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?”

1 comment:

  1. Love you guys and think of you often. We have your card with Austin's picture hanging on the fridge. Here's a long distance hug...

    Dave and Steph