good for the soul!

Monday, October 11, 2010


On a hot July day, in 1988, the phone rang. It was Mike. I hadn’t spoken with him since I left Syracuse University back in February. He was going to be in town in two weeks and was wondering if I would like to go to the James Taylor concert. “Sure, that would be great,” I answered. After getting the details, I hung up, thinking, “Oh boy, he sure will be surprised when he comes to pick me up and sees my big belly. I had better let him know that he will be taking a 7-months pregnant woman to the concert!”

I did what any mature almost 22 year old would do. Not wanting to have to speak with him directly when I shared my "news", I wrote him a letter. This way, he could back out without any embarrassment. To my surprise, he called, saying he would still love to take me to the concert. “You’ve Got a Friend” soon became one of my comfort songs through the rest of my pregnancy and first year of raising Austin on my own.

People can be so cold.
They'll hurt you and desert you.
Well they'll take your soul if you let them.
Oh yeah, but don't you let them.
You just call out my name and you know wherever I am
I'll come running to see you again….

Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend…
- Lyrics from James Taylor's Song "You've Got a Friend"
I had no idea, on the evening of the James Taylor concert, that a little over a year later I would start dating Mike, or that six years later I would marry Mike and he would adopt Austin as his son, or that 22 years later I would be saying good-bye to Austin and once again be thinking, “Ain’t it good to know, you’ve got a friend(s).”

If the sky above you
Should turn dark and full of clouds
And that old north wind should begin to blow
Keep your head together and call my name out loud
And soon I will be knocking upon your door….
Hey now, all you've got to do is call.
Lord, I'll be there, yes I will.
You've got a friend.
You've got a friend.
Ain't it good to know you've got a friend.
Ain't it good to know you've got a friend.
You've got a friend.
-Lyrics from James Taylor's song, "You've Got a Friend"
About a month ago, I was reflecting on everything that had transpired over the summer and how fortunate I am to have such wonderful friends. I sat down and wrote the following.

FRIENDS – Just Show Up

I remember it like it was yesterday. June 24th, 2010 started like any other summer morning at our home. At 7:30am, the boys were up, watching the “idiot box”. My husband was about to leave for work. I was reaching for my first cup of coffee when my cell phone rang; I looked at the caller ID. It was my 21 year old son, Austin, probably on his way to work, calling to say “What’s up?” like he did so many mornings. I answered, with a smile in my voice (I always loved talking with him), “Hey bud, what’s up?”

The voice on the other end wasn’t Austin’s. It was a male’s voice crying, “Austin’s been in an accident!” His friend had called me from the scene of the accident. I spoke with both his friend and the police officer. Austin had a motorcycle accident, his leg was broken bad at the knee, his shoulder was hurt, and he had road burn. He was conscious and they were taking him by helicopter to the hospital.

A brief “discussion” occurred between my husband and me, both wanting to head out the door to get to the hospital asap (it was a 6-hour drive to where Austin lived in NY), but one of us had to close up the house and pack for an extended stay in NY, while Austin recuperated. my husband, determined to leave first, packed as fast as he could and was on the road in 10 minutes. I quickly started getting things ready so I could leave within the hour, wanting to be at the hospital when Austin woke from surgery. All the while a million thoughts were running through my mind, “What will be needed to help Austin? He’s going to be so bored during his long recovery. I wonder how much pain he will be in. He’s going to be so frustrated not being able to work all summer – he just started working for a construction company and loved it. My mind was in “mom the caregiver” mode.

I quickly called my next door neighbor to see if she could help me out with a couple of things while I was gone and also have my friend’s son, who would be arriving at my house in the next five minutes, hang out at her house for the day. He was supposed to be staying with us until late afternoon. His mother was just coming home from the hospital that day, herself.  “No problem,” my neighbor told me. I had Weston pack his clothes; my youngest son had already packed and gone with Mike. I started figuring out what I would need and began to pull things together.

While I was working on the final details my phone rang (time was a blur). It was the hospital asking if we were coming. I explained that we were, but that it was a 6-hour drive; however my brother would be there very soon. I asked how Austin was doing. They said I would have to speak with the doctor treating him; she was not currently available and would call me as soon as she could. I was a little concerned, but figured it’s just hospital’s policy. I went back to packing and making the necessary arrangements for a long absence from home.

A few minutes later the doctor called, “Is this Austin's mom?”

"Yes.” I replied, “How’s Austin?”

“I’m sorry, but Austin did not make it….”
Words no mother should have to hear. Words that changed my life forever!
How am I surviving this life-shattering event? Through the love and support of family and friends.

Within the first few minutes of getting the devastating news, the phone rang again. It was another neighbor, checking to see how Austin was doing, as she had heard he had been in an accident. I let her know that Austin had not made it. Hanging up the phone, I went back to making the other phone calls that needed to be made and then started packing, again. I needed different clothes, and so did Mike and the boys. We were now heading to NY for Austin's calling hours and funeral. I looked around the house and saw pictures of Austin. This reminded me that I needed to bring pictures of him, so we could put them out at calling hours. I started going through the boxes of pictures, pulling out the ones I wanted, but there were too many to choose from. I also began copying pictures from my computer onto a flash drive. It was taking too long, I needed to get on the road, so I unplugged the entire CPU, grabbed all the boxes of pictures and took all of it with me.
While I was running through the house grabbing clothes and pictures, and anything else I thought I might need, friends started to appear. I did not have to ask them to show-up, they just did. They helped me pack and get out the door, taking care of details here in MA so I would have one less thing to worry about. My one neighbor was even going to drive me to NY, so I wouldn’t have to drive by myself, with Weston. It ended up not being necessary, as my other brother, who also lives in Massachusetts, drove with us. He was very patient as I drove and talked on the phone (it is not hands-free in MA) and cried, all at the same time. Finally, when we crossed into NY and it was no longer hands-free, I let him drive. (I think he was relieved.)
In NY, our friends and family helped us with preparations, shared stories and pictures of Austin, brought food, popped in and out of the house to give hugs and find out what we needed. Some prayed for us.  Others helped pack up Austin’s apartment. Many laughed and cried with us. Some put up with my stubbornness, as I wanted to make sure everything we did at the calling hours and funeral represented who Austin was! Friends drove six hours to support us, including my younger sons’ friends. Everyone did what they could and even when they didn’t know what to do, they just showed up.
When the events were over and we returned to Massachusetts we were continued to be blown away by the love and support of our communities, both in NY and MA. As we arrived home and I was unlocking my door, a neighbor showed up with a meal for us to eat that night. My refrigerator was stocked with food for the next couple of days and more kept coming. My yard work was done and my house cleaned. The boys’ sports teams sent restaurant gift certificates, for the days I was overwhelmed and couldn’t think of cooking. Friends took me out for a “girl’s morning” of pedicures and breakfast, just to give me a distraction. Others sent beautiful perennials to be planted in memory of Austin or gave donations to the memorial scholarship fund. Many have shared tears and hugs with me.
Today, I am still receiving love and support from our friends and Austin’s through emails, texts or calls just to say “Hey, I’m thinking of you.” “Hey, let’s go to lunch.” “Want to get another pedicure?” The list goes on and on… The bottom line is, friends “just showed up”, giving us love and support, in whatever ways they could.
It’s been over 2 months since I received the life-altering news. It’s hard to believe that life goes on, but it does. It will never be the same. Tears are still shed every day. I will always miss Austin, nothing can replace him and he will always be part of me. But each day Austin is here through the memories he left. And I have wonderful friends to share those memories with. In fact, one of the special gifts Austin left us is new friendships. So many of his friends have reached out to our family and have become part of our lives (even though they’re long distance), giving us back a piece of Austin. Friends and family are priceless, hold on to them like they are rare treasures – because they are! And, even more important, make sure you are a friend in return – just show up!
As I reread what I wrote, I think of so many more the things I can add to the list of what has been done for me and my family. I am so thankful for everyone that has been put into my life. That they "just showed up"!

I think that God will never send a gift so precious as a friend. – Rosalie Carter
“Ain’t it good to know, you’ve got a friend?”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How Are You?


In today’s society "How are you?" is just another way of saying “Hi”. We’ve all had this typical conversation many times a day, and will do so even today: “Hey, how are you?”  “Good, how are you?”

I hadn't realized, until Austin’s death, how three little words could have such an array of meanings and answers. I never gave the question much thought. I would simply respond,  “Good, how are you?” And be on my way.

Today, when asked “How are you?” I think, “Are you just saying ‘Hi’ or do you want to know more? If you truly want to know more, then are you asking how I am compared to 6 months ago, 3 months ago, or two days ago?” In addition to my answer, there is usually an internal conversation going on. Here is just a glimpse of what you would hear, if you could read my mind.

“Do they know? If not, should I mention it?” If I haven’t seen the person since Austin’s accident, I will immediately start figuring out if I should mention it to them, or keep the conversation light. My decision is usually based on how well I know the person and if we are just passing each other in the school, store or fields, or if the conversation could turn to how my boys are and how Austin is. In fact, this happened just yesterday while shopping. I ran into someone I knew, but hadn’t spoken with in a long time. She asked how I was. I simply stated that I was doing well. We talked about school starting and how Wes and Matt were doing at school and how her kids liked the new school year. The entire time we were having this conversation, I was having a second conversation to myself, “She doesn’t know. This really isn’t the time or place to say anything. Does it matter right now? No, I won’t mention it unless she asks how Austin is. Oh, she will feel awkward when I answer that. Yeah, I won’t say anything unless I have to.” We finished our brief conversation, said, “Have a great day,” and went our separate ways.

“How do they want me to answer this question? Do they think I should be sad or depressed? Do they think I should not be sad? Do they want to know how I am doing, really, or are they just being polite? If I tell them that I am a little sad, will they take that as a blanket ‘feeling’ and tell others that I’m having a hard time, even though in 10 minutes my feelings may change – they just don’t know that? If I tell them I’m doing well, will they, again, assume that’s how I’m always feeling and tell others I’m doing great, even though in 10 minutes I may change my mind?” These are thoughts that go through my head if the person asking does know about Austin. In this case my thoughts will vary depending on who asks the question and the “tone” they use. Here’s just a glance at how I may answer and what may be going through my mind.

 “Doing well.” While I’m also thinking, “I’m not going to the sad place that you may want me to go.” This is my reaction when the question is asked with a slight touch of ‘poor you’ in the tone. This is when the word ‘are’ has the emphasis on it and is drawn out slightly, like this, “How ARRRREE you?” My initial reaction is that they feel bad for me and think I should be feeling really down. I may be down at that moment, but I don’t want to stay there, so I will answer quickly and move the conversation to another topic. I do not like pity parties, or having people feel sorry for me. I do not want this person to hear I am sad at that moment and try to keep me there. Because my feelings change many times during the day.

“Fine”, while thinking, “You’re getting nothing more from me JThis is my reaction when the question is asked, with an ‘I know’ tone, by a friend or acquaintance. It sounds like this.Ohhhh, how are yoouu?” When I hear this question I feel as though this person thinks they know how I am. They may be truly interested in how I am doing, but they also have a preconceived idea of how I should be feeling. If I say differently, such as I am doing very well, they will try to bring me to where they think I should be – which is not where I want to be. They may even add, “don’t be surprised if you feel….at some point.” To this I want to say, “Uh, no. I may or may not feel that way, at some point in time. But, I will not be thinking about it until that day comes. You may have friends that have felt that way, but, remember, I am a different person. I’ll wait and see. For now, I’ll just deal with how I feel today, which, by the way, may change before our conversation is even over.”

“OK, we have good days and tough days, but, ok.” while thinking” I can be honest, because you understand that this could change in 10 minutes and you won’t hold me to it.” They ask the question with the emphasis on ‘you’, “How are you?” This person really gets me. They are a very good friend, or even an acquaintance that just understands me. They realize that I am very resilient. I’m ok being sad for a bit, but I will move on to the next feeling very soon. They don’t try to hold me at any place, emotionally, according to their agenda. They just take me as I am.

“Good, how are you?” while thinking, “This is a beautiful day!” And as they walk away I think, “Hmmm…”


Sometimes I’m feeling really good when someone asks “How are you?” And, for a minute, I think, “Oh, I should be feeling kind of down right now, but I’m not. I hope they understand.”

This happened to me on Austin’s birthday last week. I was surrounded by wonderful friends, who called or emailed to let me know they were thinking of me and knew I was probably having a difficult time. Some came over and helped me with a project and took me out to lunch. My friends and family truly made my day!

The interesting thing for me, though, was that Austin’s birthday was actually easier for me than a couple of the days I had this week. On his birthday, I was trying to get a birthday gift out to all of Austin’s friends, a gift that celebrated his life. In order to finish it I needed both my computer and printer, which weren’t cooperating – at all. One thing after another went wrong. First the main computer’s motherboard broke, then the printer broke, and then my other computer crashed while connecting it to my back-up printer. The new computer I bought (to replace the main computer) wouldn’t connect to my backup printer, I needed an updated driver. Once I got the back-up printer working on the new computer, the double-sided printing that I needed didn’t work – I kept getting black streaks on the back of the pages. During this challenge, my mind was more on the computer issues, then on what day it was. I just wanted to get my project done.

All of a sudden I started laughing, thinking, “Of course this would happen! Every time Austin started a project he would run into one problem after another. It’s fitting that this is happening while I’m trying to do a project celebrating Austin’s life. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that Austin was purposely sabotaging me (I could just hear him laughing…). The day, as far as being difficult because of it being Austin’s birthday, was actually on the lighter side, thanks to my wonderful friends and family and also to my obstacles.

The dilemma on Austin’s birthday was, when someone called to ask, “How are you? I know it has to be rough today.” I would think, “I know I’m ‘supposed’ to have a more difficult day today, but it truly doesn’t feel all that different than most other days. So what do I say? Do I answer the way people think I should feel? Or do I answer honestly and let them wrestle with their own conflict?” I chose to simply say “Thank you.” because I was so thankful to be surrounded by people who cared.

This actually happens quite often – when how I feel and how others think I should feel don’t match up. Sometimes it’s because the other person tries to put on me the way they think they would feel. The problem is, no matter the circumstance, each of us will react differently. Other times it’s because of a comment I may have made a couple days earlier. One day I’ll comment, “Aw, it’s a little rough today. Tears keep appearing. I’m just feeling sad” A couple days later I’m chatting with someone and they say, “I heard you are having a rough time.” “Uh, nooo, that was 2 days ago. It lasted for the morning. Today, at least this hour, I’m good, really good.” My poor friends and family, I can be very confusing. I’m like a yo-yo, being down one minute and up the next. I’m difficult to follow.

I am so thankful for all the people in my life that are truly concerned about my family and me. I greatly appreciate everyone taking time to ask, “How are you?” even though it may be awkward. Friends and family don’t know what to say or how to say it. They don’t want to upset me, but at the same time want me to know they are there for me. I cannot begin to tell you how much that has meant. I know that I, myself, do not know how to support others who have loss someone. I am always afraid that I will say the wrong thing at the wrong time.  I am truly blown away by how much care has been shown me.

All the time I am receiving support I am thinking of Austin’s friends, hoping they, also, are receiving the care, support and encouragement that they need. So many times, after a funeral, people continue to look out for the family, but forget the friends. However, it is friends that did life with Austin on a day-to-day basis. They are feeling the loss every day and during all the occasions that Austin would have been a part of. Friends need loving as much as family does. “How are you?” can have the same effect on his friends as it does for me, and it needs to be asked with care and sensitivity.


If someone’s wondering, “How are you, really?” I want them to know, “I am doing very well. You may see me sad at times, or with a distant look or thought. I may need some space, or need to be around people. I may be laughing so hard one minute that my stomach hurts, to only be very sad ten minutes later. Do not try to guess how I am feeling; my emotions are too all over the place for you to figure out. Please don’t think I’m feeling the way you would, chances are I’m not. And don’t feel you have to pull me out of that sadness. As long as I am able to move in out of this sadness I am doing well. This is what is needed as I work out how to deal with not having Austin. In fact, it’s good for me to go there. To be aware of how I am feeling. It is this awareness and acceptance that has always made me strong. So, how am I? I am doing well. I am doing how I’m supposed to be, for this moment”

Hmmmmm….I wonder what others are thinking when I ask them, “How are you?”

Sunday, October 3, 2010


IF ONLY Austin hadn’t ridden his motorcycle that day
(there was a chance of rain later).
IF ONLY Austin had listened and not had a motorcycle.
IF ONLY Austin wasn’t such a risk taker / thrill seeker.
IF ONLY Austin hadn’t been going that speed.*
IF ONLY he had left 5 minutes earlier/later.
(*Side Note: None of us know what his speed was, but even at 50mph he probably wouldn’t have survived. 100 foot site-line is not enough time to stop. That’s the distance from where Austin was when he would have first seen the truck to the spot the truck was at. Which means, he had 300 ft to react and stop.)
These are statements made or thought by people since Austin’s death. Whenever I have heard them, my first thought goes to the "miracle" stories heard after 9/11. The stories about people who should have been on one of the flights, but missed them, for whatever reason. Or about people who would usually have been in the Twin Towers at that time but were late that day. These are people who were in the right place at the right time.
And on June 24, 2010 at 7:15am Austin was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Period.
There are numerous stories of motorcycle accidents where the individual survives, when there is no explanation of why or how, while other times the person dies. We always want to find reasons why bad things happen. We need to have an explanation, something or someone to blame. But, bottom line: life happens - both good and bad. It just happens - Period.
When others have said to me “If only he hadn’t loved motorcycles and been a thrill seeker.” I respond, "Then you wouldn't have had Austin!" If you start taking away who Austin was made to be then you start changing the things that made us love him so much, made us so attracted to him, wanting to have a little of what he had! It was his risk-taking and thrill-seeking that probably contributed to his loving people. He wasn’t afraid to reach out and be your friend. He was willing to take that risk.
The night of Austin's accident and death, I couldn't sleep, so I got up and wrote Austin a letter. Here it is. As you read it, think of all who Austin was. All he was made to be.

My heart is breaking so much right now. I miss you and wish I could give you one more hug. I love you so very, very much. All I can think of is the joy you have brought me over the past 21 years.
You had such a love for life – embracing it to the fullest. Everyone who met you was blessed by your great personality, sense of humor, and amazing smile. Every time I was with you, you made me laugh – even if I was mad at you. And you couldn’t stay made either. I remember riding in the car with you, when you were a teen-ager and you being mad at me about something. I would look at you and make silly comments or faces. Within a few minutes you would say, “Stop, I’m trying to be mad.” And then you would break out into a smile and we would laugh.
You have had your need to tinker since you could walk. At 2 years old the sitter needed to remove batteries from all the toys and place them on the fireplace mantel, because otherwise you would be removing them yourself and leaving them around – which was dangerous for the babies. Today, you just tinkered on bigger toys.
I also had to hide the screwdrivers, because otherwise you would take the screws out of the covers over the outlets – which were there to protect you.
At age 5, you already know how to negotiate. One day you asked me, while I was fixing dinner, if I could play a game. I explained that I couldn’t because I was fixing dinner. The next thing I knew, you were at the kitchen table asking, “Do you want to play Candy Land or Sorry?” Again, I explained that I couldn’t. Being unable to hear the word “no”, you asked a few minutes later, “Mom, do you want to be red or green?” Again, I explained I couldn’t play. A few minutes later you asked, “Mom, do you want to go 1st or do you want me to?” Hmmm, you never took “no” easily.
When you were grounded for TV, for example, you simply responded, “OK, I didn’t feel like watching TV anyway. I’m going to build with my legos.” And off you’d go to enjoy the day!
You have also always had a way to get others to do things for you… When you had to clean your very messy room, one time, I said, “You have to clean your room and anything left around will be thrown away.” A couple hours later you emerged from your room, stating, “I’m finished cleaning my room. Anything I left on the floor, you can go ahead and throw out.” (That’s not exactly what I had meant.)
You were always such a cuddler.  Even as an adult you would come to see us, jump in my lap and “curl up”, all 6’2” of you and state, “Let’s cuddle! We haven’t cuddled in a long time.” Or, when you’d driven part way through the night to visit us in MA, you’d come in our room in the morning, jump on the bed and give Dad and me a huge hug.
You had the greatest hugs – which I will truly miss. I looked forward to your daily calls, just to say “Hi” and see what was going on. You always ended with “I love you…,” no matter who was around.
You had an amazing heart. Always caring for others. In fact, when you were 3 or 4 I read “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” to you. When the Grinch stole the presents you started to cry. Even when we got to the end and the Grinch had returned the presents you were still upset because the Grinch had been so mean.
You loved people for who they were and loved to be around people. Quite often on Sundays, you’d come to me after church announcing who you’d invited over for the afternoon (entire families). I had to make sure I always had food in the house on Sundays! Now, as an adult, you would come visit and right away ask who was coming over. So I would have to call one of your father and my friends and state, “Austin wants you to come over and play…” What 21 year old kid wants to hang out with their 40+ year old parents? You did. You didn’t care how old someone was or who they were, you just love people! And who would invite their 40+ year old parents over to their friend’s house for a Memorial Day party? You would and your father and I are so blessed to have met some more of your friends this past Memorial Day and to have you shared this part of your life!
I am proud to have been blessed with you as my son. I will miss you so much, but you will always be in my heart and memories.
 I love you! … Mom
It was Austin's unique way of looking at life, of letting things role off his shoulders when need be, of embracing the life he had, that made him who he was.

The other day I heard Danny Gokey’s song “Like That’s a Bad Thing” and I immediately thought of Austin. Here are the lyrics:
They say I drive a little fast
Say, I like to push the limit
Everyday I'm living like it was my last
They say I'm proud of my scars

Each one's got a story
Got guts and glory down to an art
Say, I know what it's like
To see life flash before my eyes
Like that's a bad thing

I don't know about you
But I was put here to live and love
So what if I don't do it
Like everybody else does

They say I'm out on the edge
I'm too willing to risk
Every bone, every breath
They say all I am is a crazy dream
Like that's a bad thing

So my heart's been broke
So I keep on falling
It's nothing but all in when I let go
I wear it on my sleeve
They call me a fool 'cause I still believe
Like that's a bad thing

I don't know about you
But I was put here to live and love
So what if I don't do it
Like everybody else does...

Like that's a bad thing!

The next time you start thinking the negative “what if’s” ask yourself…
·         What if Austin…wasn’t so darn cute and personable?
·         What if Austin…hadn’t had such a great sense of humor?
·         What if Austin…didn’t have those beautiful blue eyes and mischievous smile?
·         What if Austin…didn’t love adventure?
·         What if Austin…didn’t have such a generous heart?
·         What if Austin…wasn’t such a good friend?
·         What if Austin…hadn’t loved people so much?
·         What if Austin…didn’t have such a love for live?
If Austin wasn’t all of the"what if's" above, then you wouldn’t feel such a loss right now. You wouldn’t have this void in your life today. And if he hadn’t been all these things, he wouldn’t have brought such love and joy to everyone he touched, including us. And, we wouldn’t be blessed to have known Austin. Austin was a package deal - full of life, love, and adventure. It is what made us love him so much. I wouldn’t have changed Austin for the world!
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”Psalm 139:14
AUSTIN WAS FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE. I hope when you think of Austin you remember him for his Love of Life, Adventure, and Generous Spirit – that is how he was made!!