Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks...

"We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning." - Albert Barnes
Tomorrow we will be celebrating Thanksgiving, a time of reflecting on all we have to be thankful for...

thanksgiving: (noun) (1) the act of giving thanks (2) a prayer expressing gratitude (3) a public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness.

Tomorrow will be very different than any Thanksgiving I have ever celebrated, because it will be bittersweet. Bitter, because Austin is gone. Bitter, because I miss him with all my being. But sweet, because of the love I have experienced from so many people. And so, although this year has brought much sadness to our family and everyone that was touched by Austin, it has also brought many gifts that I am thankful for. As I go through the day, tomorrow, I will try to focus on those gifts...
"Gratitude is our most direct line to God... If we take the time, no matter how crazy and troubled we feel, we can find something to be thankful for. The more we seek gratitude, the more reason... will give us for gratitude and joy to exist in our lives." - Terry Lynn Taylor 
I am thankful for Austin: I could fill a book with the wonderful memories Austin has left me with. Not a day goes by that something doesn't happen that brings a smile to my heart as I think, "Austin would have gotten a kick out that...", Austin would have loved this...",  "That is so Austin...", "Oh, I can just hear Austin now...", "Austin would never let you live that one down...", or "I can picture Austin doing that now...".

The gift of having Austin, as my son, for over 21 years is more than many ever experience in a life time. And although he is no longer here with me, his spirit lives on in the friends he blessed us with.

I am thankful for Austin's friends: Wow! Austin truly knew how to pick his friends... I am blown away by how his friends have reached out to our family...we couldn't have made it through these difficult times without them. Some friends we've had the honor of knowning since Austin's elementary school years, others we met when he brought them to Massachusetts for a visit, a few we met the past couple years when we were back in New York, and a handful have been since his parting. But there is one thing in common with all of them - they have beautiful hearts and have shared them with us...and in the process become our friends. What a wonderful gift - thank you! (And thank you Austin for sharing your friends with us...)

I am thankful for my friends: Talking about beautiful hearts - I feel so fortunate to have so many wonderful friends. I knew this before Austin's accident, but was made even more aware of it in the days, weeks, and months to follow.  Austin always felt welcomed by our friends, whether it was the ones in NY or here in MA, and I cannot begin to express how much that meant to me. As I have walked this interesting journey, these past five months, I have not been alone. How much easier it is to weather difficult times when accompanied by the gift of friendship. Thank you...

I am thankful for my family: I have always felt fortunate to have the family I have - and it's been proven once again - they will be there for me when I need them. From the minute we got the devastating news my family was there - being patient as I planned Austin's service and respecting what Mike and I wanted. And now today, even though most of my family is six hours or more from us, I know they are just a phone call away. I am blessed with the gift of family and love. Thank you...

I am thankful for my younger two boys: It is amazing, even at ten and twelve years old, how Wes and Matt have handled losing their brother - the one they looked up to and idolized (and still do) - and how they have put up with seeing tears streaming down their mom's face. Sometimes they come over and give me a hug, other times we all laugh, especially when it's because of a song we hear on the radio. They are not afraid to talk about Austin - how refreshing. What a beautiful give to be able to remember the times they shared with their big brother.

I am thankful for the joy they continue to have, despite their loss, and for the laughter they bring to the home. My heart warms as I watch each of them, being so different from the other, being who God made them to be. I am blessed! So thank you...

I am thankful for my husband, Mike: When we made our vows 16 years ago, saying "for better or worse", who would have fathomed that this would be part of the worse. Mike has been patient as I deal with the loss in a much different way than he does. And although he doesn't understand my way, he has given me room. Yes, the two of us grieve very differently, and often have to remind ourselves that each way is ok , but through it we have grown stronger and closer. So thank you...
"Be thankful for each new challenge, because it will build your strength and character." - Author Unknown, from Be Thankful
Today, Austin has been gone for five months. There is nothing I can do to bring him back and I am NOT thankful for that. But, I can keep his memories close to my heart and remember all that he blessed me with for over 21 years and all that I am blessed with today, despite this tragedy. Tomorrow, I will give thanks for my family and friends (including the friends Austin left for us).
"Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." - Melody Beattie
Happy Thanksgiving...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm Doing Well

I'm doing well... I smile, to myself, every time I say those three words to someone. Why? Because I wonder if people saw me all day long would they think, "Is she really doing well?" And the funny thing is, despite the tears that still come daily and the missing of Austin, I really am doing very well.

How do I know this? I simply look back at the progress I have made over the past four plus months and know - I'm doing well. I look at this week and can honestly say, "Yep, I'm doing well, because this week..."

... I drove Austin's car with a smile. A month ago, every time I drove Austin's car tears would stream down my face, as I thought about how much he loved his car. I would reminisce about the day I went with him to check the car out. It was a beautiful, sunny fall day. Austin took the car for a test drive and I could tell immediately that he wanted it. It was exactly what he had been looking for - a Subaru Impreza. He did a little wheeling and dealing with the owner - who kept commenting on how excited she was that Austin was buying the car. She hated parting with it, but was so pleased that he was the one purchasing it. Although she had just met Austin, she could tell he would love it the way she did. If only she knew it would see a little "mudding" once it was in his hands.

Austin had to head back to New York early the next day, so I made arrangements for me to pick it up later that week. It had been a while since I had driven standard and as I hopped in the front seat and put it in gear, I realized I was on a hill (heading uphill with a car directly behind me). It must have been an interesting sight as I peeled out of the parking spot, obviously not use to driving a standard and praying that I wouldn't roll backwards and hit the two lovebirds standing outside the car behind me. Good thing Austin was back in NY, otherwise he would have had fun busting on my smooth driving skills. Later that evening I called him to let him know I had the car and had broken in the clutch for him - I could hear his smile. This week, as I drove the car, I smiled, remembering how much he loved the car and how happy he was the day it became his. (I also smiled when I looked down at the speedometer to see I was going 50mph in a 35mph zone - oops! I quickly slowed down.) - I am making progress...

... I didn't cry as I shared with someone that I had three sons, but one was no longer with us.  I think this is the first time that I have been able to do it without getting a catch in the throat or having tears fall. Soon after Austin died, I remember thinking, "What an awkward situation it is going to be when I meet someone and they ask how many children I have. How do I answer that?" Almost immediately, I knew my answer would always be, "I have 3 sons." If they then proceeded to ask their ages, I would share with them the ages of my younger 2 boys, and then also that my oldest son had passed away. I know it may make some people uncomfortable, but I could never not include Austin.

The fact that Austin is my son will never change. The only difference is that he is now in heaven rather than here with me. When people ask how many grandparents I have, I always respond that I have one grandfather who is still living, and my other 3 grandparents have passed away. Why would it be any different with my own children? Sometimes I will say this easily, other times I'll choke up. Today I did it calmly - I am making progress...

... I painted Austin's room and walked away refreshed. This past spring Austin and I had picked out paint for "his" room. We bought two gallons and then decided we should paint a test swatch on the wall, to see how it would look. Because it was going over a very light pink wall the swatch looked a little off. We looked at each other and said, "Hmmm... looks a little like a baby's messy diaper color... Guess we should have done a test swatch before buying two gallons - oh well, hopefully it will look better once the pink isn't showing through and all the walls are done." My goal was then to get the room painted before Austin visited us this summer... obviously, that never happened - Austin never made it back to Massachusetts.

I have always loved painting and find it very relaxing. It's a great time of listening to music, while thinking of and reflecting on life. At least it was, until Austin's accident. After he died, the very thought of painting made me uneasy, giving me a panicky feeling. Thoughts would come to mind, such as, "There's no way I can deal with that much quiet time, with only my music and thoughts, especially when I'm painting Austin's room. This was supposed to be a happy time, getting ready to surprise him on his next visit. Now it's one of those 'would have been' moments. I just don't know if I can do it. Not now. Some day, but not now."

Well, this week, that 'some day' came, with a little encouragement from my husband. It took me two hours to paint one wall, mostly because I am so particular with the edging. As the music played in the background, my mind wandered to thoughts of Austin. Of course, it was encouraged by the many songs that were either ones Austin liked or ones that reminded me of him. Tears came. Tears dried. The quietness that I had thought would be too much was actually just what I needed - a time to reflect and remember. A time to say "good-bye" a little bit more.

Wednesday, I painted two more walls. This time I did not have the music playing, but rather listened to a radio talk show. I would smile as I listened to the topics, which were ones I knew Austin would get riled up over and definitely have an opinion or comment on. Not one tear came while I was painting. My mind was elsewhere, being distracted by the topics of conversation on the radio, and when I thought of Austin it was with a peace - and it was good.

Of course, after I finished those two walls and looked at the room, I did cry. I cried because it wasn't the baby poop color the small sample spot had looked like - it was exactly the color Austin had hoped it would be. I could just hear him commenting on how nice it looked. I am sorry he couldn't have been here with me, to enjoy and admire it.

Today, I painted the final wall. I can't wait to put the pictures up and make it complete. I had been dreading the painting - had been procrastinating because I was afraid of the emotions it might stir up. I didn't know if I could get through it - but I did. And in the process I healed a little more - I am making progress ...

... I am starting to come alive again. I have always loved rearranging rooms, painting them new colors, moving furniture, changing the pictures on the walls, and decorating (just a little) for the different seasons. I love flowers and plants and get a warm, peaceful feeling as I take in their beauty. Well, I did, until Austin's accident. After his death, I couldn't stand the thought of decorating a room or fixing up my garden. At times I even felt as though I was betraying Austin if I allowed small things to gave me joy and pleasure, thinking,  "I would trade all of that in if I could get Austin back."

I know I can't get Austin back and it's silly thinking that I shouldn't feel joy - Austin would not want me, or any of his familly and friends, to stop living and enjoying life. I also know, that slowly, as I heal, I will start to enjoy the little things in life again. Today, after painting, as I was putting things back in order in Austin's room, and as I switched a couple pictures around in other parts of the house (one of them of Austin on his dirt bike), I found myself smiling and enjoying the beauty again - I am making progress...

... The chest tightening is subsiding. Today, as I thought about the fact that Austin will never be with us again, tears spilled from my eyes. But, I didn't feeling a vice-grip tightening in the middle of my upper chest that usually accompanies those thoughts.  There was still a lump in the throat, but the chest was relaxed. Yet, another sign of a new season on its way, that I am healing - I am making progress...

But what is healing? I think it's being able to enjoy life, even while missing Austin. I am starting to get a glimpse of this. It will come and go - wave by wave (see earlier blog) - but it's refreshing to feel a lightening of my spirit... So how am I doing?

I am doing well...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Ever since Austin died, several people have asked, "Have you been angry yet?" Or they will state, "You may have not been angry yet, but be prepared, because you will at some point in time. It's part of grieving."

I would have to differ with them, regarding the statement about anger being part of grieving. Anger may be part of grieving for many, but not for all. In fact, everyone goes through the "stages" of grief in their own way, in their own time. And, some skip over areas completely.

Are You Angry?
When I think about whether I've been angry my answer comes quickly, "No, what am I suppose to be angry at?"

Am I suppose to be angry at Austin? Maybe, but I'm not, not even for a moment. I have never thought, "Austin, how could you leave us?" What I have thought is, "Austin, I am so sad you are gone and I miss you so very, very much." Because I do. He did not leave us on purpose. He did not head out Thursday morning for work thinking, "I'm going to crash my motorcycle today and die." I'm pretty sure the thought never crossed his mind, as he was driving to work on a beautiful, sunny morning, looking forward to going to Watkins Glen to build a stand for Dinosaur BBQ (his all time favorite restaurant). No, I'm not, nor ever have been, mad at Austin.

Am I suppose to be angry with God? Maybe, but I'm not. I have asked Him why he let Austin die. But I have never been mad at Him. God has never told us that we will live forever. He has never promised how long we will each live. What He has told us is that there will be troubles in this life, but that He will be there for us. He has given me strength to get through even my saddest days. There are times I have asked when will it stop, and informed Him that I am tired and ready for this sadness to end. I know it will eventually, but patience has never been one of my strong suits.

Am I suppose to be angry at the EMTs or hospital personnel? Maybe, but I'm not. I am certain each one of them did everything possible to save Austin. Unfortunately, sometimes there are injuries that cannot be fixed. I cannot imagine being a nurse, doctor, or medic and watching someone slip away, even while you're doing everything humanly possible to stop it.

No, I am not angry at anyone for Austin's death. Just very, very sad.

With that being said, what I have found myself doing, over the past couple of weeks, is having less and less patience for things that had already bothered me, even prior to Austin's death. I find myself getting "angry" at people for behaving in manners that I feel actually hurt others. My heart starts pounding, my body tenses, and I have to do everything in my power not to turn to them and say or ask, "Really? Are you really acting like this? Why?" or "Stop! Please, just stop!"

Faith and Love

Most who know me, know I have a strong faith. I believe in God and try to follow Him. And I believe that we need to love and accept others as they are. It is not our job to change them, just to love them - the same way we want to be loved. (The one exception, of course, is if you're a parent - then it's your job to teach, guide, and discipline your child. But, you really can't change them. You don't have a magic wand that you can waive and make them into something else. Although, at times you may want to. But you can influence them, heavily.)

Austin and I use to have conversations about how people, who call themselves Christians, can be so judgemental and hypocritical. I would remind him, that everyone is human, and we all have our flaws. We all have things we struggle with. The problem arises when we start pointing out what others are doing wrong, instead of looking at where we, ourselves, need minor (and sometimes major) adjustments. And for some reason, many "Christians" feel it's their job to point out what everyone else is doing wrong.

But remember, when we worry about everyone else, and not about ourselves, we miss what's important - to love each other - and not just when the other person is behaving how we think they are suppose to, but even when they're not. Over the past several weeks I have observed "Christians" act in very unloving ways and I have found my "anger" rising. I want to cry and ask, "Why? Why would you do that? Who do you think you are? Do you know what message that sends to others? Let me give you a hint: it's not love!" Then, I reflect on the discussions Austin and I used to have and how we can't let others' words and actions effect our faith and how we treat others. I remind myself to "just love".

All you need is love, love. Love is all you need. - Lyrics from "All You Need is Love" by The Beatles

"They will know we are Christians by our love." or will they? I smile, when I hear these lyrics, and think, "Or, will our judgemental attitude negate what we say? We say we love, but do we act like we love?

"My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:12-13

Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers all wrongs. - Proverbs 10:12

Why is it so much easier to cut people down, to be unforgiving, to be judgemental, than to love them up? Maybe, it's because when we stop finding faults in others we will have to look at our own faults and we don't like what we see. Heaven knows I have a lot of them!

Come on people now. Smile on your brother. Everybody get together, try to love one another, right now. - Lyrics from "Get Together" by The Youngbloods

So, am I angry? No!

Do I want people to love more? Absolutely!

What do I wonder? I wonder what would happen if we all started loving more and judging less?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wave by Wave

I never realized how much energy is used up when I am sad, until these past 4 months. Even if it's only one hour that I have felt a heavy sadness, by the end of the day I feel like I've been in the pool or at the ocean jumping the waves.You know that "water-logged" feeling your body has after an afternoon at the beach. A fatigue washes over you and you're mush.

Ann Dawson sums it up beautifully in A Season of Grief:
"Working through the grief of losing a loved one is an enormous undertaking. It uses up much of our energy and most of our waking moments. I have sometimes compared it to attempting to swim across a vast ocean. When we first step into the ocean we begin our grief-journey. We have no other recourse but to seim to the far side. Some days the waters will be peaceful and we can float along and let the tides carry us. Some days we might find ourselves washed up onto a small island where we can rest from the throes of our grief for a while. But eventually we must again enter the vast expanse. Some days will be stormy and we may feel helpless as the waves toss us about and threaten to overwhelm us....

There are no shortcuts to this journey. In order to get to the other side we must fully immerse ourselves in the waters of our grief, and we must work with all of our strength and determination to get to the other side. There are days when we ride along the tops of the waves and may be able to see the distant shore, and then there are days when we again feel lost and adrift. But we we should never give up hope of eventually finding shore." - Ann Dawson, A Season of Grief

"Sorrow comes in great waves...but it rolls over us, and though it may almost smother us it leaves on the spot we know that if is strong we are stronger inasmuch as it passes and we remain." -Henry James, "Grief Defined"

Once again, I am reminded, that I need to hold strong. As I look back, I can see how today I am stronger than I was 2 months ago. I still have my rough times, but they are fewer and further in between (whether that means only a handful of times a day versus all day or a couple days per week versus daily). And, when I am struggling, the lifeguards (aka: friends and family) are there to help me along and keep me adrift.

Thank you, my personal life guards, for all you do and say!!!!